With the opening of the Indigenous Community Basketball League on Sunday, the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Torres Strait Islander man and NBA champion Patty Mills announced their intent to back Indigenous Basketball Australia (IBA) in their inaugural year.

Through a collaboration between NBA and IBA, the global youth basketball program for boys and girls, Jr. NBA, will be integrated into IBA programs and competitions.

ICBL opening ceremony in Alice Springs. Photo supplied.

Forty-eight young people will get the opportunity to partake in a Jr. NBA two-day camp led by NBA International coaches at the National Indigenous Basketball Tournament (NIBT) on the Gold Coast in April.

From there, two girls and two boys will be able to take part in the Jr. NBA Global Championship Asia-Pacific athlete selection pathway camp which will be later in the year.

“Basketball as a sport has brought me happiness, joy, education and a real sense of purpose and perspective. It has changed my world and shaped the person I am today,” said Mills.

“However, not everyone has had the same opportunities as I have, which is why I’m so dedicated to using my platform, my profile and my voice to develop innovative programs like IBA, which will allow my people to really own their story.”

NBA Asia Managing Director Scott Levy noted their pride in supporting the IBA.

“We are proud to stand alongside NBA champion Patty Mills, an Australian icon for his basketball achievements and for his tireless off-the-court efforts to positively affect change in his community,” said Levy.

“Youth empowerment is a shared goal of the NBA and IBA, and through the Jr. NBA program, we can support Patty’s mission of providing opportunities and pathways for Indigenous youth of Australia.”

Wiradjuri Elder, Uncle Ralph Naden dancing at the ICBL Dubbo opening. Photo supplied.

IBA Head of Basketball Tyson Demos spoke of his excitement about the partnership.

“Having the biggest sporting brand in the world back an Indigenous organisation and program is unbelievable,” he said.

“Credit goes out to Patty, two of his biggest passions and things close to him is obviously basketball and his community. He is now in the position he can give back to both of those.”

Demos reflected on the purpose of the IBA after the opening ceremonies took place in seven locations across the nation.

“It was six months ago when we sat down, we were in the initial planning stages of the IBA and the ICBL … To get it to where we are now with the ICBL up and running, is incredible,” he said.

“There is an amazing amount of talent out there in those rural communities, it really surprises me how many kids are already playing basketball out there.”

“One of the special things about IBA and the program is that we are bringing these kids into an elite organised competition, with the opportunity for them to be selected to represent their state and their region at the National Indigenous Basketball Tournament.

“If we can get a kid from out west NSW to play, who’s not to say they could be the next Patty Mills?”

By Rachael Knowles