Andrew Bogut NBL
Photo: Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

In the 2021-22 season, there are eight Australian players competing in the NBA. The world’s elite basketball championship used to have even more Aussies on its teams. In fact, a total of over 30+ Australians have played in the NBA and most of them came from the NBL.

If you’re not familiar with the acronym, the NBL stands for National Basketball League, which is the highest-level basketball club competition in Australia and New Zealand.

Apart from the players that moved to the NBA, the league’s also seen many of its stars move to EuroLeague clubs and elsewhere. Further, some remained in Australia, setting up a cult status for themselves among the fans.

So, which players, who have spent at least a part of their career in the National Basketball League, deserve to be called the best? Here are our top five candidates!

Andrew Bogut

37-year-old Andrew Bogut is no longer playing basketball professionally. Before retiring, he had an impressive career in 14 NBA seasons for five different clubs – Milwaukee Bucks, Golden State Warriors, Dallas Mavericks, Cleveland Cavaliers, and Los Angeles Lakers.

Over in Australia, Bogut is celebrated for being the man who brought life back to the National Basketball League after signing for Sydney Kings in 2018. The arrival of a one-time NBA champion renewed the interest of Australians in their national basketball league.

Moving back to Australia meant a great deal, not only for the NBL, but for Bogut himself as well. In his first and only season with Sydney Kings, Bogut won the NBL Most Valuable Player as well as the award for the Best Defensive Player. Thanks to his input, the Kings were able to reach the playoffs and finish third.

Bryce Cotton

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to call Bryce Cotton the best player currently competing in the NBL. Playing for Perth Wildcats since 2017, Cotton has already won three MVP awards despite still being in his twenties. That ties him with legendary Leroy Loggins who used to compete in this league back in the 1980s. Not only has Cotton won individual awards, but he’s also been a part of the NBL-winning team. In fact, with him as their key man, Perth Wildcats have won the title two times in the past three years. Plus, they were very close to winning it in 2021, losing to Melbourne United in the final of the playoffs.

Cotton is expected to do a lot for his team in the upcoming season, which is why Perth Kings are among the top favorites to win the title. Winning the 2022 title could be the last thing he does in the NBL before moving to America.

The thing is that many big NBA teams are rumored to be interested in Cotton. Whether it’s American basketball or Aussie basketball, both are great opportunities to win big if you’re into sports betting, especially if you back Cotton to score a lot. This guy’s had an average of over 20 points per game (PPG) almost every season since turning pro. Last season, for instance, his PPG was 23.47.

Leroy Loggins

Born in New Jersey, US, Loggins moved to Australia in 1981 to play for Brisbane Bullets. After a brief one-season spell with West Adelaide Bearcats, Loggins’ career really started to take off. In 1984, he was crowned the NBL MVP for the first time. Since then, he won it two more times (1986, 1987), helping the Bullets win two championships.

His legendary status among Australian basketball fans doesn’t only come from the fact that he was successful in the 80s. It also comes from the fact that he continued playing professional basketball throughout the 90s, before finally ending his career in 2001.

Andrew Gaze

Andrew Gaze is the single most successful player in the history of the NBL. Now in his mid-fifties, Gaze used to be an absolute ruler of Australian basketball back in the 90s. Evidence of this is that he won the NBL award seven times in the period from 1991 to 1998. What’s interesting is that, despite his efforts, his team – Melbourne Tigers – won the NBL title only two times that decade.

Apart from playing in the NBL, Gaze also spent some time in the NBA, playing for Washington and San Antonio. Truth be told, he didn’t leave much of an impression on Americans. Certainly not as much as he did in his home country.

Some 15 years after retiring from the NBL, Gaze remains the record-holder in several categories, including most career points, highest scoring averages, most games with 40+ points, and so on.

Final Thoughts

For a little less than 45 years the NBL has been exciting fans in New Zealand and Australia. While no league comes close to the NBA in North America, clearly the NBL has produced some impressive talent throughout the years. As the league continues to grow its certain that more and more players will keep making the jump to play in the NBA as well.