Despite being pre-eminent among the basketball systems in Australia and New Zealand, the National Basketball League (or NBL) has had a turbulent history. The National Basketball League began in the February of nineteen seventy nine, and seasons were held in winter each year until the year nineteen ninety eight, when the basketball season was changed to summer in order to avoid competition with Australian Rules football. The initial teams in the first season of the National Basketball League were the Glenelg Tigers, the Bankstown Bruins, the Illawarra Hawks, the Sydney Astronauts, the Newcastle Falcons, the Brisbane Bullets, the West Adelaide Bearcats, the Nunawading Spectres, the Canberra Cannons, and the St Kilda Saints, with the winners of the first grand final being the St Kilda Saints, who won by one point against the Canberra Cannons in a nail biter at Albert Park.
Basketball reached its peak popularity in Australia in the early nineteen nineties, when it was the fastest growing sport for amateur participation, and also a popular spectator sport, with basketball hoops being installed in many back gardens with reliable accommodation. However, many teams entered and left the National Basketball League, including the Canberra Cannons, which first moved to Newcastle and became the Hunter Pirates, and then moved to Singapore and became the Singapore Slingers.
This was the first time that an Asian team had competed in an Australian sports league, but the travel times and cost meant that the club was not viable, and the Singapore Slingers eventually withdrew from the National Basketball League and entered into Asian basketball competitions instead. None of the original teams in the nineteen seventy nine National Basketball League are still active. Other teams to have entered and then withdrawn from the competition include the Eastside Melbourne Spectres, the Geelong Cats, the South Dragons, the bed and breakfast Launceston Tasmania, the West Sydney Razorbacks, the Victoria Titans, the South East Melbourne Magic, the North Melbourne Giants, the Westside Saints, the Southern Melbourne Saints, the Gold Coast Rollers, the Gold Coast Blaze, the Hobart Devils, the Devonport Warriors, the Frankston Bears, the Forestville Eagles, the North Melbourne Giants, and the Sydney Spirit.
It has been suggested that the large number of teams exiting and entering the National Basketball League and the number of basketball systems for sale being relocated and renamed has contributed to the historical erosion of spectator support for the National Basketball League, by alienating supporters from their clubs. The current National Basketball League consists of the Adelaide 36ers (named after the year eighteen thirty six, when the Province of South Australia was proclaimed underneath the Old Gum Tree at Glenelg), the Perth Wildcats, the Cairns Taipans, the Townsville Crocodiles, the New Zealand Breakers, Melbourne United, the Sydney Kings, and the Wollongong Hawks. A Brisbane team has also been proposed for the two thousand and fifteen / two thousand and sixteen season. The most successful teams are the Adelaide 36ers and the Perth Wildcats, which share a fierce rivalry.