Basketball in Australia

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Basketball in Australia
Perth Wildcats 2017 champions.jpg
Eight-time NBL champions, the Perth Wildcats
Country Australia
Governing body Basketball Australia
National team Australia
Nickname(s) Boomers (Men)
Opals (Women)
First played 23 February 1897, Adelaide, South Australia
Clubs 415 (Men)
79 (Women)
638 (Total)
National competitions
Club competitions
Audience records
Single match 17,800 (1999) NBL: Sydney Kings v West Sydney Razorbacks (Sydney Super Dome)
Season 725,494 - 2003–04 NBL season

Basketball is a sport played both indoors and outdoors in Australia. Basketball is the number two sport globally with 213 countries participating in basketball internationally and with over 450 million players regularly playing the game. According to research conducted by Sweeney Sports, one in three Australians have an interest in basketball. Furthermore, basketball is played by approximately one million men and women, boys and girls throughout Australia. According to Basketball Australia, as of March 2014, basketball is the second highest team participation sport in Australia.[1]

Basketball in Australia experienced a golden age in the mid 1980s to the mid 1990s, during which the National Basketball League saw it halcyon days. However, its popularity, media attention, attendance and corporate support deteriorated during the 2000s. Despite this, figures released by the Australian Sports Commission's Exercise, Recreation and Sport Survey in 2010 showed that basketball was the most popular sport played in the state of Victoria.[2][3]


The first press reference to a game of basketball in Australia is from “The Adelaide Advertiser” – Mail Steamers section, on Wednesday 17 February 1897 reporting that the following Tuesday at the opening of Our Boys Institute, claimed to be the largest gymnasium in the colonies, OBI would play YMCA in the first exhibition of basketball in South Australia. There is no evidence of any game being played earlier elsewhere thus the first game of basketball was played in Australia on Tuesday 23 February 1897. This occurred only 6 years after the ‘invention’ of the sport on 21 December 1891 by Canadian Dr. James Naismith, a physical education professor and instructor at the International Young Men's Christian Association Training School (YMCA) - today, Springfield College in Springfield, Massachusetts. OBI and the YMCA continued to be at the forefront of the development early Adelaide basketball and now, more than 120 years later, basketball is one of the most popular participation sports in the country.

National League[edit]

The National Basketball League (NBL) is the top-level men's basketball competition in Australia, which began in 1979. As a result, the sport experienced rapid growth in the 1980s with the influx of exciting American imports. Capitalising on growing interest in the sport, the national competition became a huge hit in the major cities. By the late 1990s however, basketball in Australia went into sharp decline. According to three-time Adelaide 36ers championship coach Phil Smyth, Australian basketball administrators rested on their laurels during the 1990s when the sport was a major part of the national landscape. "They let the brand get damaged," Smyth said. "It's that old saying 'if you keep doing the same thing over and over again hoping for a different result, you're a fool — and basketball was foolish."[4] During the 2000s, interest in the NBL slowly began to dwindle, with many teams being forced to fold, arenas saw fluctuated attendances, and the league's presence on TV was inconsistent.[4]

In 2015, a record number of Australians playing in the NBA led to a renewed popularity in the sport and showed Australians still loved basketball but were unsure about the national product.[4]

National teams[edit]

The Boomers are the men's basketball team which represents Australia in international competitions. As of 2016, the Boomers have won 19 FIBA Oceania Championships and one Commonwealth Games Gold Medal in 2006. They have never placed at the Olympic Games or World Cup; their best finish being 4th place at the Olympics in 1988, 1996, 2000 and 2016, and 5th at the 1982 and 1994 World Cups.

The women's national team is the Opals. They have won Olympic silver in 2000, 2004 and 2008, Olympic bronze in 1996 and 2012, as well as gold at the 2006 FIBA World Championship and bronze at the 1998, 2002 and 2014 World Cups.

League system[edit]


  1. ^ "Basketball Australia: Key Facts". Retrieved 11 June 2017. 
  2. ^ Langmaid, Aaron (27 June 2010). "Basketball popularity exploding across Melbourne's fringe". Retrieved 11 June 2017. 
  3. ^ Green, Bradley (1 July 2010). "Basketball numbers are booming in Geelong". Archived from the original on 3 July 2017. 
  4. ^ a b c Turner, Matt (7 June 2015). "Aussies shine in the NBA, so why is the NBL struggling?". Retrieved 11 June 2017. 

External links[edit]