HoopNation began as an idea between two friends who wanted to create something that they saw was missing from the basketball calendar. The agreement was that if they were going to invest their time into something then ‘It had to be big’. Nine months later and numerous conversations where dreaming and imagining were encouraged, the brand HoopNation and a 150 page ‘manual’ of sorts was developed that outlined the vision, systems, infrastructure and a lofty goal that they had declared to be the biggest basketball event brand in APAC by 2020.
“We were never afraid to speak the dream out loud once we had written it down” says co-founder KJ Allen. “This was important because if we didn’t believe it, then how could others?” he says. Their goal is yet to be achieved but the dream is inching ever closer, and a long list of milestones and achievements have been made. When they first launched in Whanganui in 2011 with only 15 teams, they were denied any new event funding from then mayor Michael Laws who scoffed at their vision.
Not being deterred, HoopNation is now in their ninth year, they outgrew Whanganui’s facilities and were forced to relocate to Tauranga where they were embraced by Tauranga City Council. HoopNation has become an iconic basketball brand and is NZ’s premier basketball event capturing teams and athletes from across the country, Australia, Malaysia, Japan, Hong Kong and China.
This year another record was broken with the most athletes ever participating and 150 teams, a 10x increase from year 1. HoopNation has a considerable social media following and recruits designated videographers and photographers for all of their events throughout the year. This includes the Eltham Tour to Melbourne, where they took six youth teams earlier this year, won all 42 games and six championships. A considerable feat as this is the biggest youth basketball event in the world.
They are exclusive invitees of China’s biggest event in Shanghai, called King of Kings International Basketball Challenge. It is a 12 team, 8 nation invitational event with China’s richest prize money on offer. They’ve hosted NZ Breakers preseason games, and hosted the Malaysian Men’s National Team Tour as their warmup to the South East Asian games. They’ve also been invitees to two NBA legends games in Macau, and in Kuala Lumpur. HoopNation has become a recognised brand in all things basketball in this part of the world.
Their 2020 dream to become the biggest basketball event brand in APAC centres on their ability to license the event. Licensing is one year behind schedule which isn’t too bad considering that it was first forecasted in 2009! The co-founders KJ Allen and Paul Berridge are now ready to invest significantly into this next phase with the help from Poutama Trust. “This support is the game changer for us” says Allen. “Now we can secure the competition management, e-commerce and app to bring the event into a high tech space, and ready it for international licensing” he says. “We will be bringing our licensees who we have already identified to witness the 2020 event live in Tauranga, and use it as a platform for their training at the same time” says Berridge. Potential international licensees who have been following HoopNation and built relationships over the past nine years with its founders are ready and waiting.
If there is anything that these two would like to leave readers with, it is the encouragement to stay the course, to stretch themselves, to surround themselves with the right people who they can tap into to be advised, mentored and guided to achieve the visions that they each have. “We’re happy to talk to anyone” say Allen.