Friday night's clash between Melbourne and Cairns will almost certainly be Bobi Klintman's final game for the Taipans, and the end of an incredible relationship between the Next Star and the Taipans' faithful.

14 Feb
Dan Woods for

It’s hard to look at Bobi Klintman and not immediately feel an affinity towards him. He’s a smiling, high-energy and affable young man who is primed to take the leap into the bright lights of the NBA in the upcoming draft.

Friday’s clash between Cairns and Melbourne will almost certainly be Klintman’s final game in Far North Queensland. The Taipans are on the outer of post-season qualification and barring an almost impossible swing in percentage, plus a specific set of other results around the league, they’ll be absent from the business end of the campaign.

The Taipans’ performances in what has been one of the most hotly contested and unpredictable seasons in NBL history hasn’t stopped the Cairns faithful from warming to Klintman over the course of the campaign though, nor has it prevented Klintman from warming to them.

Whether it’s Trentyn Flowers in Adelaide, Rocco Zikarsky in Brisbane, or Alexandre Sarr in Perth, fans across the NBL have felt an almost immediate affinity for this class of NBA-bound Next Stars, and it’s no different for Klintman and Cairns, and Taipans head coach Adam Forde says that affinity is returned by the Swedish sensation.

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Bobi Klintman went OFF in the first half against Adelaide ?<br><br>The <a href="">@CairnsTaipans</a> Next Star finished the Round 10 contest with a career-high 22 points ? <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; NBL (@NBL) <a href="">December 12, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

“He’s a great character,” Taipans head coach Adam Forde told NBL Media. “He’s a great locker room presence and he’s made a good circle of friends within the team.

“He’s got a smile that lights up a room and he’s got an energy about him that draws people in and makes them want to engage in conversation.

“Guys after a home game will generally do one lap around the court to thank the fans, but Bobi does two. He’s just embraced the community and the experience, and everybody in Cairns has embraced him the same.”

For all the positives, this season hasn’t been without its hurdles for Klintman. A string of incredible scoring performances early in the campaign were brought to a screeching halt by an ill-timed hip injury, and a concussion pulled him back out of the groove he had begun to find himself in after his return.

Forde says he’s been impressed by the way in which Klintman has dealt with the highs and lows of his rookie professional season - all while being under the spotlight that comes with being a highly touted draft prospect.

“He’s been outstanding in having to navigate a lot of things for a young man that most rookies in the NBL don’t have those same obstacles to go through. A regular rookie isn’t being judged against other rookies, a regular rookie in the NBL has a chance to find his own way in the NBL.,” Forde said.

“Bobi is compared every week to Alex Sarr, Trentyn Flowers, Ariel Hukporti, Ron Holland in the G-League, whoever it may be. Him trying to shoulder all that as well as come out and perform, as a young man he’s done exceptionally well.

“The fact he’s been able to show a huge growth in his maturity and been able to navigate those expectations and burdens as well as having to perform on the court and learn scout and learn new players and figure out the way the game is officiated, he’s been exceptional with his professional approach to that.”

<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p lang="en" dir="ltr">Bobi Klintman and Adam Forde are a match made in basketball heaven. <a href=""></a></p>&mdash; Liam Santamaria (@Liam_Santa) <a href="">June 14, 2023</a></blockquote> <script async src="" charset="utf-8"></script>

After a full season of falling in love with the Cairns faithful – and that love being returned in spades – Friday’s clash against Melbourne United will likely be the fondest of farewells for Klintman from the Taipans’ fans.

While the season may not have ended the way in which the Next Star would have hoped – seeing as he almost certainly won’t be holding the NBL championship trophy aloft – Klintman has still established himself as one of the most athletic, watchable and likeable players in the competition over the course of an electric campaign.

Such is the nature of the draft that Klintman could end up almost anywhere across the continent of North America. But whether it’s Los Angeles or New York, Texas or Toronto, or anywhere in between, Adam Forde will be watching and rooting for his young charge.

“I’m excited for his future and I look forward to seeing where his basketball takes him,” Forde said.

“Whichever team he suits up for I’m going to be vividly watching from afar to track his progress and wish him the best. Like all my past players and guys I’ve dealt with, you always want the best character guys to do well – they deserve it – and Bobi is one of the best character guys I’ve met.”

Klintman’s final game in Cairns colours is set to come against Melbourne United on Friday night and will be broadcast live on ESPN via Kayo from 7:30pm AEDT.

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