Still no pay day for New Zealand Basketball

IAN ANDERSON
Last updated 16:07 26/06/2013
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The Breakers celebrate their 2012 NBL Grand Final win.
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DRESSED FOR SUCCESS: Steven Adams will be one of select group of players in the 'green room' during the NBA draft.
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OPINION: Steven Adams will become a rich man on Friday, in a sport that is a pauper in his homeland.

The Kiwi basketball prodigy will be drafted by an NBA franchise in a swanky televised event in New York, which should ensure he receives an initial salary of approximately $NZ1.3 million per year.

That would be approximately $1.3m more than the governing body of the game in New Zealand receives annually from High Performance Sport NZ (HPSNZ).

That's despite the national men's team being ranked 18th worldwide.

Our women's team ranks 22nd, the NZ boys team 28th, the girls 30th, making New Zealand the 22nd-best basketball nation, despite a crippling lack of regular international competition.

The Tall Blacks haven't played a home match since 2009 - a scandal so monumental that Edward Snowden and Wikileaks would struggle to uncover a bigger one.

Yet compare their standing to that of the All Whites, who are 57th on the Fifa rankings, while the Football Ferns are 19th.

The stellar achievement of the Tall Blacks in making the semifinals of the 2002 world champs in Indianapolis will never be repeated. 

Unlike New Zealand football teams, our basketball sides still have world powerhouse Australia in their qualifying group for major tournaments, providing a whopping stumbling block to advancement.

So while Adams and his monstrous hands will rake in a bundle of cash, the game that helped him reap those rewards will be left with its hands out in a desperate plea for funds.

Among those sports to get significant funding from 2013-16 from HPSNZ are: canoeing ($4.8m), triathlon ($5.6m), Paralympics ($5.9m) and Winter Olympics ($6.86m).

Basketball was left with a net allowance of nothing - matched by other illustrious funding applicants like stand up paddle boarding, extreme canoe, inline speed skating, croquet and waka ama.

Yet interest in basketball here has never been higher.

The rampant success of the three-times reigning Australian NBL champion New Zealand Breakers has helped grow our own basketball culture.

Young Kiwi hoopsters have their own heroes to look up to, as well as the NBA superstars seen on TV and the internet.

The influence of the web has also means basketball fans are vastly more informed and hoops-savvy than in the past. 

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I remember following Sean Marks becoming the first Kiwi drafted into the NBA in 1998 and feeling like I was a cult member.

On Friday, Adams' ascendancy into the loftiest basketball echelon will enthral masses of Kiwis, and be seized upon by the hungry Kiwi media.

However, the priorities of HPSNZ - sports that can return Olympic and world championship glory - mean basketball here faces an appropriately enormous task of not only improving their world standing at representative level, but providing a foundation for prospective Steven Adams'.

- Fairfax Media

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