In the United States, a professional basketball league known as the National Basketball League (NBL) was founded in 1937. It united with the Basketball Association of America (BAA) after the 1948–1949 season, its twelfth, to become the National Basketball Association (NBA). The Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Los Angeles Lakers, Philadelphia 76ers, and Sacramento Kings are five current NBA clubs whose roots can be traced to the NBL.
The dominance of Hakeem Olajuwon, considered by most to be the most skilled big man in football history, was a beauty. With his trademark “Dream Shake”, he abused many defenders. Olajuwon’s game is so well known that superstars like Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard tried to improve their game under his tutelage.
Offence aside, Olajuwon was one of the best defenders in the game, as evidenced partly by his average of 3.3 blocks per game.
With only average skill, “The Dream” guided the Houston Rockets to back-to-back NBA titles while winning two MVP awards in the Finals and one during the regular season. Throughout NBA history, he is the first player to earn MVP, Finals MVP, and Defensive Player of the Year all in the same year (1994).
It would not be an exaggeration to call Bryce Cotton the best player competing in the NBL. Cotton has been playing for the Perth Wildcats since 2017 and has already won three MVP awards despite still being 20 years old. This links him to the legendary Leroy Loggins, who competed in this competition in the eighties.
Not only has Cotton won individual awards, but he is also part of the winning NBL team. With him as their leading man, the Perth Wildcats have won the title twice in the last three years. Furthermore, they were very close to winning in 2021, losing to Melbourne United in the play-off final.
Perth Kings are among the favourites to win the championship since Cotton is anticipated to contribute significantly to his team’s success next season. He could leave the NBL after the 2022 season with the goal of heading to America.
Many major NBA teams would be interested in Cotton. Whether it’s American basketball or Australian basketball, both opportunities are great opportunities to win big. Since turning pro, this kid has averaged over 20 points per game (PPG) nearly every season. Last season, his PPG was 23.47.
Loggins moved to Australia in the year 1981 to play for the Brisbane Bullets. After a short season with the West Adelaide Bearcats, Loggins’ career took off. He was crowned NBL MVP for the first time. He has helped the Bullets win two championships.
He didn’t simply become a superstar among Australian basketball fans throughout the 1980s. It also results from the fact that he carried on playing basketball professionally through the 1990s before calling it quits in 2001.
Utah drafted Ricky Grace in the third round of the 1988 NBA Draft after playing with the University of Oklahoma in the NCAA Finals.
Perth Wildcats general manager Cal Bruton lured Grace West to a one-year deal that would eventually lead to a 16-year, 482-game career with the Wildcats, including a brief NBA appearance with Atlanta in 1993 and an Olympic projection. With the Boomers included Sydney 2000.
Amazingly, Grace didn’t lead the league in any major statistical category until he was 14, but he was a known winner. He led the Wildcats to their first championship in 1990 and was named Grand Finals MVP, then walked away with another straight title in 1991.
In 1993, he made history as the first player to receive two Larry Sengstock Medals, but as the losing team’s only Grand Finals MVP. ‘Amazing Grace’ also won league titles in 1995 and 2000, and his 14 consecutive playoff appearances (he was injured in 2004) would become second all-time behind Tony Ronaldson (20 starts). Grace was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.
Al Green made worldwide headlines during the 1979 draft. Not only was Green drafted by the Phoenix Suns in the third round of the NBA draft, but the Louisiana State University star athlete was also selected in the NFL draft by the San Diego Chargers despite not having college football experience.
Green’s passion for basketball remained, and after a stint in the Philippines, he landed in West Adelaide in 1981, where he finished fourth in scoring and made the All-NBL First team.
In 1982, Green was named NBL MVP after leading the Bearcats to the championship. In 1984, “Mean” Al Green made history, averaging 39.5 points per game and setting a record on May 25 when he exploded in a Frankston game with 71 points. Including a record 28 points in the third period.
He was also a member of the championship-winning Adelaide 36ers team in 1986, finishing 24-2.
After a decade in Adelaide, Green played his final three NBL years at Newcastle and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1999.
Rocky Smith is the only player in league history to be named league MVP and Grand Finals MVP in his first NBL season.
Smith played college basketball at Oregon State University and was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 1977. His average of 33.4 points per game in 1980 – an excellent left-handed jump shot from the free throw line was his speciality – remains the best season of any player before introducing the three-point line.
1981 saw St Kilda top the table again, and Smith scored second with 28.8 points per game. However, a scheduling conflict prevented Smith from making the final, opting instead to compete in the Club World Championships in Brazil.
Smith continued his excellent form, averaging 35.2 points in seven games, but his stellar skills became the NBL’s downfall. Smith accepted an offer to stay in South America and eventually became a big star and would have been Brazil’s highest-paid player in the 1980s.
Michael Jordan is widely known as the best player in the game – and with good reason.
“MJ” achieved everything he could in the game and racked up stats and awards. But then, on the most critical game stage, the NBA Finals, Jordan went a perfect 6-for-6, even becoming the Finals MVP in his performances.
The legendary Chicago Bulls player dominated on both ends of the court, earning 10 scoring crowns, nine first-team All-Defensive choices, and 11 All-NBA honours.
There is enough of evidence to back up Michael Jordan’s GOAT reputation, but his greatest feat could have occurred before he even won an NBA championship. He earned MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and NBA Top Scorer awards in the 1988 campaign. 35 points, 53% shooting, 5.5 rebounds, 5.9 assists, 3.2 steals, and 1.6 blocks were the stats from his wacky 1988 season.
Dean Uthoff never made it to the NBA despite being drafted by the San Antonio Spurs in 1980, but he certainly made an impression in Australia.
The 78-inch, 250-pound centre from Iowa State led the NBL in rebounds three times during his 12-season career. Among the six most rebounding games in history, “The Man Mountain” has four, including 34 boards, even at the top of the league, against Hobart in Nunawading in 1984.
His career shooting percentage of 60.3% was equally impressive; unsurprisingly, he also led the NBL in that category three times. One of the true giants of the competition, Uthoff was proclaimed a legend during the Sydney Kings’ 25th-anniversary celebrations.
Owen Wells played 31 NBA games for Houston after being drafted 77th in 1974. The athletic swingman came to Newcastle in 1981 and led the Falcons with 24.4 points per game and was named to the All-NBL 1st Team.
In 1983 he set incredible records as a game coach for the Supersonics, leading the team from 12th place to the top of the table in 1981 and leading the team in goals and assists, even though Sydney had a great playmaker in Gordie McLeod.
Wells was named league MVP that season but didn’t make as many waves the following year. The Sonics started 2 and 8, and Wells was gone as a coach and player, despite posting a personal best 50 points against Devonport.
He retired from playing but did not return to the Supersonics as a coach until 1986. A year later, Wells became the only man in NBL history to different coach teams during the same season.
It’s a tall order to add a year-old NBL player to a list that measures contributions, but that’s exactly what Josh Childress delivered last season.
Drafted by Atlanta in 2004 as the sixth pick out of Stanford University, ‘J-Chill’ ended his NBL debut with the Kings as the second player in history and the only one to lead the league in goals and rebounds in the same season. Also, finished in the top 5 in assists and blocks.
Despite being in a suit, Sydney never fell below .500, but without him, the Kings were 0-10 due to his chest injury. Last November, his 36 points, 19 rebounds, seven assists, and five blocks against the Adelaide 36ers was one of the best performances per minute in competitive history.
The NBL made a considerable contribution to the development of the NBA, but it also made great strides in other arenas, most notably by providing chances for African-American athletes. Five years before Jackie Robinson would break baseball’s colour barrier with the Brooklyn Dodgers, two NBL teams—the Toledo Jim White Chevrolets and the Chicago Studebakers—filled their rosters with African-American players during the 1942–1943 season. Both teams struggled.
Bill Jones, a standout at the University of Toledo, was one of many black players hired by Toledo before the season began. However, the team lost its first four games due to financial issues before folding. Chicago added several Harlem Globetrotters players to its roster, who worked during the week at the Studebaker plant, but it also folded after compiling an 8–15 record.