The Sal's NBL has enjoyed a stunning return to home games being played around the country with crowd numbers exceeding all expectations.
As the League celebrated the start to its 40th season, it also celebrated a 76 per cent increase on attendances compared with the opening round back in 2019 (pre-Covid).
Following the successful Showdown hub in 2020 due to the impact of Covid-19, the League was hoping a return to a traditional home and away format in 2021 would bring the fans back courtside to see their local team in action, and that's exactly what unfolded through the opening round of games.
League General Manager Justin Nelson was understandably delighted with the response from basketball fans.
"Brilliant! It was so good to see our fans back at games and supporting their local team," said Nelson, adding "Our fans are the most important people in our business and to see them turn up in big numbers to cheer on the players was a perfect start to our 40th year.
"To see an increase that big is quite staggering to be honest, no doubt all of our teams are really happy and appreciative of the support."
A total of 14,510 fans attended games over the opening round.
The League also enjoyed an expanded viewing audience with all games broadcast live on Sky Sport, alongside coverage across the United States on ESPN3, and elsewhere around the world on NZNBLpass.com
Nelson believes the international coverage will continue to help put rising Kiwi basketball talent on the map.
"Based on what we saw across the opening round, I have no doubt more than a few interested college coaches in the United States will be impressed with what they saw from the likes of Dontae (Russo-Nance), Jake (McKinlay) and Sean (Murphy), just to name a few.
"Our coverage into the United States on ESPN provides enormous value for New Zealand basketball. I think people are just starting to realise how important this is for our young players in particular.
"In my time here it (being on ESPN) is right up the pointy end when it comes to the direction we are taking this competition," Nelson added.
"It feels like basketball is on a bit of a surge right now, the huge participation numbers at junior level are starting to translate into attendances at Sal's NBL games. We're really happy with that."