National Basketball League (New Zealand)
Sport Basketball
Founded 1982
Inaugural season 1982
Number of teams 9
Country Template:NZL
Current champions Wellington Saints (7th title)
Official website NBL

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

There are currently 10 teams in the 2010 competition with teams based in Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Invercargill, Nelson, New Plymouth, North Shore, Palmerston North, Taradale and Wellington. The Auckland Stars were suspended from the current competition because of financial difficulties. Invercargill club the Southland Sharks joined the competition in 2010 as well as the Otago Nuggets rejoining the league after a year absence.

The league has a limit of two imports per side. Many of the imports used come from the ANBL such as New Zealand Breakers Power forward Tony Ronaldson and Wollongong Hawks Center Tim Behrendorff. Others come from the American college system like former Syracuse Orange and now Wellington Saints Shooting guard Eric Devendorf.

The quality of play in the league continues to improve as more and more New Zealand players are playing higher levels of basketball like college, ANBL and some even go onto make the NBA such as former North Harbour Kings star Kirk Penney who played for the Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers and is currently contracted to the New Zealand Breakers and Sioux Falls Skyforce in the NBA Development League.

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 Super Rugby, NRL and ANZ Championship games clashing with game times and a high interest by the public in those competitions. Southland Sharks highlights and interviews have been shown on Cue TV.


In the late 1970s and early 1980s New Zealand provincial basketball was decreasing in numbers with potential players opting to play rugby union. Some might argue that the local associations who provided the organisational and much of the monetary support found themselves obligated to support their expensive NBL teams at the expense of the local games. Prior to the formation of the NBL, separate club and provincial championship tournaments existed on both regional and national levels, which didn't demand the same travel expenses as the NBL. Over a relatively short period of time basketball in New Zealand lost the magic and community of tournament basketball, found in places like Napier (Easter), New Plymouth (Queens Birthday weekend), Hastings or Palmerston North (Labour weekend) and many other regional leagues like the Big-8 or Big-10 or Central League competitions that raised a generation of New Zealand club and provincial champions in the 1970's. The New Zealand National Basketball League began in 1982 with Tall Blacks such as Stan Hill, Dave Edmonds, Peter Pokai and Tony Smith starring in the early years of competition. Imported players like Clyde Huntley, 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, 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 and became semi-professional with higher caliber 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 was founded in 2003, it created an incentive to continue playing NBL for the star players with their good form 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. Breakers imports like Tony Ronaldson and Oscar Forman were used as well.

Current clubs

Team Name Hometown Colors Coach Titles Arena
Auckland Pirates Auckland           Kenny Stone 9 (1982, 1983, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2005) ASB Stadium
Hawke's Bay Hawks Taradale                Paul Henare 1 (2006) Pettigrew Green Arena
Manawatu Jets[1] Palmerston North                Ryan Weisenberg 0 Arena Manawatu
Palmerston North
Nelson Giants Nelson                Chris Tupu 3 (1994, 1998, 2007) Trafalgar Centre
Otago Nuggets Dunedin                Anthony Arlidge 0 Edgar Centre
Southland Sharks Invercargill                Richard Dickel 0 Stadium Southland
Taranaki Mountainairs[2] New Plymouth                Dave Bublitz 0 TSB Stadium
New Plymouth
Waikato Pistons[3] Hamilton                Dean Vickerman 4 (2001, 2002, 2008, 2009) HBHS Gymnasium
Wellington Saints Wellington                Pero Cameron 7 (1984, 1985, 1987, 1988, 2003, 2010, 2011) TSB Bank Arena

Former and defunct clubs

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

Competition format

The eleven sides in the New Zealand NBL play 20 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 teams plays the fourth ranked side. The side which finished second hosts the third placed side. The winners of these two semi final match ups progress onto the NZ NBL Grand Final, played at the higher placed team's venue.

Broadcasting details

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 11:30am 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 Breaker and Waikato Titans head coach, Jeff Green, and former Tall Black Chris Tupu. From 2007 onwards it has been confirmed that Sky Sports (Pay TV) will cover a live fixture each week. Commentators are likely to include Jason Costigan.

Imports in the league

The New Zealand NBL has usually allowed 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 seasonsTemplate: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 a former Duke Blue Devils standout, excelled also.

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, "Tall Black" heroes who have dominated in the local New Zealand league have been Dillon Boucher, Lindsay Tait and Aaron Olson (Auckland Stars), Paul Henare and Paora Winitana (Hawke's Bay Hawks), Pero Cameron (Waikato Titans), Mark Dickel (Otago Nuggets), Damon Rampton (Taranaki Mountainairs), Phill Jones and Ed Book (Nelson Giants). 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

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: 9. Next best is Wellington with 6, Canterbury (4), Waikato (4), Nelson (3), Hutt Valley (2) and in 2006 Hawke's Bay 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.

See also


  1. Formerly known as Palmerston North Jets
  2. Formerly known as Taranaki Bears/Oilers/Dynamos
  3. Formerly known as Waikato Warriors/Titans

External links


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