NBL’s Amer­i­can ap­peal

Aussie league ideal gate­way for young stars

Mercury (Hobart) - - HOCKEY, SOCCER, CRICKET - Syd­ney MATT LOGUE

NBL Next Stars teen sen­sa­tions LaMelo Ball and RJ Hamp­ton are tak­ing home a com­bined pay packet of ap­prox­i­mately $800,000 for this sea­son, open­ing the door for more Amer­i­can tal­ent to by­pass col­lege and play in Aus­tralia.

News Corp un­der­stands Ball and Hamp­ton are earn­ing roughly $400,000 each to play for Illawarra and New Zealand re­spec­tively. The NBA draft hope­fuls can also make money from en­dorse­ments such as shoe deals, plac­ing them in a strong po­si­tion fi­nan­cially com­pared with US col­lege.

The NCAA doesn’t pay its play­ers or al­low them to earn ex­tra cash through their per­sonal brands.

This stance in the US col­lege ranks makes the NBL’s Next Stars pro­gram ex­tremely en­tic­ing for young high school play­ers. In­stead of play­ing col­lege bas­ket­ball for free, play­ers can earn de­cent money in the NBL through their wage and en­dorse­ments.

Hamp­ton has signed a multi-mil­lion-dol­lar shoe deal with Chi­nese com­pany LiN­ing, while mul­ti­ple com­pa­nies have been chas­ing Ball.

The Aus­tralian league also pro­vides ath­letes with the chance to hone their skills com­pet­ing against sea­soned cam­paign­ers. Ball and Hamp­ton’s time in the NBL to date has been a sig­nif­i­cant suc­cess.

Al­most 1.9 mil­lion peo­ple tuned into the pair’s first match-up in Auck­land last Thurs­day via Face­book, mak­ing it the most watched NBL game in his­tory. This record au­di­ence sur­passed the one mil­lion views for Ball’s first game for Illawarra against Bris­bane on Oc­to­ber 6.

The LaMelo Ball ef­fect has been in full force with fans keen to get to know the younger brother of New Or­leans guard Lonzo Ball and the son to his out­spo­ken fa­ther, LaVar.

Perth’s re­cent home game against Ball’s Hawks at­tracted 13,550 fans — the high­est at­tended game be­tween the two teams in NBL his­tory.

DRAWCARDS: LaMelo Ball and RJ Hamp­ton.

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