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Australia’s number one international team sport: basketball

By Chris Lewis - posted Monday, 8 March 2021

In recent years, it is hard to go past basketball as being our most successful male international sport, even though Australia’s team has never won a medal at a global championship level.

At the 2019 World cup and 2016 Olympics Games, Australia finished fourth.

Why do I rate basketball so highly?


First of all, it can be argued that Australia’s high achievement in basketball is outstanding given its position as one of the world’s major professional team sports.

While cricket also ranks high as an international sport, it is estimated that 213 countries participate in basketball internationally with over 450 million players regularly playing the game.

Basketball is indeed one of the few team sports where Australia can compete at a high level against other sporting powerhouse nations with a shared passion with regard to a significant sport, including the US, Russia, Spain, Italy, and Brazil.

For Australia to achieve such a high ranking in such a major sport with a relatively small population, in a sport that requires a high level of athleticism when compared to most other team sports, this achievement deserves some explanation.

First of all, Australians appreciate basketball excellence. One has only to recall the two 50,000 crowds at Melbourne’s Docklands stadium in 2019 to watch the Australia (Boomers) play the US prior to the World Cup where Australia finished higher than the US.

While Australia defeated a US team for the first time in 2019 prior to the World Cup, albeit the US was missing many of its star NBA players for that campaign, it is worth noting that the US had 25 million basketball players in 2019, a vastly larger player and talent pool.


Australia’s appreciation of basketball has existed for many decades, with Australia finishing in the top 8 at Olympic Games from 1976 to 1988.

Great players of past decades included Ed Palubinskas, the top overall scorer in the 1976 Summer Olympics (second in 1972), and Andrew Gaze who ranks 2nd and 3rd as all-time highest career points scorer in Olympic Games and World Cup history.

Interest in basketball was further helped by Luc Longley becoming the first Australian player to make it to the NBA and winning the championship (with the great Michael Jordan), and by Andrew Bogut being the number one pick in the 2005 NBA Draft.

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About the Author

Chris Lewis, who completed a First Class Honours degree and PhD (Commonwealth scholarship) at Monash University, has an interest in all economic, social and environmental issues, but believes that the struggle for the ‘right’ policy mix remains an elusive goal in such a complex and competitive world.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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