Bogut’s role in the Kings’ Christmas Day history

    While he won an MVP crown but never a championship in his two seasons with the Kings, one of Australia’s finest NBA exports might have his most significant impact on the domestic scene as the brains behind the sport’s biggest gamble. Bogut offered his Sydney Kings up as the test case to become the first Australian sporting team to host a fixture on Christmas Day when they play Melbourne United at Qudos Bank Arena on Sunday.The champion centre floated the idea in the Sydney post-game dressing room while he was still playing back in 2020. Kings owner and chairman Paul Smith remembers the moment well. The players and staff were all sitting around enjoying rare reflection time when Bogut piped up and announced: Why don’t we play a Christmas game.”“I just looked at Andrew and said – there is no reason why – let’s find out,” Smith recalls. “He always has one eye on the future, and he is always pushing himself and others to be better.“He also had a vision for becoming an owner and wanted to expand the club’s reach and be an innovator.”Bogut’s sporadic Christmas Day call sparked a chain of conversations over a two-year period.The Kings pushed through initial concerns about hosting the unique concept, including potential public blowback and being the only NBL club keen when the league contacted to express interest.Bogut, Smith and co knew it was a risk, but they could also see the bigger picture of Christmas Day becoming a sustainable marketing event.Two years on, ticket sales for Sunday’s game are tracking towards 8,000 while insiders predict the largest FTA audience in decades as basketball occupies a monopoly as the only Australian sport willing to risk competing on Christmas Day.It comes as News Corp can reveal the Kings are set to make its Christmas night game a tradition, with a game also locked in for next season.Bogut is bringing his young family down from Queensland for the momentous match, and he’s confident the historic fixture will be a resounding success. “Times have changed – I mean, even people who celebrate Christmas heavily don’t want to be locked in a house 9am cooking the roast until they go to bed,” Bogut said.“It’s great for us to take a punt on it to try and create history.“We tried to lobby the NBL to give us first rights refusal for a couple of years because we’re taking the risk.“We’ve got to pay our staff, the arena workers’ penalty rates and no other NBL team wanted to do it.“We put our hand up and if it goes well, we feel we should be rewarded to get it back for at least a couple of years.“I’ll be there. I better be there because I was one of the ones that pushed for it, so it’s only fair that I go, take the family and enjoy it.“It’s more than just an NBL game. Santa will be there; you can watch a good game and enjoy the festive spirit.” Bogut played on Christmas Day during his decorated NBA career on numerous occasions.He enjoyed the experience, even if there were years when he just felt like “sitting at home, having a nice meal and falling asleep on the couch in the arvo.” “But it’s also a privilege to play on Christmas Day,” he said.“In the NBA, and hopefully in the NBL for some time to come, all eyes are on you. “You’re the only sport on television and you might attract fans that don’t know about the NBL, but they love sport.“Most Australians love sport, so I think they’ll watch whatever is on because you can only watch Christmas carols and Home Alone back-to-back enough times until you want live sport.“So, hopefully that is the case, and we pick up a few new fans.”Kings players Dejan Vasiljevic and Jordan Hunter can’t wait to create Australian sporting history and play on Christmas Day.Vasiljevic understands why players with families are reluctant to play on Christmas Day, but he has no concerns.The Boomers guard celebrates the Greek Christmas two weeks later on January 7. “For me, playing on December 25 doesn’t really affect me,” Vasiljevic said.“I’m also playing two weeks later, so it is different for me. Plus, if you play on Boxing Day you still have to travel or prepare on Christmas Day, so I don’t see how this is any different.“I think playing on Christmas will bring a lot of joy to so many basketball fans, but also people across Australia.”Hunter is intrigued to see how the Christmas Day game unfolds.“It’s a big part of the US sports culture, so I guess I’m mostly just curious to see how it plays out,” Hunter said.“It feels unknown and exciting, and I think it will be awesome to have our fingerprints on the first game.”NBL boss Larry Kestelman is keen to see the Christmas Day game become a tradition, revealing the league will consider a double header next year.“It has been shown around the world a significant number of people want live sport on Christmas whether it be during the day or in the evening post the festivities,” Kestelman said.“With our Christmas night game trial this year we are waiting for fans to vote with their feet by attending the game, or by tuning into the broadcast in their living rooms or elsewhere on their devices. “If the demand is there, we would be open to scheduling a double-header next year. “The jury is out, and time will tell. As pioneers of this concept in Australia, I hope it’s a slam dunk for basketball and we pave the way.”NBL CHRISTMAS DAY BLOCKBUSTER:Sydney Kings vs Melbourne United on December 25 Qudos Bank Arena from 6.30pm (AEDT) and live on Channel 10 main (Sydney and Melbourne), 10 Peach and 10 Play all other states and markets, ESPN and KayoCHRISTMAS DAY MEMORIES FOR THE SYDNEY KINGS:Angus Glover:The best present I ever received would have to be a blue pair of Kobe 4s when they first came out. Kobe Bryant was my favourite player and still is.Xavier Cooks:My favourite Christmas present as a child would have to be the trampoline Santa got for us children. I would have been around 8. I’d be out there all day with my family and friends trying to learn flips and stuff. Once I grew a little and we put the trampoline in front of the basketball hoop and the slam ball phase began, it was a lot of fun.Tim Soares:One of my favourites was the Wii. It was the cool new video game at the time.Jordan Hunter:It’s my brothers and me spending Christmas in snowy New Hampshire when we lived in Boston. That Christmas not only did we get Guitar Hero 3: Legends of Rock, but mum and dad told us we would be getting our dog Alice, who is still kicking at nearly 15.

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