National Basketball League (New Zealand)

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National Basketball League (NBL)
Current season, competition or edition:
2014 New Zealand NBL season
Logo Basketball New Zealand
Sport Basketball
Founded 1982
Commissioner Sam Rossiter-Stead
Inaugural season 1982
No. of teams 10
Country  New Zealand
Continent FIBA Oceania (Oceania)
Most recent champion(s) Southland Sharks (1st title)
Most titles Auckland Pirates (10 titles)
TV partner(s) Sky Sport
Level on pyramid 1
Official website New Zealand NBL

The National Basketball League, often abbreviated to the NBL, is the pre-eminent professional men's basketball league in New Zealand.

Ten clubs will compete in the 2014 season with teams based in Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Invercargill, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth, Palmerston North, and Wellington. The Christchurch Cougars voluntarily sat out from 2011–2013 season due to the financial implications of the 2011 Christchurch earthquake. The resurrected Canterbury Rams will return to the league in 2014.

The league has a limit of two imports per side. Many of the imports used to come from the United States. The league also only allows one naturalised New Zealand player per team.

The quality of play in the league continues to improve, evidenced by more New Zealand players going on to play in the Australian National Basketball League (ANBL), and college basketball in the United States. Some have even gone on further to make the NBA, such as Steven Adams, and former North Harbour Kings star Kirk Penney.

Televised games have decreased since 2007 when TVNZ's television rights were sold to Sky TV, games were originally shown once a week but due to lack of demand only playoff games were shown mainly due to Super Rugby, National Rugby League (NRL) and ANZ Championship games clashing with game times and a high interest by the public in those competitions. Highlights and interviews of the Southland Sharks have been shown on Cue TV.


Through the 1970s games were organised between neighbouring representative teams, or in annual tournaments organised as Club or Provincial national tournaments. Other competitions were also held during Easter tournaments or in small regional leagues. The New Zealand National Basketball League began in 1982 in response to a need for consistent and quality competition on a semi-professional basis, to match the structure and improvements occurring in Australia. Tall Blacks such as Stan Hill, Dave Edmonds, Peter Pokai and Tony Smith starred in the early years of competition. Imported players like Clyde Huntley, Frank Smith, Kenny McFadden, Tyrone and Tony Brown added a level of sophistication and style to the Kiwi basketball scene.

The big city team such as the Auckland Stars, Canterbury Rams and Wellington Saints dominated in early years, but when the Hutt Valley Lakers won 1991 and 1993 the star players began to spread out. The Nelson Giants won their first championship in 1994 and the Stars then became the first team to win three titles in a row from 1995–97. After the Waitakere Rangers, Hutt Valley Lakers and Northland Suns left in the late 1990s many thought the league would become much weaker but it proved the opposite as only the best New Zealanders and imports were selected due to the small size of the league at the time. The league continued to improve with higher calibre players joining the league. High school standouts like former North Harbour Kings player Kirk Penney chose to play in the league until they left to play college basketball and then Euroleague and NBA.

When the New Zealand Breakers were founded in 2003, it created an incentive to continue playing NBL for the star players with their good form could be rewarded with an ANBL contract. Players like Dillon Boucher, Lindsay Tait, Pero Cameron, Phill Jones, Mark Dickel and Paora Winitana became household names in New Zealand and Australian basketball circles. NZ Breakers imports like Tony Ronaldson and Oscar Forman appeared as well.

Current clubs[edit]

Team Name Hometown Colors Coach Titles Arena
Canterbury Rams Christchurch,
               New Zealand Dave Harrison 4 (1986, 1988, 1989, 1992) Cowles Stadium
Wainoni, Christchurch
Hawke's Bay Hawks Napier,
Hawke's Bay
               United States / New Zealand Tab Baldwin 1 (2006) Pettigrew Green Arena
Taradale, Napier
Manawatu Jets[1] Palmerston North,
               New Zealand Darron Larsen 0 Arena Manawatu
Palmerston North
Nelson Giants Nelson                Australia Liam Flynn 3 (1994, 1998, 2007) Saxton Stadium
OceanaGold Nuggets Dunedin,
               New Zealand Mark Dickel 0 Edgar Centre
Southland Sharks Invercargill,
               New Zealand Paul Henare 1 (2013) Stadium Southland
Super City Rangers Waitakere, Auckland                New Zealand Aik Ho 0 Trusts Stadium
Taranaki Mountainairs[2] New Plymouth,
               United States Dave Bublitz 0 TSB Stadium
New Plymouth
Waikato Pistons[3] Hamilton,
          New Zealand Pero Cameron 4 (2001, 2002, 2008, 2009) Hamilton Boys' High School
Wellington Saints Wellington           Australia Shane Heal 7 (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2003, 2010, 2011) TSB Bank Arena

Former and defunct clubs[edit]

The league has a number of defunct clubs, the most recent ones are:

Competition format[edit]

The ten teams in the New Zealand NBL play 18 regular season fixtures, with each side playing each other once at their home arena and also once away at their opponents' venue. At the end of the regular season the top ranked team plays the fourth ranked team. The team which finished second hosts the third placed team. The winners of these two semifinal matches progress onto the NZ NBL Grand Final, played at the higher placed team's venue.

Broadcasting details[edit]

In recent years, the NZ National Basketball League (NBL) has started to gain greater television coverage. In 2003, the NBL signed a deal with TVNZ for TV 2 to become the official "home of hoops." In 2005, games that were televised included a Friday night NBL fixture that was shown at 10:30 pm. In 2006, TV 2 televised the game of the round at 11:30 am on Saturdays. Over the last few seasons, the semi-final and grand final fixtures have been shown live. In addition to this, TV 2 often have live coverage of the Tall Blacks games played in New Zealand. Current commentators include Bob Manthei, a former New Zealand Breakers and Waikato Titans head coach, Jeff Green, and former Tall Black Chris Tupu. From 2007 onwards it has been confirmed that Sky Sport (Pay TV) will cover a live fixture each week. Commentators are likely to include Jason Costigan.

Imports in the league[edit]

The New Zealand NBL allows each side to play with two non-New Zealand citizens (imports or restricted players). From 2001–2003 however the league believed that overseas players were detracting from giving New Zealand-born players significant minutes and playing time in the league and as a result, one import only was permitted per side. In the past, the NZ NBL sides have usually relied on Americans to fill their import player positions. These American players have usually been players who have had fairly good collegiate basketball careers, but who were not good enough to make it into the NBA. In 2004 the trend of using American imports started to change though with New Zealand gaining a professional side the Breakers in the Australian NBL. Many of the NZ NBL clubs began to use Australians for their imports, as the Australian NBL league does not run at the same time as the New Zealand NBL and many of the Australian players wanted to keep in shape over their off-season. In 2003 the Taranaki Mountain Airs pulled off a major coup by signing Link Abrams, the most consistent and dominant player over the past few seasons.

Restricted players who have stood out over the last few seasons[when?] have been John Whorton (Canterbury), Mike Pegues (Canterbury/Otago), Greg Lewis (Waikato), Ryan Prillman (Canterbury), Dusty Rychart (Hawke's Bay), Jacob Holmes and Josh Pace (Nelson) and David Cooper (Manawatu).

In the recently completed 2006 season American guards Garry-Hill Thomas of Taranaki and Dennis Trammell of the Canterbury Rams were the league's leading scorers with both averaging 25 points a game. Otago's American forward Branduinn Fullove and Nick Horvath of the Wellington Saints and a former Duke Blue Devils standout, excelled also.

New Zealanders in the league[edit]

Many New Zealanders who play for the New Zealand Breakers and the national side, the Tall Blacks, have played in the NBL since its inception. In recent years, many of these players have dominated in the local New Zealand league. Examples have been Dillon Boucher, Lindsay Tait, Aaron Olson, Paul Henare, Paora Winitana, Pero Cameron, Mark Dickel, Phill Jones and Ed Book. Tall Black Kirk Penney, who has played in the NBA for the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers as well as for Maccabi Tel Aviv in Israel, had previously played in the NBL in the late 1990s for the North Harbour Kings.

List of Champions[edit]

Since its beginning and to the present day Auckland has been the benchmark of the NZ domestic basketball league. They have won the most titles out of any team: 10. Next best is Wellington with 7, Canterbury (4), Waikato (4), Nelson (3), Hutt Valley (2), in 2006 Hawke's Bay won their first ever NBL title and in 2013 Southland won their first ever NBL title. In 2007 Nelson won their first title since 1998, giving veteran Centre Ed Book his first ever NBL championship.

Year NBL Champion Result Runner-up
1982 Auckland Rebels
1983 Auckland Rebels
1984 Wellington Saints
1985 Wellington Saints
1986 Canterbury Rams
1987 Wellington Saints
1988 Wellington Saints
1989 Canterbury Rams
1990 Canterbury Rams
1991 Hutt Valley Lakers
1992 Canterbury Rams
1993 Hutt Valley Lakers
1994 Nelson Giants
1995 Auckland Rebels
1996 Auckland Rebels
1997 Auckland Rebels
1998 Nelson Giants
1999 Auckland Rebels
2000 Auckland Rebels 95 – 78 Nelson Giants
2001 Waikato Titans 112 – 97 Wellington Saints
2002 Waikato Titans 85 – 83 Nelson Giants
2003 Wellington Saints 97 – 88 Waikato Titans
2004 Auckland Stars 80 – 68 Nelson Giants
2005 Auckland Stars 69 – 68 Hawke's Bay Hawks
2006 Hawke's Bay Hawks 84 – 69 Auckland Stars
2007 Nelson Giants 67 – 71 Hawke's Bay Hawks
2008 Waikato Pistons 56 – 102 Wellington Saints
2009 Waikato Pistons 99 – 100 Nelson Giants
2010 Wellington Saints 89 – 26 Waikato Pistons
2011 Wellington Saints 106 – 97 Hawke's Bay Hawks
2012 Auckland Pirates 89 – 83 Wellington Saints
2013 Southland Sharks 92 – 81 Nelson Giants

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Formerly known as the Palmerston North Jets
  2. ^ Formerly known as the Taranaki Bears/Oilers and the Dynamos Taranaki
  3. ^ Formerly known as the Waikato Warriors/Titans
  4. ^ Waikato Pistons out of 2012 national league
  5. ^ Pirates out of 2013 NBL

External links[edit]