The Boomers may have walked away from the Rio 2016 Olympic Games without a medal, but the overall success of the campaign cannot be understated.
They entered the Olympic tournament as the No. 11-ranked team in the FIBA standings, but victories against Lithuania (No. 3), France (No. 5) and Serbia (No. 6) should see them move comfortably into the top 10.
That success comes on the heels of Ben Simmons and Thon Maker being drafted with the No. 1 and No. 10 picks respectively in the 2016 NBA draft, and hence light has never shone brighter on Australian basketball.
Australia currently has eight contracted players for the 2016-17 NBA season, behind only Canada, France and Brazil on the international players list. Include New Zealander Steven Adams — and it’s not like Australia doesn’t have form in that regard — and the number rises to No. 9.
(Aron Baynes was also born in New Zealand, but he’s well and truly Australian having played for the Boomers.)
So, of the contracted NBA players from Australia and New Zealand, who is the cream of the crop?
1. Andrew Bogut (Dallas Mavericks)
Career figures: 10.3 points per game, 8.9 rebounds per game, 2.3 assists per game, 1.6 blocks per game.
2. Patty Mills (San Antonio Spurs)
Career figures: 7.5 ppg, 1.5 rpg, 1.9 apg, 0.6 steals per game.
3. Steven Adams (Oklahoma City Thunder)
Adams had his coming out party during the 2015-16 NBA playoffs, asserting himself as the Thunder’s go-to man behind megastars Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
With Durant fleeing town, the No. 2 position is open and Adams is primed to become the Robin to Westbrook’s Batman off the back of averaging almost a double-double during 18 playoff games.
Career figures: 6.2 ppg, 6.0 rpg, 0.7 apg, 1.0 bpg.
4. Matthew Dellavedova (Milwaukee Bucks)
Dellavedova is taking his championship experience from Cleveland to the youngest side in the league, where he’ll likely play second fiddle to Michael Carter-Williams but should see much increased average minutes.
Off the back of a stellar Olympics campaign, in which he finished with the highest number of assists, Delly will be looking to translate that form into the coming NBA season.
For those who don’t know, Anthony’s dad, Carmelo Iriarte, who died when Melo was only 2, was a member of the Young Lords, the Puerto Rican group of the 1960s and ’70s that pushed for social justice.
And it’s not as if Anthony doesn’t talk about this part of his life. Ask him about his family and he might even show you tattoo of the Puerto Rican flag.
Yet, I still hold out hope. Imagine hearing this during a USA Basketball game:
“An 18-footer by Anthony as the U.S. takes a commanding lead. The New York Knicks star has been a strong voice this summer, speaking out against police violence. Many fans might not know that Anthony is an Afro-Latino whose father was Puerto Rican. Even as black athletes are speaking out, an Afro-Latino is leading the way.”
After the season, the team was sold and moved to San Francisco, eventually becoming the Golden State Warriors. While Chamberlain left his native Philadelphia — only to eventually return — Harvey Pollack never did.
Boutet is 52 now. The Braves have been gone from town nearly 40 years and moved yet again, to Los Angeles. But in his mind’s eye, Boutet can still see himself and his dad climbing the steps in old Memorial Auditorium and settling into the blue or orange nosebleed seats to watch Bob McAdoo, Randy Smith and Ernie DiGregorio.
Dr. Jack Ramsay, like McAdoo a future Hall of Famer, coached the Braves for four seasons before moving on to Portland in 1976-77 and winning a title in his first season there.
“When you think about what could have been here with the Braves, it’s really something,” said Boutet, an elementary school teacher and avid Braves memorabilia collector who sits on the board of directors of the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. For the last few years, Boutet has been part of an effort to establish a brick-and-mortar sports museum to preserve the city’s sports history.