THE CANADIAN PRESS
Three Canadian basketball teams are banking on the prospects of a new professional league in the country.
The Halifax Rainmen, Saint John Mill Rats and Quebec Kebs have joined forces to form the National Basketball League, set to begin its inaugural season in October.
While numerous basketball franchises and leagues in Canada have failed to survive in the past, Andre Levingston is confident they’ll be the ones to buck the trend.
"We thought the time was right," Levingston, the president and CEO of the Rainmen, said in a phone interview from Halifax. "There’s definitely a thirst and passion for the game of basketball in the country.
"We thought, if there ever was going to be a time to do it, it was now. The country needs it and wants it and we want to bring it to them."
The Rainmen, Mill Rats and Kebs — who all left the Premier Basketball League after this past season amid complaints of poor management — are the league’s only three teams thus far.
But Levingston said he’s received commitments from Kingston, London and Barrie, Ont., and has had interest from officials in Oshawa, Windsor and Kitchener, Ont., along with Moncton and Fredericton.
A league stipulation would see at least two Canadian players on each team.
The World Basketball League — which included six Canadian teams — was founded in 1987 by a group that included NBA Hall of Famer and Boston Celtics great Bob Cousy. That league, which had a height restriction of six-foot-five and under, folded in 1992.
The all-Canadian National Basketball League, which included eight teams, started up the same year but barely got off the ground, folding after less than two seasons.
"I don’t know why the other leagues failed," Levingston said. "We feel we have timing on our side, for one, and I don’t know if the teams were getting the corporate support that we’re getting, and I guarantee you they wouldn’t be sitting with these individuals in the ’90s that we had today with us."
One of those individuals was Sam Mitchell. The former Toronto Raptors head coach, a longtime friend and business associate of Levingston’s, was at Thursday’s news conference in Halifax to announce the new league.
The Rainmen, Levingston said, averaged more than 4,000 fans a game last season.