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Australia’s professional basketball league names champion amid controversy

Sydney Kings center Andrew Bogut in Australia

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - MARCH 15: Andrew Bogut of the Kings rebounds during game three of the NBL Grand Final series between the Sydney Kings and Perth Wildcats at Qudos Bank Arena on March 15, 2020 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

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Australia is no stranger to basketball controversy.

The latest comes in the National Basketball League, where the Perth Wildcats beat the Sydney Kings 2-1 in the best-of-five championship series. That’s right: Perth took the title despite never winning a clinching third game. The NBL awarded the championship after Sydney – pointing to government-imposed travel restrictions and social-distancing guidelines amid the coronavirus pandemic – refused to travel for Game 4.

The NBL’s decision was loaded enough. See Kings center Andrew Bogut:

But did the league renege on an agreement?

Kings owner Paul Smith, via Joey Riordan of 7News:

“We had an explicit three-way conversation last Friday because the NBL could provide no guidance, they hadn’t a clue what to do, with the scenarios that were unfolding,” Smith told The Herald.

“It was explicitly stated by the Wildcats and the Kings that neither was to have the championship without completing the five-game series. Explicit.

NBL commissioner Jeremy Loeliger, via Riordan:

“There were a number of phone calls but to the best of my memory there was no agreement to that effect (declaring no champion,” Loeliger told RSN.

“We discussed it as a possibility but I don’t believe there was any agreement.”

I have no idea who said what. Sometimes, people hear what they want to hear.

But I don’t understand why the NBL had to name a champion so quickly. It’s unclear when it’ll be safe to resume basketball games (an issue faced in the NBA and around the globe). Why not leave open the door for completing the final game or two of the championship series?

And that’s just from a business sense. In terms of social responsibility, it’d be concerning to punish a team for taking proper precautions amid a pandemic.