By Josh Rose
Established in July 2011, the National Basketball League of Canada has just finished its very first playoffs. In a best-of-five final, the London Lightning versus the Halifax Rainmen was a close series. London became the first NBL Canada champion in game five, beating Halifax 116-92 on March 25.
In a press release, NBL Canada commissioner John Kennedy said, “I know I speak for the entire league when I say we’re very pleased with the success we’ve had this year and look forward to even bigger accomplishments in the future.”
League founder and Halifax Rainmen CEO Andre Levingston’s main concern about the survival of the league earlier this season was regarding financial and fan support. Attracting fans, however, is no longer a concern — the final game was played in front of over 5,000 fans. Financially, the league is supported by Rogers Communications Inc. and the NBL is currently searching for more sponsors.
NBL Canada had seven teams that remained stable in its first year. Most failed leagues gain and lose several teams in the first few years. The American Basketball Association had 11 basic franchises that constantly changed their names and moved around the United States in its nine years of existence. Part of the league’s failure stemmed from selling the teams for $20,000 to any business and the enormous travelling costs. Only four of those teams became NBA franchises when the ABA merged with the NBA in 1976.
Unlike other leagues, the NBL made sure they were prepared for any problems. They demanded a high standard of conduct from their players to ensure a low number of internal clashes and off-court incidents.
The league is looking to expand in its second season.
“We’ve had some serious inquiries from several teams — mostly in Ontario,” said Vito Frijia, the owner of the London Lightning, in a TSN article.
The NBL will be maintaining its Canadian player quota and a salary cap. The salary cap will only increase to attract higher-level players if the league can afford it.