Here’s a fun fact: Throughout its history, the NBL has had more teams than that are currently in the NBA. In fact, the current tally of defunct NBL teams now stands at 37 with the Townsville Crocodiles being the most recent team to depart before the 2016-17 season.
Defunct NBL teams are so common that they even have a page devoted to them on Wikipedia.
Almost every capital city in Australia except Darwin has had one, two or even three NBL teams play in the same season.
With the 38th NBL club, the South-East Melbourne Phoenix* making its debut against Melbourne United tonight, we saw fitting to pay tribute to the fallen clubs of the National Basketball League
(*And hope it doesn’t suffer that same fate as many others who have fallen before them)
NSW/ACT & Beyond
City of Sydney Astronauts / Sydney Supersonics 1979 – 1987
Initially started with its more space-age nickname and eventually adopting the Supersonics nickname in 1982. The Supersonics only made two finals appearances, and player Owen Wells won the NBL MVP in 1983.
Bankstown Bruins / West Sydney Westars
1979 – 1987
A foundation team of the NBL in 1979 the Bankstown Bruins were ahead of their team embracing the Western Sydney region by eventually rebranding as the West Sydney Westars for 1986, 87 Basketball seasons.
Sydney Kings – Defunct from 2008 – 2010
The West Sydney Westars and Sydney Supersonics merged to become what is now the Sydney Kings in 1988. The Kings were briefly on the defunct NBL teams list from 2008 – 2010 before being resurrected at the start of the 2010-11 season.
West Sydney Razorbacks/Sydney Spirit 1998 – 2009
Western Sydney got another chance of their own NBL franchise with the Razorbacks entering the comp in 1998. During their time in the league, the Razorbacks developed a healthy cross-town rivalry with the Sydney Kings with both teams playing off in the 2003-4 NBL Grand Final series with the Kings winning 3-2 in a best of five. When the Sydney Kings withdrew from the NBL due to financial issues at the start of the 2008-09 season, the club would be the only team in Sydney and rebranded themselves as the “Sydney Spirit” to appeal to all of the city. It failed. Razorbacks fans felt alienated, and King’s supporters weren’t buying into it. Two months into the 2008-09 NBL season the Spirit declared themselves broke. The NBL stepped in to run the club and players played for minimum wage for the rest of the season. The city of Sydney wouldn’t have an NBL team for the 2009-10 season.
Canberra Cannons 1979 – 2003
Long before the Canberra Raiders, the nations capital’s original sporting franchise was the Canberra Cannons. They would be a foundation club of the NBL. The Cannons would be a formidable force throughout their time in the comp winning three NBL championships with 11 finals appearances. Canberra can also lay claim to having Magic Johnson play for them in an exhibition game against college team Michigan State in 2002 as part of a tour of the USA. Johnson contributed 12 points, ten assists, and ten rebounds.
The Cannons would eventually fold in 2003 with the clubs NBL license being bought by a consortium to establish the…
Hunter Pirates 2003 – 2006
The new club owners moved the Cannons from Canberra, relocated to Newcastle and named the team the Hunter Pirates which sounds like a fun school holiday movie for the kids than a Basketball team.
The Hunter Pirates would only last for three NBL seasons and fold due to financial problems. Owners would then sell the available NBL license over to a consortium from Singapore who would then establish the…
Singapore Slingers 2006 – 2008
In a way to open the NBL to a much larger audience establishing an NBL franchise in Asia may have sounded like a good idea on paper but difficult in practice. The burden of regular international travel and lack of interest locally made the Slingers time in the NBL hardly a memorable one and decided to leave the league after only two seasons. The Slingers now play in the ASEAN Basketball League and have been doing so since 2009.
Newcastle Falcons 1979-1999
An NBL foundation club the Falcons would compete for 20 years before withdrawing from the NBL in 1999. Perhaps former Falcons fans weren’t willing to embrace the Pirates when established in 2003.
Coburg/North Melbourne Giants 1980 – 1998
Joining the NBL in its second season in 1980 the Coburg Giants would rebrand themselves as the North Melbourne Giants to represent the Northern suburbs of Melbourne not the suburb like the Kangaroos in the AFL. In the glory days, the Giants would pack out the Glasshouse (now Collingwood’s training base) in Melbourne with the likes of Darryl “D-Mac” McDonald wowing the crowds. They would win championships in 1989 and 1994. The Giants had their fair amount of success until 1998 where they would merge with South-East Melbourne Magic.
St Kilda/Westside Melbourne/Southern Saints 1979 – 1991
The St Kilda Saints NBL team have won double the amount of premierships to the St Kilda Saints in the AFL. That being two. The Saints were the NBL’s powerhouse in its first three seasons winning the first three minor premierships. Eventually, the Saints wanted to appeal to more than just St Kilda and became the Westside Melbourne Saints in 1987 and then the Southern Saints in 1991 before merging the next season.
Nunawading/Eastside Melbourne Specters 1979 – 1991
The Melbourne outer suburb of Nunawading is also famous for the studios where Neighbours gets made got its own team in the original NBL lineup of 1979. They changed their name to also appeal to a broader range of Melbourne to the Eastside Melbourne Specters in 1987 and at the end of the 1991 season merged with the Southern Saints to become the…
South East Melbourne Magic 1992 – 1998
The Magic were in the NBL for a good time, not a long time. In seven seasons the Magic played in four NBL grand finals for two wins in 1992 and 1996. They also made the finals for every season of their existence, and their cross-town derbies with the North Melbourne Giants or Melbourne Tigers were the hottest ticket in town. At the end of the 1998 season, the Magic would merge with the Giants to become the…
Victoria Titans/Giants 1999 – 2004
Probably the most merged, blended team of all time the Titans made the NBL Grand Final in their first two seasons but were never able to win it. Towards the end of their time in the competition owners changed the team name back to Giants for its final season in 2003-04 before pulling out of the league at the end of the season.
Geelong Cats/Supercats 1982 – 1996
Much like the local AFL team Geelong also had Cats playing in the NBL. Then in 1987, it was decided that the Cats playing basketball were no ordinary cats – they were Supercats! The Supercats would be in the NBL for 15 years before the club opted to move to the SEABL at a more grassroots level.
South Dragons 2006 – 2009
It seemed that any other team in the NBL bar the Tigers were doomed in Melbourne. In came the South Dragons who didn’t play anywhere South of Melbourne but at Hisense Arena which is East of the CBD in the Melbourne Park complex. The Dragons went out in style winning the 2008/09 championship. The club decided to leave the NBL then after.
Frankston Bears 1983 – 1984
Frankston had a brief cameo in the NBL playing for two seasons before the financial strain of playing national got to the club. They would return to the SEABL from 1985. We do have this clip of Frankston playing in the NBL against the Perth Wildcats with one Dennis Cometti calling the match.
Melbourne Tigers 1984 – 2014
The most stable and iconic club of the NBL the Tigers produced some of the most recognizable names in Australian Basketball like Andrew Gaze and Lanard Copeland. Despite being always thereabouts in the playoffs, a loyal and passionate fan base the owners of the team decided to rebrand the club to what is now known as Melbourne United. Incorporating the history of all the other Basketball teams that had fallen before them and to embrace more fans who may not have accepted the Tigers as their team. The decision was subject to much anger from the Tigers fans including Gaze who wanted his jersey “taken down from the rafters.”
Gold Coast Cougars/Rollers 1990 – 1996
Joining the NBL in 1990 as the Cougars they renamed themselves as the Rollers in 1992. The Rollers would be one of three teams that were kicked out of the NBL in 1996 due to financial pressures. They also join another long list of defunct sporting teams based on the Gold Coast.
Gold Coast Blaze 2007 – 2012
“If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again” the saying goes. Another crack at an NBL Gold Coast franchise came in 2007 with the Blaze. Putting sporting franchises on the Gold Coast were all the rage in the late 2000’s with the Titans (NRL), Suns (AFL) and Gold Coast United (A-League) along with the Blaze all trying to make their way in the party capital of Australia. Only two of these teams still exist – the Suns (AFL) and Titans (NRL) with both still trying to find their way. The Blaze would be in the NBL for five seasons before withdrawing at the end of the 2011-12 season.
Townsville Suns/Crocodiles 1993 – 2016
The most recent addition to the list. For most of their time, the Crocs had the extensive support of the locals and were financially stable until they couldn’t make ends meet before the 2016-17 season. At the start of 2016, the Queensland Police seized the T-Shirt gun off the club as it was deemed to be a category B weapon.
Brisbane Bullets defunct 2008 – 2016
When then-owner Eddy Groves faced his financial troubles, he tried to find a new owner for the team, but it wasn’t successful in the search for a winning bidder. The license was returned to the NBL, and the city of Brisbane would be without a team for some years. A social media campaign to #bringbackthebullets was launched at one stage with the people of Bris-Vegas desperate to get the NBL back in town. The Bullets returned to the league for the 2016-17 season and had some excellent sponsors if we do say so ourselves.
Glenelg Tigers 1979
The foundation season of the NBL in 1979 would be the only season for Glenelg. Much like the St.Kilda Saints, they adopted the same name and colors to its Aussie Rules equivalent. The Tigers can lay claim to winning the very first NBL match ever played against the Sydney City Astronauts on Feb 24th, 1979 68-65.
West Torrens/Forestville Eagles 1980 – 1981
Only two seasons in the NBL the Eagles only won 12 games over two seasons. The club went back to the local level to be competitive.
West Adelaide Bearcats 1979 – 1984
Another NBL original the Bearcats managed to win the 1982 NBL championship in their five seasons at the national level, and two of its players would be the NBL MVP – Ken Richardson in 1979 & Al Green in 1982. The club now plays in the local state league.
Launceston Casino City Tigers 1980 – 1982
Forget Vegas or Macau – when you think Casino’s you think Launceston. Entering the NBL with the support of the state government and the developers of the state’s second casino Launceston Casino City even managed to win an NBL title in 1981. It is rumoured that both the clubs championship cup and the banner is missing/no longer in existence.
Devonport Warriors 1983 -1984
Lasting two seasons Devonport even got a team in the NBL. The team only won an overall total of six games in its two seasons in the NBL.
Hobart Devils/Hobart Tassie Devils/Hobart Devils 1987 – 1996
After trying teams in Launceston and Davenport, it was figured perhaps giving the Tasmanian capital a chance of having a team in the NBL might just work. It kind of did. The Devils were the longest lasting Basketball franchise out of Tassie. They would eventually fold in 1996 due to not being able to make ends meet.
Many teams have come and gone but it seems these days the future is bright for the NBL. Bring on the season and bring back a few of these teams to spice things up a bit.
And perhaps give Darwin a team? You never know, the “Darwin Darlings” might be a runaway success!