Basketball New Zealand has won the COVID-19 Response Award for the Sal’s NBL Showdown at the New Zealand Sport and Recreation Awards last night in Hamilton.

The decision was made by public vote with the NBL receiving an overwhelming count that supported the award.

Sal’s NBL General Manager, Justin Nelson, said receiving the award on behalf of the team was a proud moment.

“It’s been a year since the Showdown started and people still regularly talk about the event, the player draft, the ESPN deal and all of the innovation.

“This award is for the players, coaches, officials, staff, volunteers, commercial partners and the seven teams who backed the concept and sacrificed a lot at such a difficult time in our lives.

“It’s a great honour to be recognised for achieving something positive and impactful during a global precedent that brought the sporting world to a grinding halt. We rose above that and we found a way to keep going,” said Nelson.

The 2020 Sal’s NBL Showdown was a success in spite of the many challenges the event team faced. In the end it was possibly the world’s first sports ‘hub’ during COVID-19. The Showdown put 200 athletes, officials and administrators back into work. It captured the nation’s imagination, especially when early headlines were made with the NBL’s first-ever player draft.

Commercially, it was imperative to meet the NBL’s sponsor obligations. Not only were existing commercial agreements secured, but further partners were signed.

The presence was fantastic, especially when every game was broadcast live across the world to fans starved of live sport. A ground-breaking ESPN deal saw Kiwi basketball televised daily throughout the United States.

Thanks to those six weeks, teams, players and everyone else involved in those 56 games, the NBL Showdown overcame the very real possibility of not seeing a season and being set back years. In the end, the Showdown was a major success.

Basketball New Zealand was also made a finalist through the Hoops In Schools project.

Sport NZ Chief Executive Raelene Castle said the Awards are about recognising the outstanding work and inspirational people in the sector that support New Zealanders to be physically active.

“The awards ceremony brings together leaders from across the sector to recognise the top achievements and to acknowledge leadership and lifetime achievement. This year has also seen the introduction of two new award categories, Māori  Participation and COVID-19 Response, as well as the renaming of our lifetime achievement awards in honour of the late Sir Eion Edgar and his wife Jan, Lady Edgar.”

The awards coincide with Sport NZ’s annual Connections Conference for leaders from the sport and recreation sector. This year’s conference theme is “Leading and Managing Change” and features speakers from a range of national and international experts spanning disciplines including sport, business, leadership and psychology.

The award winners are:

  • Commercial Partnership – Badminton New Zealand | Barfoot & Thompson
  • Leadership in Diversity – Sport Waitakere
  • COVID-19 Response (Peoples’ Choice) – Basketball New Zealand – NBL Showdown
  • Community Impact– Local/Community – Sport Waitakere
  • Community Impact – Regional/National – Touch New Zealand
  • Māori Participation – Waka Ama NZ
  • Susie Simcock Future Leaders’ Scholarship – Kylie Turuwhenua-Tapsell, Sport Gisborne Tairāwhiti
  • K. Doig Leadership Award – Andrew Leslie, Recreation Aotearoa
  • Sir Eion and Jan, Lady Edgar Lifetime Achievement Awards – Terry Sheldrake MNZM, Jennifer Millar CNZM, Dick Garrett

Basketball New Zealand would like to congratulate the other finalists and winners, and to thank all those who voted for the NBL to win the award.