“Ten games until the playoffs.”
The incredible transformation of the NBL has been well covered, both by myself and others. However, that transformation is far from complete, and the next step in the puzzle is reverting to a five-game grand final series.
While it must be accepted that no, this year’s series won’t be five games, it should be a massive priority for NBL executive director Larry Kestelman to implement the format as soon as possible.
The NBL is without a doubt in one of the most important times of its history, and this is truly the last chance to reform the league and make it stick for good.
Of course, there has been reform before, and periods of boom, but every time the league looks like it will turn a corner, it suddenly goes the other way again.
Back on TV, with every game shown live (a first), there is plenty to do moving forward, with the Brisbane Bullets set to re-enter the NBL next season just the tip of the iceberg.
The five-game format for the NBL grand final has been used before, with plenty of success. With the current schedule, with games between Wednesday and Sunday night, it is the perfect opportunity to bring back the five games.
The ideal format would be to have the first three games emulate the schedule in this year’s series between the New Zealand Breakers and Perth Wildcats. That is, games on Wednesday, Friday and Sunday. Then there should be a break with the finals two games played on the following Friday and Sunday.
What this ensures is that one way or another the NBL season’s final game, which has the most potential to attract a big crowd and even bigger TV numbers, will be played on a Friday or Sunday. They are arguably the two best days for crowd numbers in the NBL, as shown on countless occasions throughout the 2015-16 season.
The five-game format was last used between 2004 and 2009. It ended as the league began to struggle financially, and a number of teams departed. At that point in time, it seemed to be the best option to revert the NBL back to its former three-game finals series.
The Sydney Kings were the prominent fixture throughout those years in the grand final, and often were able to attract sell-out crowds to each series game. It is not to say that the three-game series doesn’t attract big crowds, or even sell-outs, but what this does show is that even over five games crowds won’t dwindle.
However, with the league beginning to grow again it is time to reintroduce the five-game series. It does the season, with 28 games per team in total, justice and only adds to the excitement of fans as momentum builds.
It also helps ensure that no grand final series could be over in two games. After earning the right to play in the grand final, two losses and a team’s season could be over just like that. Adding the potential for five games is like a tennis grand slam, where there could be some absolutely epic series.
Imagine a team coming back from 2-0 down? The momentum heading into that final and fifth game would be incredible for the NBL, the teams involved and the supporters. It would be impossible to not get excited.
In this time of growth for the NBL, and the sport of basketball in Australia as the NBA attracts plenty of attention, and even the Australian Boomers, extending the grand final series could be a way to try and build that fan-base.
You extend the grand final series, and all of a sudden there are two more chances for potential fans to watch the NBL and begin supporting the games. Even at a minimum, the series is going to go three games.
So Roarers, what do you think? Is a five-game grand final series a viable concept for the NBL? Will it work, and what would you prefer as a fan, and for the good of the sport?
Follow Scott on Twitter @sk_pryde