Michael Jordan will forever have the universal acclaim but when it comes to Chicago’s late 1990s dynasty, Steve Kerr is the player who beats even “His Airness” when it comes to respect.
Australian basketball fans will be able to watch more of LeBron James, Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and all the sport’s other stars on TV, with ESPN announcing they have expanded their broadcasting deal with the NBA.
The network, which is owned by Disney, will more than double the amount of NBA games they broadcast under the expanded deal. In addition to the All-Star weekend, playoffs and the NBA Finals, ESPN will show at least five regular-season games per week live from the 2016-17 season onwards.
Included are the five back-to-back games to be played on Christmas Day (Boxing Day Australian time), which traditionally include some of the NBA’s biggest fixtures of the season.
In total, up to 188 regular-season games will be shown on ESPN over the course of the season, up from 88 during 2015-16.
“NBA fans have asked for more games, and we are excited to be able to deliver our biggest package in ESPN ANZ history,” said Haydn Arndt, general manager of ESPN Australia/New Zealand.
“The multimedia combination of our TV, digital and social platforms will give fans more access to the NBA than ever beginning next season.”
The news comes on the back of a year of increased NBA ratings for ESPN in Australia, with the network experiencing a 37 per cent jump in viewership from the previous season.
The expanding popularity no doubt has its roots in the rising number of Australians plying their trade in the NBA. 2015-16 saw seven Boomers – Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, Patty Mills, Aron Baynes, Dante Exum, Joe Ingles and Cameron Bairstow – contracted to NBA franchises, while New Zealand’s Steven Adams has made a name for himself during the Oklahoma City Thunder’s current playoff run.
That number is set to increase, with Melbourne-born Ben Simmons the favourite to be picked at number one in the upcoming NBA draft. Thon Maker, who was born in Sudan but lived in Australia for much of his youth, is also set to join an NBA franchise on draft night.
Full list of expanded NBA coverage on ESPN
• Up to 188 regular-season games (up from 88 in 2015-16) including five Boxing Day games back-to-back
• Up to 53 playoff games (up from 45 games in 2015-16) including the entirety of the Eastern and Western Conference Finals and every game of the NBA Finals
• NBA All-Star, including the BBVA Compass Rising Stars Challenge, State Farm All-Star Saturday Night and the NBA All-Star Game
• 20 NBA Summer League games