So far, the LaMelo Ball business has been very, very good for Australia’s National Basketball League.
The youngest Ball brother made his NBL debut with the Illawarra Hawks on Saturday and looked like what you would expect from a potential No. 1 overall pick. The viewership for the game matched those expectations.
The Hawks’ first game of the NBL season against the Brisbane Bullets was the most-watched game in league history with more than one million viewers tuning in via live stream on Facebook, the league told Forbes’ Adam Zagoria. Ball made some history playing in the game as well, but with plenty of qualifiers.
LaMelo Ball on debut ⤵️
Ball is the first player in NBL history to have a double-double with five assists and no turnovers on debut 👀@MELOD1P #NBL20 pic.twitter.com/8H5vghFJTI
— NBL (@NBL) October 6, 2019
The social media numbers were even strong, with a video of a Ball crossover drawing 2.6 million views for a league that rarely sees five digits for other highlights. The NBL’s Instagram account has reportedly doubled since last season’s opener, with average engagement up 250 percent on Facebook and 340 percent on Twitter.
Those latter numbers are no doubt tied to the signings of Ball and fellow top 10 prospect R.J. Hampton, who joined the league through its “Next Stars” program.
“These are huge numbers by any measure and confirm the NBL’s status as a global entertainment product,” NBL owner and executive chairman Larry Kestelman said in a release. “There is obviously a lot of interest in LaMelo Ball and R.J. Hampton ahead of next year’s NBA draft but also the NBL and basketball here more broadly.
“Our games are being broadcast to a potential reach [of] 130 million people across the world, including the U.S., Europe and Asia, but our numbers are also exploding across all social media platforms.”
With draft hype likely to only increase between now and the end of the NBL season, the league could post even bigger numbers as fanbases start thinking about their lottery odds.
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