National Basketball League arrives in Canada

By Josh Rose

As of yet, there is no NBA season — the preseason and much of the season has been cancelled. An extended lockout has resulted from player-owner negotiations not reaching an agreement. Many players have headed to Europe, Australia, China, the streets of the U.S. and now Canada to play basketball. Starting on Oct. 29, the National Basketball League of Canada will begin entertaining basketball-deprived fans across Canada.

So far, the NBL consists of seven franchises, three of which were formerly of the Premier Basketball League — the Halifax Rainmen, Saint John Mill Rats and Quebec Kebs — who all left the PBL complaining of poor management. Halifax owner and NBL CEO Andre Levingston stated 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. I can say with confidence that the best is no longer found in the PBL.”

The newly formed clubs are the London Lightning, Oshawa Power, Moncton Miracles and Summerside Storm. Like the Canadian Football League, the NBL will have a mandate for each roster to carry a certain number of Canadian players. The league is hoping to develop young talent from Canadian and international universities and colleges alike as a headway to NBA drafts.

The NBL has invited tier-three NBA players to stay close to home and still play basketball. Although the league can’t afford a Lebron James or a Kobe Bryant with a team salary cap of $150,000, the league will be showcasing incredible international talent. Jamario Moon, a former Toronto Raptor, will be practicing and helping coach the Quebec Kebs while the lockout lasts. Former NBA players have signed with numerous NBL clubs. Will Blalock, a former Detroit Piston, has signed with the Saint John Mill Rats and Denham Brown from the Seattle Supersonics has signed with the Oshawa Power. Brown has also played for the University of Connecticut, the Canadian national team and BC Dnipro based in Ukraine. Players from the Harlem Globetrotters, the Continental Basketball League and PBL have also been signed.

“We know we’re only going to get one chance to do it the right way, so we’re not going to blow it,” Levingston said to the Canadian Press. “Professional basketball can’t survive in Canada without corporate support.”

Although basketball will be competing with hockey for corporate sponsorship, the NBL is not a league to be underestimated — it’s signing great players from the NCAA, CIS, FIBA and former NBA players and coaches. Slam dunks, three-point shooting and high-speed games will be abundant in NBL games. A basketball league that will last in Canada is long overdue — players will no longer need to travel abroad in order to play in a competitive league.

“There’s a lot of passion and hunger for professional basketball in Canada and I’ve never wavered in that belief over the years,” said Levingston.

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