Nelson confident NBL at higher level than before

Justin Nelson
Justin Nelson
Justin Nelson feels his job is done with the National Basketball League.

The Australian departs his post as general manager at the end of next week.

He does so after three years in which the league has undergone a rejuvenation.

Under his watch, it has returned to a 10-team men’s league, while it also now incorporates a women’s and 3x3 leagues.

Its games are all televised and attendances were up 60% in the men’s league this past season.

On a local scale, the Otago Nuggets are back under his tenure after a five-year hiatus.

Nelson acknowledges there is still plenty to do.

However, he is content with what he has achieved and is looking forward to delving into another role which excites him.

‘‘I think if anyone has tracked my career its always been about coming in and lifting something to a new level,’’ Nelson, who is moving to be Sky Sport’s head of commercial and events, said.

‘‘It’s what I’ve done a number of times in Australia, and certainly the focus from those who brought me to New Zealand, was to elevate the NBL.

‘‘I think three seasons down I would hope people see the NBL at a higher level than where it was.’’

Seeing the Nuggets return had been ‘‘really exciting times’’ for Nelson.

He had loved seeing the passion of the Otago fans, while the team’s return coincided with what had been a major achievement in putting together the 2020 Showdown.

He was confident the franchise had a platform in place to allow it to continue to grow, provided it stayed focused on the right areas.

‘‘Every sporting business, if they focus on revenue, fan engagement and brand, they’re going to be very successful.

‘‘I think of the two seasons the Nuggets have had so far back in the national league, everyone needs to stay focused on those three things. It’s a winning formula.

‘‘The Nuggets have the fan base and the commercial relationships in place to have a successful future.’’

Nelson has carved a reputation of getting an idea and finding a way to make it work — an optimistic, but an optimist that makes things happen.
That Showdown — last year’s Covid-19 adapted league — was the most significant of those.

It seemed an improbable concept following last year’s lockdown and he admits now there were plenty of days when even he was doubtful it would happen.

He said both trusting his gut instinct and viewing things from a fan’s perspective — the most important people in sport, to him — had helped him.

‘‘They’re probably the two things that have driven me.

‘‘Through all the different ideas, no matter how crazy some people think they are, gut instinct and put yourself in the shoes of the fan.

‘‘If those two things tick the boxes then you know you’re on a winner.’’

Nelson feels  the NBL’s next step is to increase the commercial side and the awareness of its women’s league.

Continuing to improve on competitive balance between the teams in all its leagues was another significant work on, he said.


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