Australian sport has been given a glimpse into the future with fans treated to a history-making NBL clash in Sydney that will have rival codes seriously considering whether they should now start playing matches on Christmas Day.
Sport in this country is the gift that keeps on giving but Christmas was always the final frontier for the codes to conquer until the Kings decided to bite the bullet with a game against rivals Melbourne United which paid off with a 101-80 win.
Fans spoke with their feet with 7012 supporters rocking up to Qudos Bank Arena on a stinking hot day in Sydney’s west in a clear sign that there’s an appetite for sport as people look to digest their Christmas lunch.
Playing on Christmas Day is nothing new for major sports across the world with the NBA starting the tradition back in 1947, with five blockbuster matches set for Monday (AEST) to go with several NFL games for Aussies to enjoy.
Other codes will be looking on with interest when the TV ratings are released because there’s clearly a hunger from people to sit back and watch sport after a cheeky nap given there are only so many times someone can watch Love Actually.
It’s a concept the Kings and the NBL will look to build on with young families, diehard fans and even Santa in attendance, although Saint Nick (hamstring) was a late scratching after he signed a short-term deal with the defending champs.
JINGLE ALL THE WAY
The Kings gave their fans the ultimate Christmas present by returning to the top of the NBL table after surviving another second-half slump to eventually streak clear thanks to superstar skipper Xavier Cooks.
The MVP favourite overcame an ankle scare that forced him out of last week’s loss to the Phoenix but showed no signs of discomfort as he stuffed the stat sheet with one of his most complete performances of the season.
Cooks finished with 24 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists as the usually prolific Derrick Walton Jr was kept quiet and hobbled off in the final two minutes with a lower leg injury after he landed awkwardly trying to contest a rebound.
But Cooks made up for it and was well supported by Jordan Hunter (14 points) who came up with some big shots on Sunday night.
NO CHRIS FOR CHRISTMAS
United would have fancied their chances of playing the role of Grinch to spoil the Sydney party, but their hopes took a huge hit with sharpshooter Chris Goulding (illness) ruled out of the clash.
The visitors missed his accuracy from beyond the arc, with the veteran shooting 40.1 per cent from deep and averaging almost 3.5 threes per game.
Only four Melbourne players scored in the first half, but at least Rayjon Tucker picked up the slack with 20 points before the break, including three from long range to help United close the first half on a 14-3 run to trail 46-40 at the break.
United tied things up midway through the third quarter but couldn’t sustain the fight even though big man Isaac Humphries dominated the paint with 16 points and six blocks.
Things don’t get any easier for United with their next six games to be played on the road while John Cain Arena is being used for the tennis.