Seven years ago I had an idea to start a basketball blog.
A basketball blog about the NBA that was written with a decidedly Aussie twist. Written by Aussies, but not necessarily for Aussies, about a sport that was played ten thousand miles away. It may seem unremarkable now, trivial in concept, but seven years ago, this genre of NBA blog did not exist.
There were a couple of Australians who wrote about the NBA, and I came to know them well, but those blogs were NBA blogs first and foremost, not Australian blogs. That puzzled me, and fuelled by the desire to blaze a niche trail in the sports blogosphere, I started NBAMate.
In the beginning, it was called the Kickz101 Trashtalk Podcast Blog, and yes I’m aware that sounds like a website from the mid-nineties. We had a small but loyal following, mostly of local Aussie hoops fans who frequented the Kickz101 Trashtalk Forum. And we loved talking about our NBA basketball.
We lived it, breathed it, debated it, morning, noon and night. We were part of a growing movement to revive a sport once much loved by Aussies, trying to restore it to its former glory, insistent that it was still the greatest sport – and the greatest league – on earth.
We believed in the cause.
And so NBAMate was born, and soon the idea of an Australian NBA blog seemed less like a novelty and more of a necessity. ESPN TrueHoop linked to us on Australia Day. Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie linked to us a bunch of times, as did many others. And then, we kind of lost count. Without trying to blow our own trumpet, it’s fair to say we became a popular little basketball blog. No need to take our word for it… a quick search of ‘nba blog’ at google.com (the US version) will find NBAMate in the first 8-12 results, depending on the day.
Needless to say, we had a lot of fun. Jumping online to check the reactions and over-reactions to our latest blog posts was the highlight of my day for a long time. Watching links to NBAMate cascade around the Internet, popping up in random basketball forums and team blogs, was always amusing. What made it so satisfying wasn’t the hits or the traffic, but the fact they were hits and traffic to an Australian NBA blog.
I can’t tell you how many emails I received from NBA fans in the US and Canada who said they loved reading NBAMate because we were original, interesting, and made following the NBA fun (despite them not understanding repeated references to Steve Carfino). Twenty years ago that would have been like an American subscribing to The Age newspaper because they liked their NBA columnist. I don’t think the irony is lost despite the wonders of the Internet.
If this seems like a longwinded intro that is escaping the point, that’s because it is. That’s exactly what I’m doing, and have been doing for months now. Trying to escape the fact that NBAMate is reaching an end.
It’s hard to describe what it’s like to let go of something that you have invested so much time into. It would be a metaphoric stretch to say blood, sweat, and tears, so let me put it another way. A couple of months ago, I found out that I had written over 500,000 words on NBAMate. Collectively as a team we’re almost at a million words. A quick bit of Googling will tell you that is one fucking long book – more like 10 long books.
The number is humbling, and more than anything, makes me shake my head in amazement at how much time we’ve put into this thing. NBAMate has been a huge part of my life for a good portion of my life (almost a quarter). It has motivated me, inspired me, and defined me.
For years I convinced myself I was a sports journalist who happened to work as an IT professional during the day. Of course, that was a delusion, but watching and reading and enjoying the NBA was never enough for me. I felt obligated to give something back, obligated to share with the greater fan community.
This wasn’t because of any self-absorbent desire to be heard. It was because I couldn’t process what was happening in the sport I loved without writing about it. NBAMate became an extension of my conscience, a mechanism to gain closure on the countless thoughts bouncing around like a basketball in my head. Whether anyone read it or not didn’t matter. The fact that some people did, was always a bonus.
To anyone wondering why NBAMate is reaching an end, the answer is simple. There are other priorities that pop up in life, and right now, there are other things on our plate that make it difficult for us to devote the time and energy that NBAMate deserves. We debated the decision, and it wasn’t easy, but we feel like we’re letting go at the right time and going out on a high (in Miami, no less).
There are of course many thank you’s to be said at this point.
Firstly, a big thank you to MadiX and the entire Kickz101 team who helped me get this blog off the ground. The birth of the Kickz101 store in Melbourne coincided with an NBA revival in Australia that was palpable. I couldn’t have started this without your support, and I wish you all the success in the future.
To all the guys who were there on the TrashTalk forums in the mid-2000′s. We had some good times, on the forum and also on the hardwood together. Shooba, Jan, Fatman, Eze, Dime, and a special shoutout to Tizzle and Jobba for your contributions to the site over the years. May your Knicks and Bobcats enjoy many above-average years ahead.
To my mates who have continued to inspire and motivate me over the years. Wibo, my Ray Allen-obsessed friend, for educating me in the ways of smooth (it’s almost #1) – I seriously don’t know what you’ll do when Ray Allen retires. Chucko, for the countless emails we used to send back-and-forth every afternoon while following the games. Keep up that passion for the Suns mate, they won’t be crap forever (just a really long time). Jim – thanks for allowing us the privilege of broadcasting The Decision exclusively on NBAMate. May following the Bulls bring you much joy. And to all my friends whom I play ball with every Thursday night – you’re all part of the reason I love the sport so much, and part of the reason NBAMate kept going for as long as it did.
To the many NBAMate contributors over the years – Ant, Cam, Hans, J.O, Joel, Mosdef, Shaun and SP. Thanks for your support, your creativity and your belief in the cause. You all had a hand in making NBAMate what it is today.
To Ash, over the last three years you’ve been such a huge part of this site and helped shape its voice and style in your own unique way. I couldn’t imagine NBAMate without you. Thank you so much for your often inappropriate but always interesting articles. Never change.
To JT, there is a very good chance I would have been writing this farewell piece three years ago if it wasn’t for you. You’ve been running the show yourself for a while now, and I can’t express in words how grateful I am for the tireless hours you’ve put into the site, and the way you have maintained the true essence of NBAMate. You took it to another level, and you should be really proud of NBAMate as it stands today.
To the NBA League Office itself – thanks for your support and providing us media access on multiple occasions. It meant so much to be formally recognised by the league we so love, and you have given us incredible opportunities and memories that we will treasure for a lifetime. Like seeing Ray Allen nude.
Thank you to the NBA players who we’ve watched and commentated over the years, especially our NBAMate favorites. Just to name a few, thank you to Brandon Roy, Dwyane Wade (for the good and the bad), Danny Granger, the many rejects who participated in the Doubting Thomas Award, Puerto Rican Guy, LeBron James, Joe Johnson, Kobe Bryant, Rasheed Wallace and Ray Allen.
A special thank you also to many of our fellow blogging friends and followers. It’s impossible to name everyone, but just to name a few… Mookie at A Stern Warning, Hendo at Hoop Diary, Don from With Malice, DJ Leon Smith, and Tom and Benyam from Believe the Hype. I urge you to carry on the legacy of representing Australians and the great love we have for the NBA and the sport of basketball.
And lastly, most importantly, to the readers and fans of this site. Thanks for your loyalty, your encouragement, your criticisms, and your passion for the game of basketball. Notably, to all Australian NBA fans, who gave us the conviction that NBAMate was worth all the effort.
It’s easy to lose track of just how far things have come in seven years.
Seven years ago, the only way for Aussies to watch our favourite NBA team was to wait for Pontel DVDs to be delivered every week. I still have like 250 of them in my wardrobe. Since then? We’ve had NBA on Foxtel, and even on free-to-air TV (for a little while). We’ve had International League Pass (which by the way Australia is the highest subscriber of). We’ve had five Australians playing in the NBA – Nathan Jawai, Patty Mills, David Andersen, Aron Baynes and Matty Dellavedova – to add to Andrew Bogut. We’ve seen Bogut go from potential draft-bust to legit All-NBA centre. And we may not be far away from having an NBA game downunder.
A couple of years ago I was approached by someone from the NBA’s digital media department in New York, asking for my contact details. He gave me a call and spoke at length about the increasing surge of attention they were noticing from Australia. Visits to NBA.com, the NBA Facebook page, and ILP subscriptions.
“We’d be really interested in having you guys trial a new video streamer on your site…”
Hearing his American-accented words while staring at my mates kicking a footy in an East Melbourne park, I couldn’t help but smile.
It was the same smile I wore in anticipation seven years ago, when I clicked ‘Publish’ for the first time on NBAMate.
And it’s the same smile I’m wearing proudly now, before I click it for the last time.
With love and gratitude,
Rob D and the NBAMate Team