A Guide To The National Basketball League In Australia

The National Basketball League (NBL) is a professional basketball league for men comprising teams from Australasia, i.e., Australia and New Zealand. The league, founded in 1979, is a member of the FIBA Oceania confederation, and its head offices are based in Melbourne, Australia. 

Presently, the National Basketball League has ten teams, out of which 9 teams are from Australia, while one is from New Zealand. Here is a brief insight into the history of the National Basketball League and its current status and format.

National Basketball League Guide

Basketball has been played in Australia since 1897, six years after the sport was invented in the US. The sport’s popularity increased rapidly in a short span of time. In the early 1930s, the Victorian and New South Wales were formed, while the Amateur Basketball Union was formed in 1939. It became the country’s first national governing body, and its name was eventually changed to the Australian Basketball Federation.

Before the NBL was formed in 1979, there were two national competitions for basketball in Australia, the Australian Club Championship and the National Titles. The league held its first season in 1979 in April, and it continued till September. It became the second oldest sporting competition in Australia at the national level.

Till 1998, the league had its seasonal games in the winter. In 1998, the season was shifted from October to April in a bid to prevent the season from clashing with the country’s winter sports, particularly football. Presently, the season begins in October and finishes in February. 

While the NBL was at its peak in the late 1980s and early 1990s in terms of popularity and attention, it suffered a decline once football began to grow more popular in the country. Over the course of years, multiple teams joined and left the league. In 2006, the Singapore Slayers also joined the league, making the NBL the first league in the region to have a team from Asia.

It was a turbulent time for the league, particularly in 2008 and 09, when significant teams left the NBL. In 2009-10, the National Basketball League began to revamp its format to improve the quality of the competition. In 2013, the NBL dissociated from Basketball Australia. Things began to pick up the pace for the league, and things improved dramatically when Larry Kestelman, a renowned property developer, acquired a 51% share of the league.

New rules were introduced, and existing ones were modified to ease the induction of players born in countries like China, India, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and the Philippines. 

There was a marked improvement in attendance for the National Basketball League matches as public interest grew in the sport around 2016 and 2017. Soon the NBL became the third highest-followed basketball league in the world as it gained a huge spectator base from Asia. The season matches in 2016 and the subsequent years had record attendance, and the numbers continued to grow as new teams were added and major players were picked up, garnering more public attention. 

National Basketball League Structure

When the NBL was formed in 1979, the inaugural season had nine teams playing. Over time, numerous clubs expanded, reduced, or relocated, due to which many teams either changed in terms of status or ceased to exist, while quite a few teams left the league. Therefore the NBL underwent numerous changes in terms of composition. 

Presently, the league has ten teams, of which nine are from Australia and one from New Zealand. The teams that comprise the National Basketball League are from Adelaide, Brisbane, Hobart, Cairns, Sydney, Perth, Melbourne, Wollongong, and Auckland. The oldest team in the league is the Illawarra Hawks from Hobart, Tasmania. The team has participated in every season of the NBL since its inception in 1979. 

National Basketball League Format 

The present regular season format of the NBL has been in place since the 2009-2010 season, whereby each team plays a total of 28 matches during the regular season. 14 of these matches are played on the home turf, while 14 are played away. The season begins in early October and ends in mid to late February. 

The one exception to this format was in the 2020-21 season when each team played eight more games, making the total number of games played by every team 36. It was because the NBL Cup was introduced. However, in the next season, the earlier followed format of the NBL was reinforced with no tournament held midseason.

The top four teams proceed to the finals at the end of the regular NBL season. The teams that finish in the first and second position at the end of the regular season matches are granted home advantages for the best-of-three round matchup for series 1 and 2 against teams in third and fourth place for the regular season. The team that wins the three matches then proceeds to the Grand Final, where the two winners from the respective series matches then play the best-of-five match series. The team with the highest score gets the home advantage for the grand final series. The team winning this round is declared the NBL champion of the season.

For the ongoing 2022-23 season, Play-in games have been introduced. It implies that the top two teams of the regular season will automatically stand qualified for the final season, while the 3rd, 4th, 5th, and 6th place teams will participate in a play-in series. The 3rd ranked team will play the 4th ranked, and the winner will occupy the 3rd place in the season. The team losing the play-in will then play against the team that has won the match for the fourth spot among the fifth and sixth-seeded teams. 

Who are the current champions of the National Basketball League?

The 2022-23 season for the NBL is currently underway, having begun on 1st October and is expected to finish on 5th February 2023. The previous season’s winners for the NBL were Sydney Kings. The team that has won the most championships in the NBL is the Perth Wildcats, with ten wins.

Which teams are in the National Basketball League? 

Presently, the teams in the NBL are Adelaide 36ers, Brisbane Bullets, Sydney Kings, Perth Wildcats, Cairns Taipans, Melbourne United, New Zealand Breakers, Illawarra Hawks, SE Melbourne Phoenix, and Tasmania Jack Jumpers.

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