National Basketball League (New Zealand)
|Current season, competition or edition:
2015 New Zealand NBL season
Logo Basketball New Zealand
|No. of teams||8|
|Continent||FIBA Oceania (Oceania)|
|Most recent champion(s)||Wellington Saints (8th title)|
|Most titles||Auckland Pirates (10 titles)|
|TV partner(s)||Sky Sport|
|Level on pyramid||1|
|Official website||New Zealand NBL|
Eight clubs will compete in the 2015 season with teams based in Auckland, Christchurch, 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 returned to the league in 2014.
The league has a limit of two imports per side. Many of the imports 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 Australia 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 stopped following the 2007 season 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 teams 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.
When the New Zealand Breakers were founded in 2003, Kiwi players found an incentive to continue playing in the NZNBL in hopes of being 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.
|Canterbury Rams||Christchurch, Canterbury||Cowles Stadium||1982||Mark Dickel|
|Hawke's Bay Hawks||Napier, Hawke's Bay||Pettigrew Green Arena||1986||Paora Winitana|
|Manawatu Jets||Palmerston North, Manawatu-Wanganui||Arena Manawatu||1982||Darron Larsen|
|Nelson Giants||Nelson||Saxton Stadium||1982||Tim Fanning|
|Southland Sharks||Invercargill, Southland||Stadium Southland||2009||Paul Henare|
|Super City Rangers||Waitakere, Auckland||Trusts Stadium||1990||Jeff Green|
|Taranaki Mountainairs||New Plymouth, Taranaki||TSB Stadium||1985||Daryn Shaw|
|Wellington Saints||Wellington||TSB Bank Arena||1968||Pero Cameron|
Former and defunct clubs
The league has a number of defunct clubs, the most recent ones are:
- Waitakere Rangers (left in 1995, returned in 2013 as the Super City Rangers)
- Hutt Valley Lakers (left in 1996)
- Northland Suns (left in 1998)
- Palmerston North Jets (replaced in 2002 by the Manawatu Jets)
- North Harbour Kings (replaced in 2003 by the Harbour Heat)
- Canterbury Rams (replaced in 2009 by the Christchurch Cougars, returned in 2014)
- Auckland Stars (suspended in 2010, replaced in 2011 by the Auckland Pirates)
- Christchurch Cougars (pulled out of 2011, 2012 and 2013 seasons due to the 2011 Christchurch earthquake, returned in 2014 as the Canterbury Rams)
- Harbour Heat (pulled out of 2011 and 2013 seasons due to financial constraints, may be back in the future)
- Auckland Pirates (pulled out of 2013 season due to financial constraints, may be back in the future)
- OceanaGold Nuggets (pulled out of 2009 and 2015 seasons due to financial constraints, may be back in 2016)
- Waikato Pistons (pulled out of the 2012 and 2015 seasons due to financial constraints, may be back in 2016)
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, and the team which finished second hosts the third ranked team. The winners of these two semi-final matches progress onto the grand final.
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. The semi-final and grand final fixtures were also shown live. In addition to this, TV 2 often had live coverage of the Tall Blacks games played in New Zealand.
Imports in the league
The New Zealand NBL allows each side to play with two non-New Zealand citizens (imports or restricted players). From 2001 to 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 NBL sides have usually relied on Americans to fill their import player positions. In 2004, the trend of using American imports started to change with New Zealand gaining an ANBL side in the Breakers. Many of the NZNBL clubs began to use Australians as their imports, as the ANBL does not run at the same time as the NZNBL.
New Zealanders in the league
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, Ed Book, Thomas Abercrombie, Alex Pledger and Mika Vukona.
List of Champions
Since its beginning and to the present day, Auckland has been the benchmark of the NZNBL. 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.