The National League - A Brief History
The National Basketball League (NBL) is the pre-eminent men’s basketball league in New Zealand. The inaugural NBL season took place in 1982 – known then as the Countrywide Basketball League. Since the leagues inception, many household names and teams have graced the competition. Tall Blacks such as Stan Hill, Glen Denham and Peter Pokia all plied their trade in the competition in the early days. During the 1980s as the leagues credibility rose, American imports became a regular sight and added another dynamic to the competition. Kenny McFadden, Benny Anthony, Willie Burton, Angelo Hill along with many other imports all became regular names in the league.
Throughout the 1990s, players like Phil Jones and Pero Cameron became stars of the competition and in the late 1990s and early 2000s several stars in the making were honing their craft in the league. More recently we’ve been accustomed to seeing former and current Tall Blacks lining up for teams. Players such as Dillon Boucher, Lindsay Tait, Mika Vukona, Paora Winitana and Paul Henare all became regulars in the league – as players and coaches. Many players have also used the league as a stepping stone onto greater things – Kirk Penny, Steven Adams and Torrey Craig have all gone on to play in the NBA whilst countless others have gone on to play in the Australian NBL and different European Leagues.
During their time in the competition, the Auckland Stars were regularly the benchmark of the NBL. They held the record for the most championship wins until 2017 when the Wellington Saints claimed their 10th title.
Whilst the current NBL comprises 8 teams, the league has had a number of different teams participate over the years – many of which became and remain iconic reminders of the NBL’s proud history. Below is a list of of former and now defunct teams that have participated in the NBL at various stages since its inception:
Auckland Pirates (2011-2012)
Auckland Stars (1982-2009)
Christchurch Cougars (2009-2010)
Harbour Heat (1986-2010, 2012)
Hutt Valley Lakers (1990-1996)
Northland Suns (1995-1998)
Otago Nuggets (1990-2008, 2010-2014)
Waikato Pistons (1982, 1984-2011, 2013-2014)
Waitemata (1982-1983, 1988-1989)
At the conclusion of each season the NBL presents several awards that acknowledge teams, players and coaches for their respective accomplishments. Below is a list of current (and former) awards that are presented annually (all awards have been presented since the leagues inception in 1982 unless stated otherwise):
- NBL Trophy: The NBL’s championship trophy; awarded to the winning team of the Grand Final.
- Best Team Free Throws (Nial Forsyth Trophy): Awarded to the team with the best free throw percentage during the regular season.
- Most Valuable Player: Awarded to the best performing player of the NBL regular season (presented since 2003).
- NZ Most Valuable Player: Awarded to the best performing New Zealand player of the regular season (presented since 2003).
- Finals MVP: Awarded to the best performing player of the NBL final four (presented since 2004).
- Most Outstanding Guard (Keith Carr Trophy): Awarded to the best performing guard of the regular season.
- Most Outstanding NZ Guard (John Macdonald Trophy): Awarded to the best performing New Zealand guard of the regular
season (presented since 1985).
- Most Outstanding Forward (Commissioners Cup): Awarded to the best performing forward of the regular season.
- Most Outstanding NZ Forward/Centre (Stan Hill Trophy): Awarded to the best performing New Zealand forward-centre of the regular season (presented since 1985).
- Scoring Champion (Alan Bland Memorial Trophy): Awarded to the player with the highest points per game average of the regular season.
- Rebounding Champion (Garry Pettis Memorial Trophy): Awarded to the player with the highest rebounds per game average of the regular season.
- Assist Champion (Dave Taylor Trophy): Awarded to the player with the highest assists per game average of the regular season (presented since 1984).
- Coach of the Year: Awarded to the best coach of the NBL regular season.
- Rookie of the Year: Awarded to the best performing rookie New Zealand player of the regular season (presented from 1992 – 2016). Prior to this the award was known as the Young Player of the Year (presented from 1986 – 1991).
- All-Star Five: Made up of the five best players in the league during the regular season.