Infotainment Factory: One man's plan to revolutionise NBL culture

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Saturday, 22 September 2018

One man's plan to revolutionise NBL culture


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Basketball players are more than just athletes.

In the past decade, arguably no sport has captured the imagination of its fans as much as the game of basketball has, and the game’s best players have transcended the sport.

More than its competitors, basketball not only allows the rare synergy between sport and fashion and art - it fosters it - and that shines through in its superstars.

Names such as LeBron James and Russell Westbrook are no longer just seen in sporting magazines, but also fashion magazines.

James and Westbrook have turned the mundane pre-game into somewhat of a red-carpet event as eyes stay peeled on what outrageous outfit they may have put together.

 Russell Westbrook has become one of the NBA's most fashion-forward athletes

The NBA, arguably the world’s most progressive sporting league, has nailed the synergy between the two worlds of fashion and basketball, and now Justin Kestelman wants to jazz up Australia’s own basketball league, the NBL.

Kestelman is the son of NBL and Melbourne United owner Larry Kestelman, the man credited for the rising popularity of the sport in Australia.

Now the 23-year-old self-described “millennial” is planning to take what his father started and springboard it to an entire new level, with his business First Ever teaming up with the NBL to create new-look jerseys for what he hopes to be a new-look NBL.

“Fashion has been a part of my life growing up,” Kestelman exclusively told Wide World of Sports.

 Kestelman says the game of basketball became somewhat of a ritual for his family as a youngster

“I love what clothing and apparel represents. It’s an expression for me and something I feel like it communicates who I am as a person.”

Basketball is not only a pastime or a hobby for the Kestelman family, it has become a way of life, and it’s central to Kestelman Jnr’s plans to make the NBL cool again.

“Basketball for me has been something that’s a massive part of my life,” Kestelman said.

“The main involvement that I had was that it was really a family activity that myself, my dad, and my mum as well, used to go and join on the weekend.”

 The involvement in the league began with Kestelman's father Larry sponsoring the league

The involvement for Kestelman began when his father got involved with the Melbourne Tigers, sponsoring the state’s biggest team, and it was here where he got his first exposure to what was lacking in the NBL.

“We started sponsoring the Tigers and then I had further involvement in actually getting to have that up-close relationship with the players,” Kestelman said.

“I guess my passion for the sport really grew from having that inner sanctum experience and seeing how cool it was to be influenced by professional athletes.”

Kestelman is a keen follower of the game abroad, a tragic Cleveland Cavaliers fan striving to muster excitement for an approaching season that has a different feel without the city’s departed king, LeBron James.

 Ben Simmons has made the popularity of the game in Australia skyrocket

However, he wants Australian fans who feel a sense of loyalty to franchises thousands of kilometres away, such as the Cavaliers, to be equally proud to represent their own local sides in the NBL.

To do that, he wants to use his knowledge and passion for fashion and urban culture, and combine it with his love for the game of basketball to provide a product that Australian fans are truly proud of.

“Over my last three to four years, the one thing that I kept hearing was that the NBL just wasn’t cool,” he says.

“From my point of view, it’s all about creating that urban culture and that NBL culture for the younger generation and for my generation to say that we’re also influenced by apparel and clothing these days.

 The profile of the game has been helped by players such as Matthew Dellavedova winning titles

“If we’ve got a cool brand in NBL and we’re all about clothing, how do we bring this all together into one line.”

Australian basketball has experienced a golden era of sorts in the last decade, with Boomers stars Andrew Bogut and Matthew Dellavedova playing pivotal roles in NBA Championship-winning teams.

Then there was Australian phenom Ben Simmons not only going first overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, but taking out the prestigious Rookie of the Year award last season.

The same summer as Simmons got drafted, the Australian team, without the prodigious 76ers point guard, pushed a star-studded Team USA to the brink of defeat in the 2016 Rio Olympics, a watershed moment for the sport in Australia, according to Kestelman.

 The gallant 2016 Boomers squad performing well at the Rio Olympics was pivotal to the game's growth

“I think that’s the first time where Australia went ‘holy s—t, we’re actually pretty good at this sport’,” he said.

“Straight after that, when we took over the league, it kind of gave people that local hope to say, ‘Australians are good at basketball. What is Australian basketball?’

“You talk about the heyday of the '90s, that is so far gone. You look at every stat, every metric, we are in such a healthy position for basketball in Australia.”

When he says the league is in a golden era, Kestelman has plenty of data to back him up.

According to NBL CEO Jeremy Loelinger, last season’s finals series between the Adelaide 36ers and Melbourne United attracted 44,260 fans, an increase of 1.5 percent on the previous record set back in 1992.

 The NBL will welcome former NBA star Andrew Bogut this season

Total attendances across the league saw a five per cent increase in the 2017-18 season, on top of a whopping 14 per cent rise during the 2016-17 season.

Additionally, what was once a quiet Australian presence on the world stage is quiet no more. Australians are no longer just making up the numbers in leagues all over the world, they’re having a legitimate impact on the game.

With the success of the Australian players abroad in the United States, Kestelman is hoping the success translates to an improved product in the NBL.

However, Kestelman understands that the strength of the NBL lies not exclusively within its marquee players, but across the entire league.

 Kestelman wants to be able to tell the stories of players across the entire NBL

“When you get someone so high-profile like Andrew Bogut that people want to actually follow because of his popularity and credibility,” Kestelman says.

“But the other side of it is we haven’t really told the stories of Australian players very well.

“That’s where we, as First Ever, come into play. We’ve got great players, we’ve got really cool personalities, now let’s express that through a thing that we can all relate to, which is fashion.

“Between the superstars of Bogut and an urban, fashion-forward brand like First Ever helping to facilitate people’s personalities, I think people will want to become more attached to those local players as well.”

 Kestleman's fashion line will feature urban-style NBL apparel available to be worn outside the courts

The name First Ever comes due to two reasons, the first being that this is Kestelman’s first ever company, and the second being that the NBL is the first sporting league in the world to own its own apparel brand.

But Kestelman’s goal is more than to just design good-looking NBL jerseys. He discusses how the NBA has managed to successfully amalgamate the worlds of fashion and music with sport, and aims to do the same here in Australia.

“For us it’s about understanding and studying what the culture of basketball looks like off the court,” Kestelman said.

“It’s making sure that we associate First Ever and the NBL with people off the court.

 Former NBL star Andrew Gaze is now one of the league's coaches, in charge of the Sydney Kings

“We’re going to be launching a full streetwear range this year for NBL, both club-related and just generic NBL range, we start to educate fans in how the NBL is actually cool.”

Kestelman’s true passion for combining the worlds of fashion and basketball shines through as he gets into the intricacies of what colours work off the court, highlighting the famous red of the Perth Wildcats.

“How many people are going to go and wear red when they go to dinner? So how about taking that brand of Perth that is so ingrained within that Western Australian culture and feeling proud to wear it when you’re representing that clothing on the street,” Kestelman said.

‘Taking the game back to the streets’ is a phrase Kestelman hammers home.

 Kestelman wants to take the iconic red of the Perth Wildcats and translate it into urban outfits

The NBL’s shorter season and burgeoning popularity has made it a popular alternative to Europe for non-NBA players. Two seasons ago, Oklahoma City Thunder first-round pick Terrance Ferguson bypassed college to play a season for the Adelaide 36ers.

With Kestelman at the forefront of giving the league the swagger it deserves, the league’s best days look to be ahead.

Fans can purchase their authentic First Ever NBL jerseys via the NBL store produced by First Ever, with the streetwear range launching on September 21.

With the new broadcast deal between the NBL and Nine, fans will have access to two free-to-air games per week, with the new season set to tip off on October 11.

It could be the perfect time for the NBL to become “cool” again.

Basketball players are more than just athletes.

In the past decade, arguably no sport has captured the imagination of its fans as much as the game of basketball has, and the game’s best players have transcended the sport.

More than its competitors, basketball not only allows the rare synergy between sport and fashion and art - it fosters it - and that shines through in its superstars.

Names such as LeBron James and Russell Westbrook are no longer just seen in sporting magazines, but also fashion magazines.

James and Westbrook have turned the mundane pre-game into somewhat of a red-carpet event as eyes stay peeled on what outrageous outfit they may have put together.

 Russell Westbrook has become one of the NBA's most fashion-forward athletes

The NBA, arguably the world’s most progressive sporting league, has nailed the synergy between the two worlds of fashion and basketball, and now Justin Kestelman wants to jazz up Australia’s own basketball league, the NBL.

Kestelman is the son of NBL and Melbourne United owner Larry Kestelman, the man credited for the rising popularity of the sport in Australia.

Now the 23-year-old self-described “millennial” is planning to take what his father started and springboard it to an entire new level, with his business First Ever teaming up with the NBL to create new-look jerseys for what he hopes to be a new-look NBL.

“Fashion has been a part of my life growing up,” Kestelman exclusively told Wide World of Sports.

 Kestelman says the game of basketball became somewhat of a ritual for his family as a youngster

“I love what clothing and apparel represents. It’s an expression for me and something I feel like it communicates who I am as a person.”

Basketball is not only a pastime or a hobby for the Kestelman family, it has become a way of life, and it’s central to Kestelman Jnr’s plans to make the NBL cool again.

“Basketball for me has been something that’s a massive part of my life,” Kestelman said.

“The main involvement that I had was that it was really a family activity that myself, my dad, and my mum as well, used to go and join on the weekend.”

 The involvement in the league began with Kestelman's father Larry sponsoring the league

The involvement for Kestelman began when his father got involved with the Melbourne Tigers, sponsoring the state’s biggest team, and it was here where he got his first exposure to what was lacking in the NBL.

“We started sponsoring the Tigers and then I had further involvement in actually getting to have that up-close relationship with the players,” Kestelman said.

“I guess my passion for the sport really grew from having that inner sanctum experience and seeing how cool it was to be influenced by professional athletes.”

Kestelman is a keen follower of the game abroad, a tragic Cleveland Cavaliers fan striving to muster excitement for an approaching season that has a different feel without the city’s departed king, LeBron James.

 Ben Simmons has made the popularity of the game in Australia skyrocket

However, he wants Australian fans who feel a sense of loyalty to franchises thousands of kilometres away, such as the Cavaliers, to be equally proud to represent their own local sides in the NBL.

To do that, he wants to use his knowledge and passion for fashion and urban culture, and combine it with his love for the game of basketball to provide a product that Australian fans are truly proud of.

“Over my last three to four years, the one thing that I kept hearing was that the NBL just wasn’t cool,” he says.

“From my point of view, it’s all about creating that urban culture and that NBL culture for the younger generation and for my generation to say that we’re also influenced by apparel and clothing these days.

 The profile of the game has been helped by players such as Matthew Dellavedova winning titles

“If we’ve got a cool brand in NBL and we’re all about clothing, how do we bring this all together into one line.”

Australian basketball has experienced a golden era of sorts in the last decade, with Boomers stars Andrew Bogut and Matthew Dellavedova playing pivotal roles in NBA Championship-winning teams.

Then there was Australian phenom Ben Simmons not only going first overall in the 2016 NBA Draft, but taking out the prestigious Rookie of the Year award last season.

The same summer as Simmons got drafted, the Australian team, without the prodigious 76ers point guard, pushed a star-studded Team USA to the brink of defeat in the 2016 Rio Olympics, a watershed moment for the sport in Australia, according to Kestelman.

 The gallant 2016 Boomers squad performing well at the Rio Olympics was pivotal to the game's growth

“I think that’s the first time where Australia went ‘holy s—t, we’re actually pretty good at this sport’,” he said.

“Straight after that, when we took over the league, it kind of gave people that local hope to say, ‘Australians are good at basketball. What is Australian basketball?’

“You talk about the heyday of the '90s, that is so far gone. You look at every stat, every metric, we are in such a healthy position for basketball in Australia.”

When he says the league is in a golden era, Kestelman has plenty of data to back him up.

According to NBL CEO Jeremy Loelinger, last season’s finals series between the Adelaide 36ers and Melbourne United attracted 44,260 fans, an increase of 1.5 percent on the previous record set back in 1992.

 The NBL will welcome former NBA star Andrew Bogut this season

Total attendances across the league saw a five per cent increase in the 2017-18 season, on top of a whopping 14 per cent rise during the 2016-17 season.

Additionally, what was once a quiet Australian presence on the world stage is quiet no more. Australians are no longer just making up the numbers in leagues all over the world, they’re having a legitimate impact on the game.

With the success of the Australian players abroad in the United States, Kestelman is hoping the success translates to an improved product in the NBL.

However, Kestelman understands that the strength of the NBL lies not exclusively within its marquee players, but across the entire league.

 Kestelman wants to be able to tell the stories of players across the entire NBL

“When you get someone so high-profile like Andrew Bogut that people want to actually follow because of his popularity and credibility,” Kestelman says.

“But the other side of it is we haven’t really told the stories of Australian players very well.

“That’s where we, as First Ever, come into play. We’ve got great players, we’ve got really cool personalities, now let’s express that through a thing that we can all relate to, which is fashion.

“Between the superstars of Bogut and an urban, fashion-forward brand like First Ever helping to facilitate people’s personalities, I think people will want to become more attached to those local players as well.”

 Kestleman's fashion line will feature urban-style NBL apparel available to be worn outside the courts

The name First Ever comes due to two reasons, the first being that this is Kestelman’s first ever company, and the second being that the NBL is the first sporting league in the world to own its own apparel brand.

But Kestelman’s goal is more than to just design good-looking NBL jerseys. He discusses how the NBA has managed to successfully amalgamate the worlds of fashion and music with sport, and aims to do the same here in Australia.

“For us it’s about understanding and studying what the culture of basketball looks like off the court,” Kestelman said.

“It’s making sure that we associate First Ever and the NBL with people off the court.

 Former NBL star Andrew Gaze is now one of the league's coaches, in charge of the Sydney Kings

“We’re going to be launching a full streetwear range this year for NBL, both club-related and just generic NBL range, we start to educate fans in how the NBL is actually cool.”

Kestelman’s true passion for combining the worlds of fashion and basketball shines through as he gets into the intricacies of what colours work off the court, highlighting the famous red of the Perth Wildcats.

“How many people are going to go and wear red when they go to dinner? So how about taking that brand of Perth that is so ingrained within that Western Australian culture and feeling proud to wear it when you’re representing that clothing on the street,” Kestelman said.

‘Taking the game back to the streets’ is a phrase Kestelman hammers home.

 Kestelman wants to take the iconic red of the Perth Wildcats and translate it into urban outfits

The NBL’s shorter season and burgeoning popularity has made it a popular alternative to Europe for non-NBA players. Two seasons ago, Oklahoma City Thunder first-round pick Terrance Ferguson bypassed college to play a season for the Adelaide 36ers.

With Kestelman at the forefront of giving the league the swagger it deserves, the league’s best days look to be ahead.

Fans can purchase their authentic First Ever NBL jerseys via the NBL store produced by First Ever, with the streetwear range launching on September 21.

With the new broadcast deal between the NBL and Nine, fans will have access to two free-to-air games per week, with the new season set to tip off on October 11.

It could be the perfect time for the NBL to become “cool” again.

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