In a packed press conference this morning, Andrew Bogut — the former NBA #1 draft pick — confirmed he had signed a two-year deal in the Australian domestic competition.

By Daniel Herborn

Posted on April 24, 2018

The signing of Bogut is arguably the biggest in the league’s 41-year history. He most recently played for the Los Angeles Lakers in a 24-game stint.

Bogut, along with Sydney Kings coach Andrew Gaze, NBL CEO Jeremy Loeliger and NBL owner Larry Kestelman, all attended the press conference, where his new jersey was revealed.

Bogut confirmed he had retired from the NBA and signed a two-year contract with the Sydney Kings.

He added there was no get-out clause in his deal should an NBA or European team come calling.

Bogut’s return to Australia is one that has massive ramifications for the competition and the sport in Australia.

His signing is an instant boost to the Sydney Kings who have failed to make the NBL finals in seven of their eight seasons since rejoining the competition in 2010/11.

His presence is expected to add significantly to crowd numbers and interest in what is a key market for the league.

His presence is expected to add significantly to crowd numbers and interest in what is a key market for the league.

Bogut, who played 694 games in the NBA and was recognised as one of the league’s craftiest and toughest interior defenders, said he had been thinking of a move back to Australia for some time.

“In the back of my mind was always when, not if, I am going to come back to the NBL,” Bogut said.

The 33-year-old said the NBA’s grueling 82-game regular season and extensive travel had made a return home more attractive.

He played 13 seasons in the sport’s premier competition, including playing a role on the 2014/15 Golden State Warriors NBA championship.

Bogut said he had been informally discussing the move with NBL CEO Jeremy Loeliger for a number of years.

Remarkably, however, specific talks about this deal only began on Thursday and the move home was completed in a matter of days.

“This was a world class, NBA-level negotiation” Bogut said.

“But it wasn’t really a negotiation, it was a partnership.

“I’ve been in rooms with the best GMs and owners in the world… this was a world-class handling of this negotiation.”

The league has been resurgent in recent years, with record crowds and initiatives such as NBL teams travelling to the United States to play NBA teams.

It was also recently announced that the United States basketball team would play two international matches against Australia in Melbourne in 2019.

The start of something bigger?

“For us, this is a game changer,” Kestelman told reporters.

“I want you guys to know that it feels like we’re in an amazing place, but we’ve only just begun.

“Stay tuned for more announcements.”

Loeliger said the first appearance of Bogut for the Sydney Kings next year will be a headline-grabbing moment.

“Its’ going to be an amazing show. I know I’ll be here to see it and I’ll probably be the most excited fan in the place.”

He said the league had been building to such a high-profile signing.

“When Larry (Kestelman) and I first started on this journey a few years ago and we got behind the desk of the NBL for the first time, we said to one another: ‘What do we want to build?’

“The answer, literally to the word, was ‘We want to build a league that someone like Andrew Bogut would be proud to return to towards the conclusion of his career.”

We said to one another: ‘What do we want to build?’… The answer, literally to the word, was ‘We want to build a league that someone like Andrew Bogut would be proud to return to.

An intriguing footnote to the press conference was Bogut’s comment that other unnamed Australian NBA players had texted him to express their interest in a similar move at some point.

Australians Patty Mills, Joe Ingles, Thon Maker and Matthew Dellavedova are all still active in the NBA playoffs.

“Hopefully this sets a precedent,” Bogut said.

‘Not about the money’

Bogut scoffed at a question about how much he would be paid by the Sydney Kings, but said he would earn much less than the veteran minimum he would qualify for as an NBA player, which is currently more than US$1.6 million.

However, he revealed his contract includes a 10% ownership stake in the Kings when he finishes playing. He also has the option to purchase more of the team once he retires as a player.

“I wanted some skin in the game” Bogut said.

Bogut will join former NBL Most Valuable Player award winners Jerome Randle and Kevin Lisch in the Sydney Kings playing group. Loeliger said the trio could form the nucleus of the league’s best ever starting five.

“I’m excited for that first game, as a fan,” Kestelman added.