The Birth of the National Basketball League
Canada finally gets a domestic basketball league.
by Sam Riches / @sam_riches
The land of hockey is ditching the ice skates, at least temporarily, and taking to the hardwood. After several leagues have tried and failed (World Basketball League, Canadian National Basketball League) Canada is trying again. The National Basketball League of Canada (NBL) is aiming to begin operations in October, with seven to 10 teams running out of Quebec, Ontario and the Maritimes.
Joined by Sam Mitchell, the former Toronto Raptors head coach, Halifax Rainmen owner Andre Levingston announced the arrival of the league on Thursday in a press conference held in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The Rainmen, along with the Saint John Mill Rats and Quebec Kebs withdrew from the Premier Basketball League last month after the season finished in a whirlwind of controversy. Rumors of team mismanagement and suspect officiating led to a frustrated Levingston stating the following in a team news release:
“‘After watching the final playoff series and analyzing the statistics…I am appalled by the officiating that took place during the playoffs, and am ashamed of the PBL’s operations this season.
I want nothing but the best for our city, our fans, our sponsors, and our players, and I can say with confidence that the best is no longer found in the PBL.’”
Levingston then went on to vow that somehow, a professional basketball team would remain in Halifax. The Rainmen were a consistent draw in the Maritime city of just over 350 thousand people.
With the Saint John and Quebec franchises joining forces with the Rainmen, the formation of NBL represents a new stage for basketball in the country. As one of the most popular sports in Canada for those under 25, the league is expecting to be embraced.
In addition to the three committed teams, the league has also received letters of intent from ownership groups in Moncton, New Brunswick and Ontario cities, London, Oshawa, Kingston and Barrie.
In a similar structure to the Canadian Football League the NBL will have a mandate that each roster carry a certain number of Canadian players.
Levingston stated that while the league is hoping to develop young talent that will eventually be drafted to the NBA, the main goal is to provide an entertaining and professional league from the beginning.
The NBL will be structured with the participating teams also acting as owners of the league, with any revenue that is generated being shared amongst the franchises.
Levingston is confident the league can find success where others have previously failed, saying on Thursday that the NBL is not “just a business venture, but a movement.”
The demand is certainly present in a nation that has steadily grown its passion for basketball. With the Toronto Raptors serving as the only professional team in the country and the possibility of an upcoming NBA lockout, the timing is optimal for the NBL to begin operations and find lasting success.