By Lauren Rosenberg
Australia is a place known for its sunny beaches, vibrant city life, grilled bananas, the wildlife, natural wonders, the red landscape of the Outback, clear water, and breathtaking sunsets.
The hidden gem that Australia is lesser known for is her history of basketball in a country that is not apart of the Euroleague.
Australia has produced several notable National Basketball Association players, including Philadelphia Ben Simmons, San Antonio’s Patrick Mills, Cleveland’s Matthew Delededova, and former No. 1 overall pick Andrew Bogut. All of these players represented the Australian Boomers, national team, in international competitions.
The National Basketball League is the men’s professional league predominantly located in Australia, with nine teams located in Australia and one in New Zealand. The league started in 1979 with ten teams. The league went through a rough spot in the mid-2000s when five teams folded. A few years later, the NBL was back on the rise with the help of former players who were representing Australia in the National Basketball Association.
Of the four players listed above, Mills played for the Melbourne Tigers in 2011 and, Bogut currently plays for the Sydney Kings.
Interest in men’s basketball is on the rise in Australia which has allowed for more profits and a dramatic increase in profits and popularity due to the rise in popularity of the sport in Asia. Attendance has reached an all-time high of 714,326 fans from the 2018-2019 season.
The NBL’s counterpart, the Women’s National Basketball League was found two years after the NBL in 1981 due to the high buzz of the formation of the NBL. As expected with women’s sports, the league struggled with finances which forced two clubs to pay their way to the other side of the country to compete.
The rise of the NBL exponentially helped the WNBL succeed. Media coverage increased as a direct correlation with the NBL’s popularity. In the late 1980s-1990s, the WNBL saw an opportunity to expand after ranking fourth in their Olympic debut in Summer 1988 in Seoul.
Despite some TV difficulties in the 2000s, the WNBL has continued to be successful in part due to the founding of the Women’s National Basketball Association in the United States in 1997.
Some of the most notable Australians to play in the WNBA are former shooting guard for the now two defunct squads Detroit Shock and Miami Sol as well as the Seattle Storm and current Australian Opals National Team and Phoenix Mercury Head Coach Sandy Brondello, longtime Mercury legend and current assistant coach forward Penny Taylor, Storm legend center Lauren Jackson, Mercury point guard Leilani Mitchell, who is American born but became a naturalized Australian citizen, and Las Vegas Aces center Liz Cambage, to name a few.
The difference between the WNBL and the NBL is that the WNBL is very import-heavy- or has a large amount of players from overseas who either didn’t make it into the WNBA or are current WNBA players who compete in the offseason. Due to the amount of imports from the United States, the WNBL has garnered a good following from fans of these players.
The NBL and WNBL have a long history that supersedes the history of the combination of the NBA and WNBA. The introduction of the WNBL two years after the NBL and their ability to continue to be successful with the partnership helps unite fans not only in Australia but globally.
Professional basketball is the hidden gem of Australian history that has expanded the culture of the country and helps unite sports fans from all across the land down under.
Edited by Garrett Jones | firstname.lastname@example.org