Dear Valued Fans, Sponsors and Supporters:
Anyone who's been involved with the business of sports or even a long time sports fan will tell you that the level of optimism is at its highest and the outlook brightest at the start of the year before the ball is even tipped up.
As we reflect on NBL Canada's 7th campaign the excitement level and optimism about the future of the Canada's longest standing professional basketball league is as high as ever. The level of competition and entertainment that fans have been accustomed to seeing was also quite high. Teams and their coaching staff devoted countless hours in the off season scouting and recruiting the best possible talent to play in NBL Canada. The end result was arguably the most competitive year this league has ever seen. Case in point, 2017-18 saw more regular season games requiring extra overtime frames to determine a winner then any other year in league history.
We saw a steady increase in our overall attendance and viewership and the numbers also reveal that our level of social media engagement continues to be on a rise as we experienced a 15% increase across our social media platforms from last season. These are all positive indicators that we're still growing and trending in the right direction.
Our league became stronger this season with the addition of the St. John's Edge who immediately made a huge splash the moment they stepped on court. I recall being on hand for a very electric home opener at Mile One Centre in downtown St. John's as fans were excitedly filing in the building. They were a vibrant community of 4,000+ eager and passionate supporters ready to rally behind their hometown club. It was a special moment for NBL Canada and reinforced in my mind that we didn't make a mistake in selecting St. John's as a market to establish a franchise.
I'm anticipating a similar response when the Sudbury FIVE take the floor next season. Northern Ontario has quickly become a hotbed for basketball as the sport grows in popularity across the region. Dario Zulich and the rest of his team at SW Sports Entertainment have carefully and methodically taken all the right steps to ensure that they field a successful product and I for one can't wait to see the "Kings of the Underground" (get the mining reference?) take the court.
It certainly has been a banner year for a number of our Canadian players who achieved some pretty significant accomplishments. By being named the league's Most Valuable Player, Carl English becomes the first Canadian to win the honour. Another first for Canadians was the Finals MVP award, which was won by Garrett Williamson of the London Lightning for his stellar play throughout the Finals. Fellow Canadian, Tyrone Watson of the Halifax Hurricanes also made a pretty strong case for why he could have received the honour had his team won.
Williamson had a productive year as he also became the first Canadian player to reach the 2,000 points scored plateau while Kevin Loiselle became the first Canadian to reach 1,000 rebounds. Alex "Superman" Johnson fell four steals shy of 2,000 for his career and Shaquille Keith became the 10th Canadian to score 1,000 career points. We of course can't forget Carl English's 58 point effort in a single game setting a new league record. James Naismith certainly has much to be proud of.
Canadians weren't the only ones who made a splash this season. Doug Herring Jr. broke one of the league's oldest records when he dished 21 assists for London.
Moncton Magic teammates Anthony Anderson and Al Stewart both reached the 1,000 club with 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds and 1,000 assists.
Cliff Clinkscales of the Hurricanes also became a member of the club when he knotched 1,000 regular season assists. Lastly, Maurice Jones set a Windsor Express franchise record scoring 50 points near the end of the season.
Fans were entertained by a thrilling Finals series that saw London win their 4th franchise championship in a very entertaining game seven.
Our league motto this past season was #AllOne and while there were several examples demonstrated throughout the year, there was none greater then what we witnessed in game four of the NBL Canada Finals at Budweiser Gardens in London. Lightning forward, Marcus Capers suddenly fell to the court during the final eight seconds of game play.
As he lay on the floor with medical staff gathered around him and entire arena watching on hoping for the best, both teams and coaches circled centre court with arms over their shoulders in a show of solidarity and support. In the end, Capers suffered from a muscle spasm in his back and he would return later in the series.
This touching moment was one of the greatest displays of sportsmanship I've personally witnessed with my own eyes and a reminder that we are all one moving together in a common direction and have been all season long.
At that point, the health and well being of Marcus Capers was all that was important. Nothing else mattered.
Regardless of age, gender or sexual orientation our players, coaches and teams' personnel are all working together to elevate the NBL Canada brand to become one of the top basketball leagues in the world as well as the destination of choice for our home grown Canadian talent looking to play in their home country.
I first came to NBL Canada in its inaugural season as a volunteer because I believed in the vision of the league and wanted to see it thrive, blossom and grow. My passion, desire and enthusiasm for NBL Canada is as strong as it was in year one and it continues to be my honour and privilege to lead this charge in my role as league commissioner.
We'll see you in season #8!