“I flagged with Larry that I want to take part ownership of the Kings and then we were given the owners’ agreement,” Bogut told the Herald. “It was a subtle way of telling us, ‘I’ll control what Andrew says. If you do that, welcome to the NBL’. If I bow to ‘Larry the Great’, I can be an owner.
“That’s fair enough to an extent, but when you look at my individual brand and what I’m about, it’s no secret that I’m outspoken and tell it as it is. I don’t need the money and I don’t need a guy like Larry telling me what I can do.
“We’re trying to work through it but personally I don’t think it will get anywhere. I’ve dealt with Larry for two years. He’s a ‘never wrong’ type of guy. I don’t think it would work. It’s at the point where he is who is, I am who I am. We’re two firecrackers.”
Kestelman fired back at Bogut’s claim when contacted by the Herald.
“We welcome him with open arms, but one thing we will not do is make special rules for Andrew,” he said. “There are currently rules in place as part of the licensing agreement that every owner has to abide by.
“Andrew is very outspoken. I’d certainly like him to express more positive opinions about the NBL because I must be doing some things right. But I’m not going to make up some new rules for Andrew so he can say whatever he likes.”
It would be an enormous loss if Bogut, Australia’s most successful basketballer who won an NBA championship with the Golden State Warriors in 2016, turned his back on the league.
He’s well known for shooting from the hip, especially on his social media accounts and more recently on his Rogue Bogues podcast. But he insists he would not bring the NBL into “disrepute”.
“We don’t even know what is considered ‘bringing the game into disrepute’,” he said. “I understand I have to abide by the same rules as the other owners, but I’m not going to be shitting on the NBL.
“I know we’re not the NBA. But when it’s simple organisational things, with simple fixes, that’s where you get pushback and Larry takes it personally. That’s his right to do so. He’s running the game. But I have a right to call him out when things aren’t run properly.
“I know he doesn’t like that but unfortunately there’s a lot of people in the league who kowtow to him. What Larry says goes. But I’m not taking ownership into something that’s going to muzzle me.”
Asked if he was sensitive to criticism, Kestelman said: “That is completely not true. A lot of people tell me how things can be done differently and I absolutely listen. I’m a guy who’s never had a mentor in his life. I’ve somehow made a reasonable fist of business. You don’t do that by always thinking you are right. But in the NBL there’s a way to have constructive criticism, and that’s not through social media.”
Bogut took to Twitter on Sunday about the growing controversy of players slipping and injuring themselves on sponsor stickers on the court after Kings import Jarell Martin hurt his left leg in his side’s 85-82 loss to the Illawarra Hawks at Qudos Bank Arena.
He tweeted the issue had become a “ticking timebomb” and called for the decals to be immediately removed.
“If I’m an owner, would I get fined by the NBL or Larry Kestelman for that tweet?” Bogut said. “If this decal issue was in the NBA, it would be a shit show. Are we going to wait for someone to do an ACL before we do something about it?
“The league is in a different place than 10 years ago. You’re getting players who are potential NBA draft picks, NBA players who have been drafted and stashed in the NBL. The last thing we want is to be all over ESPN with some future star doing his ACL on a logo. That undoes all the hard work we’ve been doing.
“We know Larry has invested a lot of money, and that’s been commended over and over in the last five years, but there comes a time when we have to move on.
“I’m doing this so guys like LaMelo Ball are going back to the NBA and saying, ‘That’s a well-run league’. I don’t think that’s the case today.”
Kestelman said: “I would’ve thought we’re doing something right with the league considering where it was, where it is now, and now him wanting to be involved as an owner. I’d like to think we’ve earned a little bit of respect for what we’ve done.”
Andrew Webster is Chief Sports Writer of The Sydney Morning Herald.