The "LaMelo Ball effect" could see millions of eyeballs on Canberra this week as NBL chiefs push to build a connection with the ACT government.
Highly-rated NBA draft prospect Ball will sweep through the capital when the Illawarra Hawks host the Brisbane Bullets at the AIS Arena on Sunday.
Ticket sales have surged days out from the game with Canberra set to get a taste of what 18-year-old Ball has done for the league's small market battlers.
Hawks games are being streamed into the United States this season and their clash with New Zealand last week was the most watched game in NBL history with 1.9 million views on Facebook globally, and over five million views of Ball's highlights on social media.
Illawarra's average crowd (home and away across seven games) this season is 6300 - a 38 per cent increase on last season (4554).
A total of 44,2013 fans have watched Ball in the flesh with the average away crowd standing at 10,622.
NBL chief executive Jeremy Loeliger says Sunday's clash shapes as Canberra's only chance to see Ball in action with Illawarra's push to bring another game to the city in January falling short.
MORE CANBERRA SPORT
"It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a kid who is probably going to go on to be a star in the NBA," Loeliger said.
"Many of us will look back fondly and say 'I remember when he played for the Hawks at the AIS Arena'.
"We've had almost 45,000 people turn up to watch them play games this year, which is pretty phenomenal given how early we are in the season.
"It's a reflection of the fact this season is a genuine once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to watch a future NBA star in the making.
"I'm really pleased to be able to bring that opportunity to the capital this weekend when Illawarra take on the Brisbane Bullets. It's going to be a huge day."
Illawarra officials were keen to play Perth in Canberra on January 10 but could not secure the funding from the government to orchestrate the move.
ACT sport minister Yvette Berry says the government will continue to work with the Hawks and the Canberra Capitals about how they can build on basketball's platform in the region.
"We've supported them with funding for the one game and we supported the Opals for their game against China," Berry said. "What we need to do is to make sure basketball is important and plays a role in our city.
"We'll keep working with [the Hawks] about what it is we can do to make sure our elite athletes are there for people to see and for community facilities as well."
Ball shapes as the biggest drawcard for Sunday's game in the capital.
The exciting prospect made his way to Illawarra via the Next Stars program which has also delivered RJ Hampton to the New Zealand Breakers.
The success of the program has provided a huge cash injection for the clubs and the league and has Loeliger in a position to reinvest in the concept for which there are a host of benefits.
"First was to help these young players be the best version of themselves they could be, and find a path to being drafted as high as possible in the 2020 NBA Draft," Loeliger said.
"Secondly, we wanted to increase the relevance of our product to both domestic and international audiences.
"We have seen huge numbers coming out of North America tuning in.
"The third impact is, it helps our Australian players get noticed. There's a lot of really exciting young talent on that Hawks team.
"Guys like Sunday Dech, Daniel Grida, Emmett Naar, Angus Glover, all of whom are going to be noticed for what they have been able to contribute to that team this year. The people noticing are fairly important in terms of basketball recruitment on a global level.
"All eyes are going to be on Canberra. Fans around Australia and around the world are going to be tuning in to see professional basketball at the highest level being played in the nation's capital, which is really exciting."
NBL ROUND FIVE
Sunday: Illawarra Hawks v Brisbane Bullets at AIS Arena, 5pm. Tickets from Ticketek.
WNBL ROUND FOUR
Saturday: Canberra Capitals v Sydney Flames at AIS Arena, 5pm. Tickets from Ticketek.