It was Monday, June 5, and the crowd inside Budweiser Gardens was on their feet. The cheers grew louder as the clock ticked down. The players on the bench could hardly stay off the court with their excitement and eagerness to hug their teammates. The buzzer sounded, and black and yellow confetti fell onto the London Lightning as they secured the 2016/17 National Basketball League of Canada championship with a 129-116 win over the Halifax Hurricanes.
The London Lightning set the longest winning streak – and then broke it two months later. They set numerous team and individual records, had the league MVP, the playoff MVP, and the Coach of the Year. Add all those milestones together and you get the best record in NBL history and a third NBL title.
The Lightning are one of the few teams that have been in the NBL since the beginning, six years ago. The Bolts won their first championship back in 2011/12, and again in 2012/13. The closest they came to winning again was last season when they took the Halifax Hurricanes all the way to seven games and fell just short. With only three players returning from that finals appearance, there was still the hurt of a game seven loss. But the Lightning management worked hard in the offseason to bring together the talent they believed could take them back to the finals for another shot at the title.
Ryan Anderson, who has been with the Lightning for two seasons, was named finals MVP. Anderson has been around the NBL, and other leagues, and he knows what it’s like to win a championship. But this experience, he says, was different.
“To see it manifest like this is really special,” Anderson said. “This is the best place to win. The fans are awesome. We couldn’t have done it for a better owner, coach or teammates. I knew it would be special, but not this special.”
The Lightning was the heavy favourite all year, as they spent the majority of the season sitting in first place in the central division and continued to meet and exceed expectations. The pressure was always on them, but they stayed calm, bonded as brothers, supported one another, and knew that together they were stronger and could bring a winning culture back to London.
To the city of London, and the best fans in the league, thank you for being a part of this historic season. We are grateful for your endless support. We are the NBLC 2017 champions. Now, let’s do it again. See you in November!
For season tickets and news, visit www.lightningbasketball.ca.
Submitted by the London Lightning