British Basketball League

Infobox sports league
current_season=British Basketball League 2008-09

caption=BBL logo, featuring the Molten G7 matchball
country=flagicon|United Kingdom United Kingdom
champion=Newcastle Eagles
TV= Setanta Sports
ceo=Paul Blake
website= []

The British Basketball League, often abbreviated to BBL, is the basketball league in the United Kingdom. The BBL runs two knockout competitions alongside the league championship; the BBL Cup and the BBL Trophy, as well as the pre-season face-off, the Cup Winners' Cup.

The BBL is not to be confused with the English Basketball League or the Scottish Basketball League, which effectively form the second tier of British basketball. There is currently no promotion or relegation between the EBL, SBL and BBL because of the franchise system in use in the BBL, although Plymouth Raiders, Worcester Wolves and London Capital have all been elected from the EBL in recent years.

The league currently consists of 12 teams (Worthing Thunder will be the 13th in 2008), with representation from both England and Scotland. In its two decade history the league has been won by 12 different franchises. The 2006-07 league champions were Guildford Heat, who also won the right to be the league's sole representatives in Europe for the 2007-08 season, competing in the ULEB Cup.

Member franchises of the BBL jointly own the league, and a chairman is elected by the teams to oversee BBL operations. The current Chairman is Paul Blake, the Managing Director of Newcastle Eagles. The head offices are located in Leicester, where the country's oldest team, the Leicester Riders is also based.


The 1980s: Elite establishment

The British Basketball League burst onto the British hoops scene in 1987 as the game's foremost clubs opted for a franchise-based competition without promotion or relegation. Seeking to improve the sport's image through greater professionalism, the BBL fast became the benchmark for quality competition in the UK. And with the development and evolution of the BBL Cup and BBL Trophy, there is now ample opportunity for Britain's 10 elite basketball clubs to match ambition with silverware.

In recent years, Newcastle Eagles have been the biggest winner of the game's major prizes after clinching six consecutive major trophies.

In 1988 Portsmouth emerged from the pack to clinch the inaugural BBL Championship title but the following year saw the famous Kingston Kings side of the late 80s and early 90s win the first of three back-to-back league crowns.

The 1990s: Television, sponsors and crowds flood in

The 1990s also saw an exciting growth in popularity and commercialism of the league. Television crews and exciting sponsors such as Peugeot, Lego, Playboy and Budweiser came flooding in, as did the crowds. The Manchester Giants opened the 1995-96 season in front of a record 14,251 fans at the NYNEX Arena against the London Leopards - still the largest crowd to ever watch a basketball match in Britain.

London Towers, Crystal Palace and the Greater London Leopards ushered in an era of capital success in the mid-1990s and in 1999 a Conference format was introduced, which was mirrored by the NBL the following season. For three seasons the cream of the north and the south followed an American-style system with London Towers invincible in the South.

The 2000s: The millennium slump

A single-league BBL returned in 2002 and five different franchises have won the Championship title in the five years since. However the new millennium also saw a series of downfalls for the BBL. The collapse of ITV Digital cost the league dear, with many franchises struggling to recover from the lost revenue that the £21 million contract was providing. Long established franchises such as the Giants, the Leopards, Derby Storm, Thames Valley Tigers and Birmingham Bullets have all dropped out in the years since, never to be seen again.

The membership crisis brought about the addition of new franchises such as Guildford Heat (Formed by fans of the defunct Thames Valley Tigers) and elected teams from the lower-tier English Basketball League, like the Plymouth Raiders, both making a refreshing impact on the old boys, with the Heat qualifying for the post season playoffs in 2005-06, their rookie season.

During the same season Newcastle won 30 of their 40 regular season league fixtures to clinch the League Championship crown - the previous season saw the Eagles win 31 matches but lose out to Chester Jets in the final week, by just two points. That title was one of four pieces of silverware won during the dubbed "clean-sweep" season of 2005-2006, the Eagles marching on to claim the BBL Cup, BBL Trophy and Playoff's - the complete set.

Guildford Heat, only in their second season in 2006-2007, stole the headlines by storming to their first League title coupled with the BBL Cup, to mark a historic moment for the young club and its fans. Plymouth Raiders also put themselves on the map by overcoming their underdog tags to beat Newcastle on their own court in the BBL Trophy final, their first silverware as a BBL team. Newcastle managed to redeem themselves at the very end, after a poor season, by their standards, by claiming the Playoff title against rivals Scottish Rocks.

The future

With 12 elite clubs for the 2007-2008 - including expansion franchises Birmingham Panthers, Everton Tigers and London Capital - the BBL is deeper and more competitive than ever. League chairman and Newcastle Managing Director Paul Blake is marketing the game at home and abroad and after successfully gaining representation in the ULEB Cup, and expanding membership to a 12-team, with Brighton Cougars and others (Rumours suggest Worthing Thunder) set to join for the 2008-2009 season, the league is slowly recovering from a low ebb.

A television deal was struck mid-way through the 2007-08 season with international broadcaster Setanta Sports which, beginning with the 2008 Trophy Final, sees one game a week shown live on Setanta Sports 2 every Wednesday night at 7.15pm. However, for the 2008-2009 season, the BBL signed an agreement with Sky Sports. Sky will broadcast a live BBL game every Monday evening at 7.30pm. They will also broadcast all the BBL matches at BBL Finals Weekend, plus the BBL Cup and Trophy Finals. [cite web| author = Simon Rushworth | title = Basketball back on the box | url = | year = 2008 | accessdate = 2008-02-17 | publisher = Sunday Sun | date = 2008 ] .

There is a strong emphasis on recruiting and developing homegrown talent with a view to supporting Team GB's London 2012 medal bid. With British NBA star Luol Deng committing to the team [cite web| author = Rob Dugdale | title = NBA star Deng ready for GB debut | url = | year = 2006 | accessdate = 2006-11-21 | publisher = BBC Sport | date = 2006 ] and various other stars eligible to also play for Britain, including Ben Gordon, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, Kelenna Azubuike and Joel Freeland. [cite web| author = Ian Whittell | title = Deng jumps through hoops for Britain | url =,14213,1641612,00.html | year = 2005 | accessdate = 2006-12-23 | publisher = Guardian Unlimited | date = 2005-11-13 ]

With British basketball seemingly on the upswing at this given time, interest has grown and although not yet a mainstream sport in the country, a group of American investors, including NBA legend A.C. Green, did issue plans to form a new league in 2005. Simply known as The Basketball Organisation, the group, based in London and New York claimed to be attempting to establish a rival that of the BBL. Though this was greeted with some discomfort amongst the basketball community the new professional league, called the British Basketball Association, plans to launch in 2008/2009 and will directly compete with the BBL. There are plans for the teams from the rival BBA league to compete in a cup competition with the BBL.

The BBL league is looking to expand to 16 teams for the 2008/09 season. Rumoured new additions look to be the Worthing Thunder, Manchester Magic and Derby Trailblazers. With this, for the first time, a Welsh franchise, Cardiff Dragons has applied to join the BBL.


Current teams

Inactive teams

Defunct teams

:"See: List of defunct British Basketball League teams"

BBL Championship

Regular season

The regular season, which runs from September to April, operates as a league format. Clubs play each other on three occasions throughout the season, resulting in a thirty-six game campaign for each team, meeting each of their counterparts once at home, once away, and once home or away in the 12-team league structure. Matches are played according to FIBA rules and games consist of four quarters of 10 minutes each. Two points are awarded for a win, the game going into overtime if the score is tied at the final buzzer - unlimited numbers of 5 minute overtime periods are played until one team is ahead when a period ends.

In the league season, team schedules are not identical and neither are matchdays, with games scheduled mainly around Arena availability. Because of this teams may find themselves playing a series of four or five home games consecutively followed by a straight set of away games. As the regular season is also particularly short, many games are played over weekends as 'doubleheaders', whereby a team will play games (possible a home and away game) on consecutive days, something that is not commonplace in British sports, although often seen in the National Basketball Association and other American sports.

Following the completion of the Championship regular season, the top eight placed teams will advance into the post-season Championship Playoffs, which take place during April, concluding with the Finals Weekend.


The post-season Playoffs sees the top eight teams from the regular season advance into a one-game knockout series. The team finishing in first place will play the lowest seeded eighth team (match 1), as will second place against seventh (match 2), third against sixth (match 3)and finally the fourth and fifth placed teams facing each other in match 4. The top seeded team in each game will have home court advantage, with the four winners then going onto to compete in the semi-finals.

Both semi-finals matches are played on the Saturday of the Finals Weekend, held during the May bank holiday weekend at the National Indoor Arena, in Birmingham. The two winners of the semi-finals will then face each other in the Playoff final on the Sunday, with the winners being crowned Playoff champions.


The BBL Cup is one of three peripheral competitions operated by the BBL during the regular season. The tournament emerged from the National Cup and was contested for the first time in 2003-04, when the Sheffield Sharks were the inaugural winners.

It is a pure knockout competition comprising all 12 BBL clubs, with the final hosted at the prestigious National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, usually in early January. The current holders are the Milton Keynes Lions, after their 69-66 victory over the Newcastle Eagles on 13 January 2008.

BBL Cup Winners' Cup

The BBL Cup Winners' Cup is a pre-season tournament competed over two legs, one home and one away, between the winners of BBL Cup and BBL Trophy from the previous season. Each leg is staged prior to the beginning of the regular season and is considered the curtain-raiser for the new BBL campaign, the winner being the team with the better points total on the aggregate score.

Concepted in 2006, the competition was first fought for by Guildford Heat (BBL Cup winners 2006-07) and Plymouth Raiders (BBL Trophy winners 2006-07). The first leg, which took place on 9 September in Plymouth, saw a tight affair finish 83-77 to the visiting Guildford Heat, despite the Raiders clawing back from an 18-point defecit to take the lead during the third quarter. Another close game in the second leg played in Guildford the following weekend, on 15 September, saw the Guildford Heat defeat the Plymouth Raiders 93-91 and claim the inaugural BBL Cup Winners' Cup 176-168 on aggregate.

BBL Trophy

The BBL Trophy, founded along with the league in 1987, begins with a regional group format and comprises all 12 BBL clubs plus, for the 2007-2008 season, one invitee from Division 1 of the English Basketball League, the Worthing Thunder.

The venue for the Final often changes from season to season, with various arenas such as SkyDome Arena in Coventry, Sheffield Arena in Sheffield and The Brighton Centre hosting the event over the past few years. The 2007 Trophy Final was held at Newcastle's Metro Radio Arena on 4 March and despite Newcastle Eagles enjoying home court advantage, the contest was won by underdogs Plymouth Raiders, who ran out 74-65 victors.

After agreeing a television deal with Setanta Sports, the 2008 Final will be the first game to be broadcast live on Setanta Sports 2. The game, between Guildford and Newcastle, will be played at the Plymouth Pavilions on 2 March 2008.


Foreign imports

League rules currently allow for each team to have a maximum of three import players, from outside of the EU, while the rest of the roster must have British citizenship, either by birth or by naturalisation. The current ruling was integrated at the beginning of the 2006-07 season, reverting from the previous law which allowed four imports along with naturalised players. Because of this previous rule, it was possible for a team to field an entirely American starting five, which was often the case.

With the 2012 Olympics in mind, an attempt to develop home grown talent has taken incredible steps forward in British hoops in development of more British players. Contributing to this cause, the BBL has implemented a new ruling which will be in effect from the start of the 2007-08 season onwards, whereby only two imported players are permitted in each roster. However, with an expansion of three more franchises for the 2007-08 season, the decision to permit only two non-EU players was revoked because of the lack of available home-grown talent currently available.

Transfer regulations

According to BBL rules, teams must field no more than six import (Non-EU) players in any one season, though only three are allowed to be registered to a roster at any one time. Signings are allowed to be made throughout the pre-season and during the regular season until the league's transfer deadline, which is on 28 February, or if during a leap year, the date is then 29 February.

Notable former players

* John Amaechi
* Rod Brown
* Steve Bucknall
* Pero Cameron
* flagicon|United Kingdom John McCord
* Loren Meyer
* Shawn Myers
* flagicon|United Kingdom Terrell Myers
* flagicon|United Kingdom Nate Reinking
* Dennis Rodman
* flagicon|UK Billy Singleton
* Andrew Sullivan

Media coverage


The internet has, in recent years, been the only real source of news for British basketball, with expansive fan community "What's Bev got to do with it?" ( [] ) being the central location and first port of call for any avid fan. Dedicated 'What's Bev' online fanzine [] is the leading news, feature and opinion based site around, produced by the fans, for the fans, under the leadership of leading basketball journalist Paul Nilsen, reporter for the Newcastle Chronicle.

Many other flagship websites have come and gone over the years, most notably UKTVSlam!, operated by the UKTV group, whiched folded during the summer of 2007. The website provided the most detailed coverage of basketball available in Britain, and often featured live matches from the BBL and Euroleague available to watch online for a small subscription fee.

For information and results based data, [ PawPrint] operated by EBL statician Pete Jacques, is a valued source particular for those interested in the lower leagues of the English Basketball League and the history of British basketball.


Basketball receives little national media coverage in the United Kingdom. Some national newspapers list results and occasionally provide short summaries of the league's news but more extensive coverage remains minimal. There was a small surge in interest during the 2005-06 season when many national newspapers such as "The Sun" reported that former NBA player Dennis Rodman had signed for Brighton Bears only weeks after being evicted from Celebrity Big Brother. [cite web| author = Ian Whittell | title = Rodman to return | url =,,3-2006020238,,00.html | year = 2006 | accessdate = 2006-01-14 | publisher = The Sun | date = 2006 ] The press attention quickly faded after 'Rodmania' had died down following his three game appearance for the Southcoast franchise.

Coverage in the towns and cities where BBL clubs are based is more extensive. Newspapers such as The Herald (Plymouth), Sheffield Star, Glasgow Herald, Daily Record, Leicester Mercury, Newcastle Chronicle and the Worcester News have dedicated basketball reporters who cover the local team.


Radio coverage of the league is a little more sparse but coverage is available via the successful [ Eagles Web Radio] and [ Heat Web Radio] which, run by fans of Newcastle Eagles and Guildford Heat respectively, broadcast live game commentary over the internet where the said teams are involved in.

BBC Radio Devon often provide live commentary of Plymouth Raiders games, both home and away, while various local radio stations around the country occasionally offer updates on their respective local teams.


A television deal was struck mid-way through the 2007-08 season with international broadcaster Setanta Sports which began with the 2008 Trophy Final, and see's one game a week shown live on Setanta Sports 2 every Wednesday night at 7.15pm. [cite web| author = Mark Woods| title = Basketball back on the box | url = | year = 2008 | accessdate = 2008-02-17 | publisher = Sunday Mail | date = 2008 ] For the 2008-2009 season, Sky Sports will provide coverage of a game every Monday night at 7,30pm beginning on the 22nd September. They will broadcast all the of the BBL matches at Finals Weekend and the BBL Cup and Trophy Finals. The history of television coverage of the BBL is extremely minimal. In 2006, league officials signed a £2.5 million broadcasting rights agreement with MKTV to provide coverage of 40 live games per season. [cite web| author = Rob Dugdale | title = BBL signs up with new broadcaster | url = | year = 2006 | accessdate = 2006-09-21 | publisher = BBC Sport | date = 2006 ] However only two matches were screened and the deal eventually collapsed when the channel closed.

Though the BBL Cup final had also been broadcast live over the internet two months previously, by UKTV, this was the first time in five years that the BBL was screened live on television, since the collapse of ITV Digital in 2002. Before then, the league also enjoyed coverage from Channel 4 in the 1980s and Sky Sports in the late 1990s and early 2000s.


*BBL Most Valuable Player Award
*BBL Finals Most Valuable Player Award
*BBL Coach of the Year Award
*BBL All-Star Team

ee also

* Basketball in England
* BBL Cup
* BBL Cup Winners' Cup
* BBL Trophy
* BBL Finals Weekend
* English Basketball League
* National Basketball League
* Great Britain national basketball team


External links

* [ Official BBL website]
* [ Archive]
* [ Badaball online fanzine]
* [ BBL Statistics]
* [ British section of EuroBasket site]
* [ What's Bev Got To Do With It? fan forum]

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