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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.



Men's basketball began in New Zealand in the late 1920s as a gymnasium activity in the various Young Men's Christian Associations. For technical help in its early stages the game relied mainly upon Mormon missionaries from the United States, many of whom were fine players still remembered in this country. The experiences of New Zealanders overseas during the Second World War brought many into contact with basketball. As a result, the game in New Zealand got a great impetus immediately after the war, though it was still played mostly in Y.M.C.A. gymnasiums–the only courts available. In 1946 the institution by the Government of a scheme of subsidies for local war memorial projects fostered the building of many fine stadiums, and the recent general prosperity of the country has been reflected in the efforts of city and borough councils to build further adaptable halls and sports stadiums.

The New Zealand Men's Basketball Association was formed in 1946 with 16 affiliated provincial associations comprising some 366 teams. By 1961 the number of associations was 31, comprising 750 teams. The New Zealand association is affiliated to the New Zealand Olympic and British Empire Games Association and to the International Amateur Basketball Federation.

Winners of the National Open Championship are:

1946 Auckland, Wellington, Otago (triple tie)
1947 Auckland
1948 Palmerston North
1949 Wellington
1950 Wellington, Hamilton
1951 Wellington
1952 Wellington
1953 Otago
1954 Auckland
1955 Canterbury
1956 Auckland
1957 Hamilton
1958 Wellington
1959 Auckland
1960 Wellington
1961 Wellington
1962 Rotorua
1963 Wellington
1964 Wellington, Nelson, Auckland (triple tie)

Two championships were held before the formation of the association in 1946. These were won by Otago in 1938 and by Wellington in 1939.

From a purely recreational game, men's basketball in this country developed in the late 1930s into a widespread zone-defence pattern. Lack of experience and contact with international or American basketball resulted in a general adherence to this pattern until about 1956. Since then a growing appreciation and experience of the faster “man to man” patterns of play have seen the pace and spectator appeal of the game increase. Nevertheless, the game in this country has not kept pace with world basketball for three reasons–lack of money because of limited spectator accommodation; the temperament of the New Zealander who, generally, would rather play the game than practise it; and lack of facilities at secondary schools, with the result that players usually make a late start at the game.

The scene, however, is changing. The association is accumulating funds for the interchanges of visits by national teams with basketball nations in the Pacific. New Zealand players are also gaining a truer appreciation of their deficiencies and of the need for intensified training. And more and more schools are becoming actively interested in the game through the efforts of local associations and of officers of the Physical Welfare Branch of the Department of Education.

Three valuable visits have been made by American coaches under the auspices of the United States Foreign Service. John R. Wooden, head coach at the University of California, toured New Zealand in 1957, and Stuart K. Inman, coach at the San Jose State College, was here in 1961 and 1964.

by Robert Leslie, formerly Secretary New Zealand Men's Indoor Basketball Association, Dunedin.


Robert Leslie, formerly Secretary New Zealand Men's Indoor Basketball Association, Dunedin.