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Australian National Basketball League

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Australian National Basketball League

For other organizations with similar names, see National Basketball League (disambiguation) and NBL (disambiguation).

The National Basketball League (NBL) is the pre-eminent men's professional basketball league in Australia. The league is also known as the iiNet NBL Championship due to a sponsorship agreement with iiNet. The league was founded in 1979 and is currently contested by eight teams; seven from Australia and one from New Zealand.[1]


In August 1979, the inaugural season of the NBL commenced, playing in the winter season (April–September) which it did so until the completion of the 1998 season, the league's twentieth season. The 1998–99 season, which began only months later, was the first to be played during the summer season (October–April). The shift, which is currently utilised by the league, was an attempt to avoid competing directly against Australia's various winter season football codes.

The NBL experienced its golden age in the 1990s, but its popularity, media attention, attendance and corporate support deteriorated and plateaued in the decade afterward. Australian NBA player Andrew Bogut suggested the NBL try to adopt a model similar to the Australian Football League (AFL) whereby there are the same 10 or 15 teams over a 10-year period.[2]

At the start of the 2004–05 season, the league struck a new television deal with Fox Sports in Australia and a multi-year naming-rights sponsorship deal with electronics manufacturer Philips. Though in 2007, Philips announced they would not continuing their naming rights sponsorship in response to the NBL wishing to increase the sponsorship deal.[3] On 18 September 2007, the NBL announced Hummer as their naming rights sponsor for the 2007–08 season.[4]

A second Melbourne club, the South Dragons, entered the league in the 2006–07 season, but was short lived, soon folding 3 years later after the 2008–09 season in which they were premiers. In the 2006–07 season, the NBL became the first Australasian sporting league to field a team from Asia with the Singapore Slingers playing. The Gold Coast Blaze also joined the competition in the 2007–08 season.

A turbulent period during 2008 and 2009 saw the league lose teams from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Singapore.

The 2009–10 season earmarked as the season in which the NBL would begin its revamping, much like the old National Soccer League which became the eight team A-League.[5] The NBL returned to free-to-air television in Australia for the first time in three years with One broadcasting 2–3 games a week.

The 2010–11 season saw the return of the Sydney Kings after the club was purchased for A$20,000 on 31 July 2008.[6]

In 2013, the NBL had a de-merger from Basketball Australia.[7][8]

Competition format

Regular season


The top four teams at the end of the regular season advances to the Finals. The team finishing in the first and second position at the completion of the regular season receives home advantages in their best-of-three first round matchup against the team finishing in fourth and third position. The winner of each of the three matches advances to the Grand Final. The winner of Series 1 plays the winner of Series 2 in the best-of-three Grand Final series, with home advantage being awarded to the highest remaining seed. The winner of this series is crowned as NBL champion.[9]

Current clubs

The National Basketball League (NBL) was founded in 1979 with 9 teams.[1] Due to club expansions, reductions and relocations, many of the teams either changed or ceased to exist. There are currently 8 teams; seven teams in Australia and one in New Zealand. The teams are located in Adelaide, Auckland, Cairns, Melbourne, Perth, Sydney, Townsville and Wollongong.

* State Sports Centre used by the Sydney Kings for one game only in the 2012–13 season due to a clash of dates at their usual home, the Sydney Entertainment Centre

Future expansion

There has been significant support for the NBL to expand into Asia by many NBL players as well as from ex-Australian Boomers head coach Brian Goorjian, be it differently to how it was done with the now-defunct Singapore Slingers which had a 14 hour round-trip flight to the Australian East Coast.[10] Locating a team in the city of Darwin would make an Asian-based road-trip less drawn-out, also Darwin currently does not have the support for a national domestic team of any sort.[11]

A second Melbourne team (as well as the possibility of a second New Zealand team based in Wellington) was thought to be the NBL's choice of a 9th and/or 10th team from 2013, though midway through the 2012–13 season, the NBL announced that there would be no second Melbourne based team for the next season.[12]

Other possible locations for clubs include Hobart, Wellington and even an Australian Institute of Sport team based in Canberra composed of the best Australian players under the age of 22. Canberra has not had an NBL side since the Canberra Cannons which folded in 2003, but the success of the AIS team in the Australian Women's National Basketball League underlines the likelihood of such a venture working.[13] Brisbane remains the most likely team to come back into the league, while Newcastle is rumoured to be returning due to the strong drive from mining magnate Nathan Tinkler. Canberra and Hobart are also rumoured to be interested in returning to the league within the next 5 years.


Adelaide 36ers vs Perth Wildcats
Both teams were perennial championship contenders in the late 1980s and early 90s and had several marquee players with excellent match-ups, the three most notable all involving American imports: Al Green (Adelaide) vs Cal Bruton (Perth), Mark Davis (Adelaide) vs James Crawford (Perth) and Bill Jones (Adelaide) vs Tiny Pinder (Perth). Games during this era were rarely blowouts and helped to fuel the rivalry. Adelaide won the 1986 NBL Championship over the Brisbane Bullets and Bruton, who moved from Brisbane to be player-coach of Perth in 1987, built a team specifically to beat the reigning champions. Despite the long time rivalry between the two clubs, and the two teams having played numerous semi-final series against each other with the first being in that 1987 season, they have never faced each other in the grand final series and the Wildcats have won each semi finals series played between the two (1987, 1989 and 1995). As the mainstay players began to slow with age and retire, the intensity of this rivalry has declined. The two clubs remain the most successful in the NBL with four championships for Adelaide and five for Perth and are first and second on the all-time wins list, and have also matched up on more occasions (104 times total; Perth leading all time between the two 56-48) than any other two teams in the NBL (as of 24 February 2012). The rivalry continues into the 2012–13 season with the 36ers beating the Wildcats in back to back games in rounds 6 and 7, including the opening game at Perth's new home, the Perth Arena, in front of a record Wildcats crowd of 11,562.

Sydney Kings vs Wollongong Hawks
Wollongong Hawks fans consider the Sydney Kings to be their most fierce rival. Many Wollongong players have moved to the Kings with two former Rookie of the Year winners and a two-time Olympian joining the Kings from Wollongong. In the absence of the Kings, the Sydney Spirit took the role of rival, but this felt fake to some Wollongong faithful. Wollongong took bragging rights after the 2000–01 season when they became the first team from New South Wales to qualify for the NBL finals, which they won against Townsville. Sydney then took the ascendency when they won three championships in a row, including a clean sweep of the Hawks.

Cairns Taipans vs Townsville Crocodiles
A local derby-style rivalry nicknamed "Reptile Rumble" has developed to determine which is the dominant North Queensland team. The Cairns-Townsville basketball rivalry would have to be one of the longest and most passionate in the NBL. Both teams generally attract a close to capacity crowd anywhere from 4000+ at their home games. Each team and their supporters and mascots generally boo and taunt their visiting rivals. The rivalry has been in existent for over 10 years and almost came to a near end when the Cairns Taipans were on the verge of extinction due to financial issues.

Adelaide 36ers vs. Melbourne Tigers
Apart from the normal Victorian and South Australian rivalry, a new rivalry has emerged with Julius Hodge, a former 36er, returning to the NBL in November 2009, signing with the Melbourne Tigers. Hodge was a star in Adelaide when he joined the 36ers mid-season the previous two years, however issues relating to alleged missed payments caused him to walk out on the club in early January 2009 on bad terms.[14]

Hodge returned to his old home court for the first time on 5 December 2009 in a Tigers overtime victory. After being heckled and taunted all night in a quiet game by his standards, Hodge caused more controversy when he stamped and spat on the Brett Maher signature on the centre of the Brett Maher Court following his new club's win. He was booed off aggressively and loudly by the Adelaide fans and needed security to escort him out of the stadium for security reasons.[15]



The television broadcasting rights are as follows:

Year Australia New Zealand
Free TV Pay TV Free TV Pay TV
1979 ABC
1988 Seven Network
1992 Network Ten
1995 Fox Sports
1998 ABC
2007 Nine Network Māori Television
2010 Network Ten/
2011 Sky Sport

Squad formation and salary cap

Most teams have historically featured at least one and usually two American imports; teams are limited to having two non-Australasians on the roster at any one time. Some of these players have moved to Australia permanently and become Australian citizens; a few have even played for the Australian national team (under a rule that allowed one naturalised player to compete for a national team).

The NBL's salary cap for the 2006–07 season was A$776,000, and increased to A$810,000 for the 2007–08 season; the cap rose for two consecutive years due to the continued growth of the league. The salary cap rose to A$1,000,000 for the 2009–10 season. The cap remains at A$1,000,000 for the 2012–13 season.[16]


List of Champions

Team W Season Notes
Perth Wildcats 5 1990, 1991, 1995, 2000, 2010
Adelaide 36ers 4 1986, 1998, 1999, 2002
Melbourne Tigers 4 1993, 1997, 2006, 2008
New Zealand Breakers 3 2011, 2012, 2013
Canberra Cannons 3 1983, 1984, 1988 Became Hunter Pirates in 2003
Sydney Kings 3 2003, 2004, 2005
Brisbane Bullets 3 1985, 1987, 2007
St Kilda Saints 2 1979, 1980 Became Westside Saints in 1987
North Melbourne Giants 2 1989, 1994 Merged to form Victoria Titans in 1998
South East Melbourne Magic 2 1992, 1996 Merged to form Victoria Titans in 1998
Launceston Casino City 1 1981 Team folded in 1983
West Adelaide Bearcats 1 1982 Team left NBL in 1984
Wollongong Hawks 1 2001
South Dragons 1 2009 Team left NBL in 2009
Bold indicates club is current members of the NBL.

Hall of Fame

Main article: Australian Basketball Hall of Fame

The National Basketball League Hall of Fame was instituted in 1998 to mark the 20th season of the NBL. The Hall recognises outstanding service to the league as players, officials and other contributors.[17]

In order to be eligible for induction into the Hall of Fame, candidates must have fulfilled the following criteria:

  • Players must have made an outstanding contribution to the NBL, have been retired for a minimum of four seasons, and have played 100 NBL games or more.
  • Coaches must have made an outstanding contribution to the NBL, have been retired for at least four seasons, and have been an NBL head coach for 10 seasons or more.
  • Referees must have made an outstanding contribution to the league and have been retired for at least four seasons.
  • Contributors must have made an outstanding contribution to the NBL, and may be elected at any time.

When Basketball Australia took over the NBL in 2010, the NBL Hall of Fame merged with the Basketball Australia Hall of Fame.[17]

Inductees are listed in alphabetical order.[18]

Name Award Inducted
Barry Barnes Coach 1998
Ray Borner Player 2006
Cal Bruton Player 1998
Steve Carfino Player 2004
Wayne Carroll Player 1999
Ken Cole Coach 2012
Eddie Crouch Referee 2007
Ian Davies Player 2001
Mark Davis Player 2006
Scott Fisher Player 2007
Al Green Player 1999
Michael Johnson Player 2004
Damian Keogh Player 2000
Brian Kerle Coach 2006
Leroy Loggins Player 2006
Herb McEachin Player 1998
Danny Morseu Player 2002
Bill Palmer Contributor 1998
Darryl Pearce Player 2002
John Raschke Contributor 1998
Larry Sengstock Player 2001
Phil Smyth Player 2000
Malcolm Speed Contributor 2000
Bob Turner Coach 2000
Andrew Vlahov Player 2007


Road trips

Doomsday Double
The Doomsday Double, involving a journey out west to play the Adelaide 36ers and Perth Wildcats during the same round, has occurred 141 times as at the end of the 2010–11 season. Only four teams have won both legs of the trip, played either on consecutive nights or on a Friday night and Sunday afternoon. Due to the long time success rate of both the 36ers and Wildcats, the Double has long been considered the toughest two games in one weekend road trip in the NBL. The Doomsday Double was given its name by Hall of Famer Cal Bruton during its early days when the trip was a game in Perth on the Friday night followed by Adelaide the following night or vice versa.

Sunshine Swing
Similar to the Doomsday Double, the Sunshine Swing pits teams against an away double or even triple game schedule against opponents from the state of Queensland, in the same round. The most frequent combinations have featured the Brisbane Bullets/Gold Coast Rollers or Cairns Taipans/Townsville Crocodiles double, which is the current Sunshine Swing. Other variants include Brisbane Bullets/Townsville Crocodiles and the gruelling Brisbane Bullets/Cairns Taipans/Townsville Crocodiles triple.

All-Star game

The All-Star game is an event that was first contested in 1982 by East and West teams. It was revived in 1988 when North and South teams competed. This match was played annually until 1997. In 2003–04 season the concept was revived with an East-West match being held in Melbourne. The following season saw a change of format, with a local team (Aussie All-Stars) playing an imports team (World All-Star). This was discontinuted after the 2007–08 season. The concept was revived in 2012 with an All-Game game between North and South being scheduled for December 2012.[19]

See also

National Basketball League (Australia) portal


External links

  • NBL official website
  • Basketball Australia official website
  • NBL Wiki Site
  • FOX Sports Australia Basketball section
  • Basketball section
  • NBL on Austadiums
  • AndTheFoul Popular NBL website
  • Half Court Press NBL/NBA blog

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