New Zealand's growing passion for basketball is very quickly rising to the surface as the Sal's NBL nears the halfway mark of season 2019, and there is no better evidence of that growth than every Thursday night when an expanding audience is settling in to watch top hoops action on SKY Sport and Prime TV.
The live coverage with lead commentator Huw Beynon has already delivered a host of big games and close finishes this season, while the likes of Casey Frank, Donna Wilkins and Tom Abercrombie have added loads of elite-player experience to the commentary box.
Ahead of a Southland Sharks and Hawke's Bay Hawks showdown to start Round 7, the League's General Manager Justin Nelson spoke glowingly about the increasing popularity of what the Sal's NBL refers to as Thursday Night Lights.
"Over the opening six weeks of the season it really feels like the NBL is cementing a place on Thursday nights in a busy sports market," said Nelson, adding "The League runs from Thursday to Sunday each week, but I really like that every round starts with a big bang when you can watch a game live on television."
Excitingly, the promotional factor that comes with the fans being able to watch live games on television is also boosting crowd numbers at games.
"SKY Sport and Prime TV are proudly the home of basketball in New Zealand and right across the League we love the passion they are bringing to the game and their commitment to promoting it. We're seeing a rise in crowds at games and I think a lot of that comes from people watch the game on television and then wanting to go along and experience the atmosphere and fun in person."
As participation numbers continue to explode at junior level and in schools, Nelson highlighted the importance of young boys and girls being able to see the stars of the game on television and across the NBL's expanding live-streaming platforms.
"You can't be what you can't see. Tomorrow's stars of men's and women's basketball in New Zealand are today's young fans who watch and attend games," said Nelson.
"We want to keep developing Thursday nights as being the weekly time-slot that no matter where you live in New Zealand, you can pull up a chair and watch great basketball action on SKY Sport and Prime TV.
"Our game is on the rise. The Sal's NBL is is being seen and spoken about, the schools are filled with budding young players, the women's league is also advancing, and we're seeing the national teams moving up the world rankings. Exciting times ahead indeed."
The Sal's NBL Thursday Night Lights can be seen every Thursday on SKY Sports and Prime TV from 7:30pm.