NBL History

The History of the National Basketball League

From New York to New Zealand, Beijing to Buenos Aires, Canada to Cancun, and everywhere in between- the game of basketball has established itself as a firm favourite amongst those who love to play and watch this dynamic and energetic sport. Although it might appear that north American strongholds such as the USA and Canada dominate the international basketball landscape, over the past few decades more and more basketball communities have emerged in non-traditional locations with a steadily growing fan base in tow.

Origin of the Sport

Basketball is one of the few sports that has a clear origin. It all began in 1891 when James Naismith, a Presbyterian minister, was assigned to teach a physical education class at his local YMCA training school in Springfield, Massachusetts. His class of young men were well-known for being boisterous and disorderly; and Naismith was tasked with inventing a new indoor athletic game to keep them occupied. While developing the new game, Naismith remembered a game he played while at school in Canada called “duck-on-a-rock” which involved trying to knock a rock called the “duck” off the top of a large boulder by throwing smaller rocks at it.

He also recalled watching rugby players in a gymnasium tossing a ball into a box. These memories spurred him on and gave him the idea of nailing boxes up high into which players would attempt to throw a ball. Naismith developed the sport further by creating a set of 13 rules to add structure to the game. Although the game certainly has changed into what we know it as today, many of Naismith’s original rules still apply to the sport today.

Early History of the NBL in New Zealand

Throughout the 1970’s in New Zealand, basketball games were typically organised between neighbouring teams. At the time, tournaments took place annually and were organised at club or provincial national level. Small, regional basketball leagues also matched off against each other in basketball games during Easter tournaments, as the popularity of the sport began to slowly grow and sweep the country.

The Countrywide Basketball League or the National Basketball League as we know it today was formally established in 1982 in response to the need for a formalised and consistent platform whereby semi-professional basketball teams could compete. The previous lack of such a local platform resulted in the exodus of many Kiwi players opting to play in the Australian NBL instead. The main objective of the New Zealand NBL at the time was to match the improvements and structure occurring in Australia’s basketball league, as well as advancing the appeal of the sport for semi-professional players on home soil.

What does the NBL look like today?

Today, the NBL consists of seven competing teams hailing from Auckland, Christchurch, Invercargill, Napier, Nelson, New Plymouth and Wellington. The league continues to steadily grow and the quality of play and standard of competition keeps on improving, as more strategic support is provided to develop and promote the league. The New Zealand NBL has also produced a number of exceptionally skilled players that have moved from its ranks to play international basketball as well as carving out a name for themselves in the NBA, arguably the world’s most recognisable basketball league.