NBL executive chairman Larry Kestelman says the return of the Brisbane Bullets is long overdue and will provide basketball in Australia with a timely shot in the arm.
After multiple false starts, Kestelman and a contingent of NBL chiefs were in Brisbane on Friday to confirm the Bullets would be back in the competition for the 2016-17 season, ending a seven-year absence.
The team have abandoned the former Bullets’ colours of blue and gold and will instead wear maroon and gold, in a nod to Queensland’s traditional sporting colours and the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers.
Kestelman also unveiled the club’s new logo, featuring a basketball as a stylised bullet.
“Brisbane is one of the biggest markets if you have a look by population. It’s an absolute must and it’s been extremely disappointing for the game that we haven’t had a Brisbane team in the league for this many years,” Kestelman told reporters.
“There wasn’t even a thought process – it’s just a natural progression. To me, there’s no professional NBL league without a professional team from the Brisbane area.”
Kestelman said the NBL had considered bringing Brisbane back into the fold under a different name “for about 30 seconds”, before deciding to revive the Bullets’ name and more than 30 years of history.
The inclusion of a Brisbane team was a condition of the recent five-year broadcast deal signed with Fox Sports, who will broadcast every NBL game this season.
It comes on the back of a league-wide revamp of the NBL under the stewardship of millionaire businessman Kestelman, who completed a $6 million takeover of the competition earlier this year.
Kestelman, now NBL executive chairman, has been dubbed the Frank Lowy of basketball and says the sport is riding a wave of support in Australia only previously seen in the 1990s.
“It does feel a little bit of the Jordan days of NBA success, but even more so with the success we have as Australia and our players on the world stage,” he said.
“It certainly feels like we’re all set up for an amazing year of NBL and then Brisbane for the next year – I think we’re absolutely off and running.”
Six-time NBL champion CJ Bruton, the son of Bullets legend Cal Bruton, is the team’s first official employee and will serve as assistant coach and director of basketball.
Kestelman said the intention was for the Bullets to be based out of the Brisbane Convention Centre in South Bank, but could play at multiple other venues as well, including the Gold Coast.
The team does not yet have an owner, but the NBL will financially underwrite the franchise until a consortium of investors is put in place.
The Bullets folded in 2008, the year after their third championship, when former owner Eddy Groves handed back their licence to the NBL following the collapse of his ABC Learning Centres empire.
Southeast Queensland has not had a NBL team since the demise of the Gold Coast Blaze three years ago.