Neha Patil (Editor)

National Basketball League (Australia)

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Larry Kestelman

No. of teams

Inaugural season
1979 NBL season

Jeremy Loeliger

Graeme Wade

Number of teams


Levels on pyramid

National Basketball League (Australia) staticlkgcomaunblnbl1920x1080jpg

Australia (7 teams)  New Zealand (1 team)

Melbourne United, Adelaide 36ers, Perth Wildcats, New Zealand Breakers, Sydney Kings

2016 NBL Finals, 2015–16 NBL season, 2014 NBL Finals, 2013–14 NBL season, 2011–12 NBL season


The National Basketball League (NBL) is the pre-eminent professional men's basketball league in Australia and New Zealand. The league was founded in 1979 and is currently contested by eight teams; seven from Australia and one from New Zealand.



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 used 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.

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. On 18 September 2007, the NBL announced Hummer as their naming rights sponsor for the 2007–08 season.

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. 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.

In 2013, the NBL had a de-merger from Basketball Australia.

Crowds improved for the 2013–14 NBL season, recording the highest cumulative crowd attendance figures for the past five years.

Regular season

Since the 2009–10 NBL season, each team has played 28 games during the regular season, 14 home and 14 away. The regular season starts in early October and ends in late March.


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-five Grand Final series, with home advantage being awarded to the highest remaining seed. The winner of this series is crowned as NBL champion.

Current clubs

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

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 14-hour round-trip flights to the Australian East Coast. Locating a team in the city of Darwin would make an Asian-based road-trip less drawn-out, although Darwin currently does not have the support for a national domestic team of any sort.

After years of public outcry to have a Brisbane team back in the NBL, moves were finally put in place to have the Bullets return to the league for the 2016–17 season.

In May 2016, the NBL began drawing up plans for a team in China – which would be based part-time on the Gold Coast – to be up and running within two years, with pending approval from the Chinese Basketball Association and FIBA.


Adelaide 36ers vs Brisbane Bullets

Arguably the NBL's oldest rivalry started in 1985 when the Brian Kearle coached Bullets defeated the Ken Cole coached 36ers 121–95 in the 1985 NBL Grand Final, the last single game Grand Final in NBL history. From 1985–1987, the Bullets and 36ers were the two dominant teams in the league and the two clubs met in the 1986 NBL Grand Final, the first NBL GF to be played over a 3-game series. An Australian indoor sports attendance record of around 11,000 saw the first game of the 1986 series played at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre with Adelaide, who had a 24–2 record for the season, winning 122–119 in overtime. Brisbane then handed Adelaide its only home loss of 1986 (the 36ers had gone 13–0 at the Apollo Stadium) when they won Game 2 104–83 before Adelaide won its first NBL title with a 113–91 win at Apollo in Game 3. The teams were evenly matched at the time with players such as Al Green, Mark Davis, Bill Jones, Peter Ali, Darryl Pearce, Mike McKay and Dwayne Nelson (Adelaide) against Brisbane's star import Leroy Loggins, captain Larry Sengstock, guard Ron Radliff, forwards Danny Morseu, Robert Sibley and Chris McGraw, centre John Dorge and (in 1985 and 1986) Cal Bruton. Loggins was the NBL MVP in 1986 and 1987 (and player of the match in the 1985 GF) while Mark Davis was the Grand Final MVP in 1986 and shared the league MVP award with Loggins in 1987.

The Rivalry between the two clubs again reached fever pitch in the mid-1990s when Bullets guard Shane Heal earned the ire of the Adelaide crowd during Game 3 of the 1994 Elimination final series when he gave the crowd at the Clipsal Powerhouse a 'double bird'. Heal, who had scored 61 points in the last regular season game before scoring 42 points in Game 1 to lead Brisbane to a 116–105 home win over the 36ers, had not actually managed to score a point before half time in Game 2 which the 36ers had won 99–91 before also winning Game 3 101–84. Heal, along with former 36er Mark Bradtke who had left in acrimonious circumstances at the end of 1992 to join the Melbourne Tigers, became public enemy #1 to the 36ers crowd following the incident.

With the Bullets returning to the NBL in 2016, the rivalry has continued with Adelaide defeating the Bullets in their first encounter at home, the Bullets returning the favour with an away win in Adelaide, while a week later Adelaide spoiled the Bullets regular season return to the Entertainment Centre for the first time since 1997 with a resounding 101–83 win.

Adelaide 36ers vs Melbourne United

Apart from the normal South Australian and Victorian rivalry, the 36ers vs United (formerly Tigers) rivalry started at the end of the 1992 season when 36ers centre Mark Bradtke joined Spanish club Juver Murcia following the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain for a short stint. Before he left he signed an agreement with the 36ers stating that he would finish his one-year contract with the club should he return within a certain time. Upon his return to Australia, Bradtke stated his intention not to return to the 36ers with the Tigers rumoured to be actively chasing him. After protracted negotiations with 36ers management that led to the club being prepared to buy out his remaining contract, the NBL stepped in and vetoed the buy out, effectively letting Bradtke leave for Melbourne without the 36ers receiving any compensation for the remainder of his contract with the club. When Bradtke returned to Adelaide with the Tigers on 4 July 1993 he was soundly booed whenever he touched the ball by the 8,000 strong crowd at the Clipsal Powerhouse. The booing of Bradtke and the Andrew Gaze led Tigers continued for a number of seasons.

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.

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.

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 did not face each other in a grand final series until the 2013–14 season, which was won by the Perth Wildcats. the Wildcats have won each semi-finals series played between the two (1987, 1989 and 1995).

The 1995 series proved to be one of the most volatile and controversial due to an incident between 36ers forward Chris Blakemore and Perth's Martin Cattalini in Game 1 in Adelaide. Under instructions from coach Mike Dunlap to basically belt the next Perth player to go through the key, Blakemore back handed Cattalini, giving the Wildcats forward a large cut on his mouth that required 15 stitches. Blakemore was suspended for Game 2 in Perth as the Wildcats swept the 36ers 2–0 before going on to defeat the defending champion North Melbourne Giants (who had swept Adelaide in 1994) 2–1 in the Grand Final. In an ironic twist, Cattalini would join the 36ers in 1996 and later went on to win two championships with the club (plus another with Perth), while Blakemore, the NBL's Rookie of the year in 1993 and its Most Improved Player award winner in 1994, as well as playing for the Australian Boomers in 1995, joined the Canberra Cannons in 1996 and his career went downhill from there with his NBL career ending at the end of 1997 after just two seasons with the Cannons.

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 seven 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 then record Wildcats crowd of 11,562.

The Wildcats and 36ers dominated the 2013–14 NBL season, finishing first and second respectively during the regular round. After the three previous semi-final meetings, they then faced off in their first ever Grand Final series which saw the Wildcats emerge with their record 6th NBL championship with a 2–1 series win. This was one of the most anticipated series in NBL history, not only given the two clubs' long-standing rivalry, but also due to the post-game on court 'brawl' which took place following their Round 18 clash in Perth earlier in the season.

Adelaide and Perth play for the Cattalini Cup named for Perth born Martin Cattalini who won two championships with each club. In each game, the game MVP is awarded with the Paul Rogers Medal named for Adelaide born centre Paul Rogers who made his NBL debut for the 36ers in 1992 and later joined Perth, winning 2 championships and the NBL MVP award in 2000 while with the Wildcats.

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.

The rivalry between the two North Queensland based clubs is currently extinct due to the Crocodiles folding at the end of the 2015–16 NBL season.

Illawarra Hawks vs Sydney Kings

Hawks fans consider the Sydney Kings to be their most fierce rival. Many Hawks players have moved to the Kings including two former Rookie of the Year winners and a two-time Olympian. In the absence of the Kings, the Sydney Spirit took the role of rival, but this felt fake to some Hawks faithful. The Hawks 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.

New Zealand Breakers vs Perth Wildcats

The Breakers and Wildcats have arguably been the league's current strongest teams, and have been fairly evenly matched. Between them, they have won every year's league from 2009-10 to 2015-16, and met in the final in 2011-12 and 2012-13 (both won by the Breakers) and 2015-16 (won by the Wildcats). Both teams have similarities in that they have to travel great distances to play any other NBL team. These two factors have combined to make a "derby of distance" between the NBL's farthest-flung members. The rivalry may have its origins in a scrap between players from each side after a game in 2004. Games between the two sides have been intense ones for several years and often marked with incident.


National television broadcasting rights are as follows: While the ABC had exclusive national broadcasting rights from 1979–1987, other television stations around the country (usually those affiliated with either the Seven Network or Network Ten) would broadcast their local teams to their state markets once the sport gained popularity. For example, in the mid-1980s the Adelaide 36ers and Brisbane Bullets home games were shown in Adelaide and Brisbane by Network Ten stations SAS and TV0 respectively.

In 2015, Fox Sports secured a 5-year deal for the Australian broadcasting rights of all games, starting with the 2015–16 season. In addition, for the 2015–16 season Nine Network secured one weekly match (every Sunday afternoon) for FTA. In 2016, SBS secured the exclusive free-to-air rights for the 2016–17 season, broadcasting and streaming online one Sunday match live each week.

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 including Cal Bruton, Mark Davis, Leroy Loggins and Ricky Grace 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 A$1,000,000 for the 2009–10 season. The cap remains at A$1,000,000 for the 2012–13 season.

For the 2016-17 season, the salary cap was changed from a A$1,000,000, ‘hard cap’ to a A$1,100,000 ‘soft cap’. Teams may exceed the soft cap provided that they pay a salary equalisation subsidy based on the extent to which they have exceeded the cap.

On 9 May 2014, to help attract high-calibre imports or offer financial incentive for local stars considering overseas opportunities, the NBL introduced a marquee player rule, in which a team can nominate one player whose salary is paid outside the cap, with a 25% Marquee Player levy applied to any payment made above the salary cap. For the 2016-17 season, the value was modified so that if the marquee player is a local player, only the first $150,000 of that player’s salary will be counted toward that team’s salary cap.

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. In 2009, the NBL Hall of Fame was combined with the Basketball Australia Hall of fame to form the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame as a whole-of-sport/industry Hall of fame. When the NBL Hall of fame was operating, 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.
  • Admissions to the Australian Basketball Hall of Fame (ABHF) must now meetthe criteria established for ABHF.

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

    Inductees are listed in alphabetical order.


  • 25th Anniversary Team (2003)
  • 20th Anniversary Team (1998)
  • Most Valuable Player
  • Most Valuable Player – Grand Final
  • Coach of the Year
  • Rookie of the Year
  • Most Improved Player
  • Best Defensive Player
  • Best Sixth Man
  • Good Hands Award (defunct)
  • Most Efficient Player (defunct)
  • All-NBL team
  • Road trips

    Doomsday Double
    The Doomsday Double, involving a road trip 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. Other variants include Brisbane Bullets/Cairns Taipans (current version), 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-Star game between North and South that was scheduled for December 2012.


    National Basketball League (Australia) Wikipedia

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