After 25 years in the national basketball wilderness, Tasmania has sent a message that perhaps won't go unnoticed by other sports pondering expansion.
The island state's JackJumpers scrapped their way to a thrilling 83-74 overtime win over the Brisbane Bullets in their maiden NBL game on Friday night.
A sold-out MyState Bank Arena in Hobart attracted 4,738 fans - the largest-ever crowd for an NBL game in Tasmania - to mark the state's return to the big league following the Hobart Devils' demise in 1996.
US import Josh Adams, who has played professionally in Turkey, China, Russia and his home country, said the atmosphere was up there with the best he's experienced.
"The fans in Europe, they're a little bit different but as far as energy and the love they showed this JackJumpers team, that was one of the most special moments for sure," he said.
"The energy and noise they made was mind-blowing.
"It kind of boosted us up the last five minutes in overtime where Brisbane didn't respond with the same energy. We can attribute that to the fans."
Their American coach Scott Roth has played heavily on a 'defend the island' mindset through the pre-season, something he said was firmly on show.
"I want to hang our hat on a lot of pressure and a lot of energy. We found a way," he said.
"The guys deserve it. I hope the state of Tasmania is proud of these guys. They put a tremendous amount of work into what they're doing."
The state's inclusion in the national basketball competition comes as the AFL considers the viability of a Tasmanian side and the A-League conducts a 'strategic review' into expansion options.
Premier Peter Gutwein has repeatedly accused the AFL of kicking the can down the road when it comes to a standalone side, which an independent report determined stacks up financially.
The JackJumpers attracted sell-out crowds for some pre-season games, which they also took to the state's north and northwest.
"We're trying to build something here that's special," Roth said.
"Our guys were very gritty and feisty. It wasn't pretty. We're not a sexy team but we are very competitive."
The Bullets' hopes in the season opener copped a hit when star Nathan Sobey was fouled out during overtime and from there the JackJumpers went on a 10-1 points run.
Tasmania next meet the Adelaide 36ers in Hobart on Thursday night.
Australian Associated Press
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