Sports

All Sports Fans Have Left Is the Australian NBL Finals Matchup Between Andrew Bogut and Miles Plumlee

Andrew Bogut and Miles Plumlee compete for the ball.
Andrew Bogut and Miles Plumlee compete for the ball during Game 1 of the NBL Grand Final series between the Sydney Kings and the Perth Wildcats on Sunday.
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

Sports bring people together, which is the exact opposite of what we should all be doing in the midst of a global pandemic. As such, leagues and tournaments around the world have suspended or canceled operations in response the rapid outbreak of the coronavirus. This is not out of an “abundance of caution,” as some like to say—rather, it is the least they can do, according to infectious disease experts and epidemiologists.

But us sports fans are a spoiled group. We are unaccustomed to living without our endless buffet of live game action, highlights, and spicy takes. Is there anything we can do to get our fix?

While we may not have the NBA, March Madness, Premier League, or baseball spring training to keep us occupied, there are options. No, I’m not talking about reading a book or spending time with loved ones. Times aren’t that desperate yet, not until the NBL Grand Final between the Perth Wildcats and Sydney Kings is done. (It’s a basketball series.) (Australian basketball.)

Throw out the record books whenever these bi-coastal rivals play each other. Actually don’t do that; those books provide vital context for this basketball league we’re suddenly trying to understand. Apparently, the finals are a best-of-five series, and it’s all tied up right now at one game apiece. That means at least two more games of Australian basketball action, baby!

The Perth Wildcats won Game 1, 88–86, and former Providence standout Bryce Cotton led all scorers with 32 points. Cotton was named NBL MVP in 2018 and is a two-time winner of the NBL Grand Final. As anyone who has been following the NBL for the past couple of hours can tell you, he’s a stud.

Cotton is playing lights out, but if you pause the above video at the 0:21 second mark you will see who’s really bringing the star power to Australia’s west coast.

Miles Plumlee playing for the Perth Wildcats.
Perth Wildcats on Twitter

That’s right, ladies and gentlemen: the Wildcats have a Plumee. Miles Plumlee, to be precise. Engineered in Mike Krzyzewski’s laboratory along with his brothers Mason and Marshall, Miles is Perth’s starting center. He was a perfect 5-for-5 from the field and scored 10 points in Game 1. Who needs the NBA when these nasty Plumlee moves are available down under?

You’ll notice that Game 1, which happened on March 8, was played before a packed house. On Thursday, NBL executive chairman Larry Kestelman announced that the rest of the series would be played without fans. Only essential team personnel as well as their family and friends were allowed to watch Game 2 in person at Perth’s RAC Arena. Those in attendance were treated to a showdown between Plumlee and the No. 1 pick of the 2005 NBA Draft, Andrew Bogut.

I did not watch that battle of the titans, because I was not aware that professional basketball was still going on in Australia until very recently. But, according to reports, Bogut got the better of his American rival.

The Sydney Kings routed Perth 97–83 in Game 2, with Bogut scoring 19 points and grabbing 13 rebounds. For the Wildcats, Terrico White had 5 points and went 2-for-6 from the field. I only mention his stat line because you or one of your friends might remember Terrico White. (He played for Ole Miss back in the day.)

Sunday’s Game 3 is pivotal. You can watch it on Australian ESPN and Australian Viceland. If you don’t have access to those channels—and why would you, honestly—you might be able to refresh the “play-by-play” tab on the NBL’s website for up-to-the-second text descriptions. The game will start at 2 a.m. ET on Sunday here in the U.S., so brew a pot of coffee. This is the most important sporting event in the world right now, and it is our duty as sports fans to give it the attention it deserves.

Listen to an episode of Slate’s sports podcast Hang Up and Listen below, or subscribe to the show on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotifyStitcherGoogle Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.