Can Canberra Cannons fire another shot in NBL?

From the nation's cap-i-tal,

We are bask-et-ball,

We came here to-day,

To show you how to play,

We don't mix our bus-i-ness,

And we'll take no pris-o-ners,

Til we are number one,

We're the Canberra Cannons,

Hey! Hey! Watch us play

Cannons, Canberra Cannons!

Offence, defence, rocking up The Pa-lace, Cannons!

I've been drawing weird looks around the office this week (that's not unusual, I might add). But this time, it's because I've been walking around singing and humming the old club song of defunct NBL club the Canberra Cannons.

Not many know it, given it's been 11 years since the Cannons passed away. But yes, there was a song, written by the former lead singer of Aussie rock band Chocolate Starfish, Adam Thompson.

As a side note, Chocolate Starfish hit its peak in the mid-90s with a cover of You're So Vain, before disbanding in 1998. In 2010, the group reformed, touring alongside Cold Chisel icons Jimmy Barnes and Ian Moss, as well as Dragon.

How is any of this relevant?

Well, the NBL is touring at the moment trying to get the band back together. The NBL is pitching itself at Canberra, Brisbane, Tasmania - grave sites of dead NBL clubs - as part of its plan to expand the competition by at least four teams for the 2015-16 season. It then wants to add another four teams, up to 16, inside five years.

The big question is, can/should the Cannons get back on-stage and play again? And, even if Canberra was to re-enter a team in the NBL, should it be known as the Cannons?

Does the nostalgia of all that was good about the Cannons outweigh the stigma of all that contributed to their demise?

Whistling to the catchy Cannons jingle during the week, I caught myself being swept up in the romanticism of a Cannons revival.

Before the Raiders and Brumbies, the Cannons were Canberra's original success story.

They were a foundation NBL team in 1979, made the grand final that year, and won titles in 1983-84-88.

It was the era of Air Jordan, basketball ruled the world, and the AIS Arena, known then as The Palace, rocked.

I loved Phil ''The General'' Smyth's comb-over, Mel Dalgleish's moustache and Jamie Pearlman's mullet.

I loved Jerry Lee's pointed elbows, Dave Nelson's BBQ spare ribs (the first introduced in Canberra), and coach Steve Breheny's alleged headbutt on guard Damian Keogh in 1989 that sparked the rivalry with the Sydney Kings.

Willie Simmons wore strap-on goggles, while Robert Rose walked with a strut.

Herb ''The Snake'' McEachin would slither his skinny frame to the rack, Tad ''The Microwave'' Dufelmeier was known for his ability to hit the court and heat up quickly.

And, hand on my heart, NBA legend Magic Johnson even played a cameo match for the Cannons, too. I had to bring up the YouTube vision to convince my colleagues.

In the final years, the Cannons began putting black curtains up at either end of The Palace to hide empty seats. In 2003 the curtains came down altogether. Do we dare bring them back up?

The NBL met on Tuesday with the ACT government, Basketball ACT and the University of Canberra, expressing its interest in bringing Canberra back into the NBL.

The NBL realises to stay relevant on a national scale, the competition needs far more than just the eight teams. There is now doubt, too, over the future of the Townsville Crocodiles.

Modern-day sport needs television content, and eight teams playing each other over and over again doesn't add up to big broadcast deals.

So the NBL has come to Canberra to gauge interest, with expressions of interest to be sought soon and a decision on the four new expansion teams to be made by October. The NBL needs Canberra, but does Canberra want the NBL?

The NBL hasn't just pointed blindly at a map in its approach to Canberra.

Basketball is a huge participation sport in the ACT.

Junior registrations have increased on average 11 per cent between 2011 and now, with a total of 392 junior teams. Senior numbers have grown almost as steadily, up 10 per cent over the same period and with 259 teams.

That equates to 6232 people playing in organised basketball competitions in the ACT.

Such numbers place Basketball ACT in the top 10 basketball associations in Australia, with most of the prominent areas in Melbourne.

The approach to the University of Canberra is also a calculated one. UC are building a $16 million sports hub to house the ACT Brumbies (among other sporting groups), are looking at taking over the licence of WNBL club the Canberra Capitals, and are even sponsoring the Sydney Thunder in the Big Bash League of cricket.

The NBL points to more than 200 Australian basketballers in the US college system as evidence that it does have the depth of players to support more teams.

Even Canberra, without the flagship of the Cannons, has produced Australian representative players Patty Mills, Anthony Petrie and Jesse Wagstaff.

The biggest doubt is whether Canberra can commercially sustain another team. An estimated start-up cost would be $5 million in the first season, then a conservative $3 million every year after.

ACT Sports Minister Andrew Barr makes it clear the government will not underwrite an NBL club.

''This is not going to be a government-sponsored team. We will not be the major shareholder, the community will be the major shareholder. The ball is in the court of the basketball community if they want this to happen.''

This rests solely with the voice of Canberra's basketball fans and the cash of our business community.

So if anyone's interested, sing with me … From the nation's cap-it-al.

The story Can Canberra Cannons fire another shot in NBL? first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.

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