A Tyler Harvey floater with 2.8 seconds remaining has extended the Illawarra Hawks’ undefeated start to the NBL season in a 97-96 double-overtime home win over the New Zealand Breakers.
We’re underway in the new NBL season, and it’s time to take a look back at some of the weird and wonderful moments over the first 40-plus seasons of the competition.
In true hoops fashion, it’s Top 10 countdown style, covering some of the more unusual moments that have popped up on the NBL landscape over the years.
From the sublime to the ridiculous, these are 10 incidents which stand the test of time for being stranger than fiction.
10. Rain stops play in an indoor arena:
In February 2020, the Breakers were leading 65-62 in the third quarter of a crucial clash with the Hawks in Wollongong when the game was stopped due to a leak in the roof. The high-tech solution of some bloke wiping the wet patch away with a towel did little to solve the problem and game officials had to call the match off in a farcical moment for the league. The NBL issued a statement the following day awarding the win to the Breakers as the mandatory half a game had been completed to declare a result.
9. Wildcats v 36ers brawl spills over into bench:
Perth were soaking up an 85-61 home win over Adelaide in February 2014 but a scuffle ignited when players and coaches were exchanging not so pleasantries after full-time. Sixers coach Joey Wright was in the thick of the melee and he claimed his rage stemmed from unsavoury comments from Wildcats assistant Adam Talatovich. Perth import James Ennis and the coaching duo avoided individual sanctions but each club was fined $5000 for the ugly incident.
Perth had the last laugh two months later, beating Adelaide 2-1 in the grand final series.
8. The 344-point game:
Melbourne and Illawarra left defence at the door when they entered Wollongong’s Snakepit in 1991, resulting in the highest-scoring game in NBL history. Andrew Gaze blitzed his way to a career-high 59 points as the Tigers scorched to a 186-158 triumph – the Hawks shot 76% from the field, which remains the best of any team in a game, and lost.
7. Dragons win, then disappear:
The 2009 grand final series ended with the South Dragons – in just their third season in the league – up against the might of the Melbourne Tigers in a budding cross-city battle with the potential to become a long-standing rivalry. Wins alternated for the first four contests before the Brian Goorjian-coached Dragons clinched the title with a 102-81 victory in game five with a side featuring a very young Joe Ingles in what would become his last NBL game before embarking on a storied career in Europe and the NBA. It was also the last time the Dragons stepped onto the court with the owners running into financial troubles, announcing they would be having a one-year hiatus to get their house in order then the franchise disappeared without a trace.
6. Crocs mascot goes troppo up north:
Townsville’s mascot earned a reputation for sailing close to the wind, none more so than during a game against Sydney in 2016. Kings guard Anatoly Bose said the mascot “scared the shit out of me” when Croc pointed a T-shirt gun at the player as he was lining up a shot. Bose complained to the refs about the incident and the mascot was forced to apologise. He was later forced to “surrender his weapon” to Queensland Police, who deemed the air-powered device was a safety issue. It was Croc’s second offence that season after he’d earlier been warned for making lewd gestures with his tail while standing behind a Perth Wildcats player.
5. Green is red hot:
In the early days of the NBL, Al Green was one of the most potent scorers and on May 25, 1984 set a single-game record which still stands today and with matches now 40-minute affairs instead of 48, it’s unlikely to ever be beaten. Green poured in 71 points for West Adelaide against Frankston Bears at Frankston Stadium. Known as “Dr Dunkenstein”, he hit 25 of his 41 shots, with only four three-pointers, as well as 17/22 free throws but despite scoring 46 on his own in the second half, the Bearcats suffered a 153-125 loss.
4. King gets unexpected dunking on court:
In embarrassing scenes which went viral beyond these shores, Sydney import Marcus Thornton had beer tipped onto his head after sliding into an advertising barrier during a game against the Hawks at Wollongong in 2015. The elderly spectator, who it was later revealed had “ cognitive impairment” was immediately removed from the stadium and banned for the rest of the season while Thornton and the Kings accepted an apology from the sponsor who had hired the corporate box.
3. Gold at the end of the Rainbow:
Not technically a game but anyone who saw the Dunk Contest in 1993 will know this moment deserves its place in NBL folklore. A little-known back-up player at the end of the Melbourne Tigers bench, he looked out of place up against the flashy US imports. The TV commentators described him as “the white Michael Jordan ” and whenever anyone is compared to his Airness, it usually doesn’t end well. But Rainbow then proceeded to unleash a wide range of spectacular dunks – 360s, windmills – to leave everyone at the old Flinders Park stadium on their feet cheering their heads off.
2. Lowery’s free throws put Hawks into first grand final:
The 2001 semi-final series between Adelaide and Illawarra was a scrappy affair which came down to Hawks guard Damon Lowery heaving up a three-pointer at the final buzzer in game three but Adelaide’s Darnell Mee was called for a foul as he blocked the long-range prayer. With players told not to line up in the key, he was on his own as he stepped up to the challenge – if he hit just one foul shot, the Hawks would lose.
If he landed two, the game would go into overtime or all three would send them into the GF against Townsville. Lowery bounced the first one in off the front of the rim. He swished the second one rattled in after a detour to the backboard. If it was a Hollywood script, you’d think it was too cheesy but his third shot bounced around the rim six times and with Lowery on his knees basically praying, the ball dropped through the net to put the Hawks into the decider where they won their first and to this day only championship.
1. Jackson sinks Perth from beyond half court:
When it comes to buzzer beaters, Breakers import Cedric Jackson’s effort in 2015 to beat the Wildcats on their home court will be almost impossible to outdo. The two bitter rivals, who combined to win 10 of the 11 titles from 2010-2020, were duking it out at Perth Arena in a late-season marquee match-up. They were tied at 68-68 at the end of regulation and then at 80-80 after the first overtime. Perth looked set to win after taking an 87-86 lead with a couple of Jermaine Beal free throws with two seconds remaining. With no time-outs left, the Breakers inbounded to Jackson, who took three dribbles and launched a missile from just outside his own three-point line, the ball cannoned into the backboard and straight into the bottom of the net.