In a testament to the Australian National Basketball League’s global growth, NBA player Dante Exum is joining the ownership group of its newest franchise, the South East Melbourne Phoenix.

Exum, a Melbourne native who now plays for the Utah Jazz, is a versatile combo guard who is a key part of Utah’s title hopes this year.

“It is a privilege to have Dante join the Phoenix family,” said Phoenix owner Romie Chaudhari. “I have spent time with Dante, and he is really wonderful to work with. I am proud to have him as part of our organisation and he represents our club’s value set. Since he’s from Melbourne, our community focus was critical for Dante choosing to come on board. I look forward to watching Dante’s career blossom both as an NBA player and as a successful entrepreneur.”

Basketball has skyrocketed in Australia, with the sport more popular than ever and worldwide recognition at an all-time high. The direction of the NBL and Australian basketball globally was a significant factor behind the investment from the Australian star.

“It’s an honour to be joining the investment group of the South East Melbourne Phoenix,” Exum said. “Melbourne has played a key role in my basketball journey and the chance to be involved in the ownership group of the SEM Phoenix is a perfect way to further that strong connection with the city. I look forward to seeing the continued growth of the NBL and much success and excitement for the team and the city of Melbourne.”

Australia was represented in the 2018/19 NBA season by 13 players, led by first-time All-Star Ben Simmons, NBA champions Andrew Bogut, Matthew Dellavedova, Patty Mills and Aron Baynes and the Utah Jazz duo of Exum and Joe Ingles.