It’s no secret that we love our basketball at The Jaded Newsman. We’ve been walking on air since the Boomers’ heroic performance in Tokyo and we’ve shamelessly jumped on the Tasmanian JackJumpers bandwagon this season.
It’s safe to say that Australian basketball is flying and none of this would be possible without the NBL. To celebrate our great league, we’d like to reflect on some of its most important formative moments. Here are six, in no particular order, that stood out to us.
1. The inaugural 1979 season
The NBL’s debut season may not have been broadcast on tv or radio stations, but it was a seminal moment in the rise of Australian Basketball. The 10-team competition was so enthralling that the NBL was expanded to 12 teams the following season. But it was the St Kilda Saints who captured the first title, edging the Canberra Cannons in a thrilling Grand Final: 94-93. CJ Bruton’s father, Cal Bruton, was the NBL’s leading scorer that season, averaging over 33 pts per game.
2. Introduction of the three-point line
The NBL’s sharp shooters received a huge boost when the three-point line was introduced in 1984. Brian Goorjian, Darryl Pearce and Mark Gaze made the most of this new feature, wowing crowds with their long-range shooting that season. Future legends like Andrew Gaze and Bryce Cotton took three-point shooting to even greater heights in the ensuing years.
3. Emergence of Andrew Gaze
The 1984 season also marked the emergence of the Melbourne Tigers and a young man named Andrew Gaze. Now a member of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame, Gaze won rookie of the year with a season average of 29 pts per game. He would go on to set almost every NBL record imaginable. He has played the most games, scored the most points and provided the most assists – to name just a few. He has also competed in a record five Olympic games, becoming the highest scorer in Olympic Basketball history.
4. Larry Kestelman assumes ownership of the NBL
From 2010-2014, numerous NBL teams found themselves in financial peril and the league itself was struggling to survive. Melbourne businessman Larry Kestelman proved to be the NBL’s saviour, taking ownership of the league and investing $7 million into its future. This was the spark that Australian basketball desperately needed and it led to a huge spike in crowd attendance, sponsorship and TV coverage. Unlike the temporary rise of basketball fever in the 1990s, the NBL has managed to sustain this success and is now widely considered one of the best basketball leagues in the world.
5. Historic Broadcast Deal
The NBL’s great revival reached its pinnacle in July last year when it scored a historic $45 million broadcast deal with ESPN, Foxtel and Newscorp. The deal means that Foxtel, ESPN and Kayo Sports will air every NBL game, including the finals. Newscorp also agreed to provide the NBL with dedicated reporters, extra content and game analysis. By mid-August, Channel 10 had also bought a piece of the action – purchasing free-to-air rights for two games every Sunday on 10 Peach and 10 Play.
6. Exhibition games against NBA teams
The historic preseason games between Sydney vs Utah, Brisbane vs Phoenix and Melbourne United vs Oklahoma City – are the ultimate compliment to the NBL’s quality. These games were held in 2017 and although the pandemic got in the way for a couple of years, the NBL plans to send teams to the US again in 2022/23. The strength of Australian talent in the NBA, combined with our success on the international stage, has ensured the quality of the NBL is respected around the globe.