The Melo effect: The NBL stumbles across the way forward

22 November, 10:41
It's almost as if basketball was designed for Instagram. The 24-second shot clock allows for any given passage of play to be shared in full. Before Instagram, the assessment of up-and-coming high-school talent was the domain of US college scouts and local rivals alone. Every now and then a clip of a player like LeBron James would make it onto TV, if you happened to catch it.

With the rise of social media a new competition has emerged. When last year's No.1 NBA Draft pick Zion Williamson was in high school, more than one million people followed his development from the palm of their hand. That following had doubled by the time he had played his first college game for Duke University in 2018.

Young prospects must now perform even when the scouts aren't in the stands - but those that thrive know their value better than ever. Players like Williamson and Ben Simmons are looking to the "one-and-done" path: play one year at college before cashing in at the NBA draft. There is also a rising tension between the NCAA organisation that rakes in $1 billion in revenue every year - mostly derived from its March Madness basketball tournament - and the players that provide the entertainment for free.

The NBL has offered an alternative. Its Next Stars program offers a $100,000 salary, housing and flights to a hand-picked group of players who will be eligible for the NBA Draft. It offers would-be NBA players the chance to develop their game outside of the college system and showcase their skills against experienced professionals.