The NZ Breakers roared into life on October 1 2003, defeating the Adelaide36ers by a single point in front of a sold out North Shore Events Centre. Professional basketball had hit New Zealand, with entertainment, action and excitement of the ANBL now a weekly experience in Auckland.
Over the short 7 years of the club’s history the Breakers have established themselves as a club who do things differently – the club values of One Team + Courage + Integrity = Champions are emblazoned on the wall of the Breakers’ training facility and is the glue that binds the club together. “Team is Everything” is the slogan that the club lives by, and the unselfish, do-it-for-team attitude has become the club’s playing style and image.
While the opening night victory raised high expectations for the club, the first years in the NBL were a hard learning curve. Tough victories were followed by long winless streaks, as the Club learnt just how hard it is to compete in an Australian competition from New Zealand.
Inaugural Head Coach Jeff Green stepped aside for Frank Arsego during the first season, and at the end of Season 2 Arsego departed and the club was again on the search for a new Head Coach.
Andrej Lemanis was recruited to his first Head Coaching role following 7 years as Assistant Coach at Townsville, and took over the reins at the Breakers for the 2005-06 season.
The 2007-08 season saw the arrival of 2 players who would make a significant contribution to the continued improvement of the Club. Australian NBL legend Tony Ronaldson made the leap of faith to join a Club he saw as having huge potential, bringing with him the NBL’s best winning record as a player and most ever playoff appearances.
Local superstar Kirk Penney also made his much anticipated arrival at the Breakers for the 2007-08 season, choosing to sign on with his home town Club rather than continue with his European career.
The 2007-08 season saw the Club breakthrough the playoff barrier, and winning the first ever Playoff game in Cairns before being eliminated by defending Champions Brisbane.
If the arrival of Penney and Ronaldson had been game changers, the decision of multiple championship winner CJ Bruton to sign on with the Breakers prior to the 2008-09 season was a sure sign that the Club was now a legitimate contender. 2008-09 also saw the return to the Breakers of Tall Blacks star and inaugural Breaker Dillon Boucher after a 3 year break.
2008-09 saw the Club leading the league for much of the regular season, and qualifying in third place for the Playoffs. After defeating Adelaide in the first ever home Playoff game, the Club exited at the semi finals stage 2-0 to the Melbourne Tigers. Penney was named MVP of the League.
2009-10 was seen as the year the Breakers would make a real mark on the NBL, but after a promising start the Club slumped through the middle stages of the season before the arrival of former Georgetown point guard Kevin Braswell sparked a sensational charge towards the playoffs – which ultimately came up one game short, the Club finishing only 2 games back from 1st place but 1 game outside of the playoffs.
The disappointment of 2009-10 turned into the catalyst for a record breaking 2010-11 season. Braswell was retained, Mika Vukona returned to the club, and new import Gary Wilkinson arrived to complete a talented and exciting roster. The Club went 22-6 in the regular season, winning the Minor Premiership with a month of the regular season remaining and entered the Playoffs as red hot title favorites.
This counted for nothing as a fired up Perth dominated the first game of the semi finals at the NSEC, and with Mika Vukona looking to have suffered a season ending injury. With the Club needing to do the almost impossible and win in Perth to stay in the Playoffs, there were many people ready to issue the obituary for the season.
On the back of 37 points from Penney, some last quarter heroics from Braswell and a miraculous and inspiring performance from Vukona to score 10 points and grab 10 boards playing almost on 1 leg, the Wildcats were defeated in Perth to keep the season alive. Game 3 at the NSEC was a dominant Breakers performance and the Club was through to its first Grand Final series.
With no other New Zealand team having won an Australian competition, national interest turned on the club and the public and media interest for the Grand Finals series was immense. Victory over the Taipans was achieved in Game 1 at the NSEC, and many of the large contingent of travelling fans believed the Championship was won in Game 2 in Cairns as Bruton and Braswell dropped huge 3 pointers – but Ron Dorsey hit two even bigger 3’s to send the game into a second overtime, and the Taipans forced Game 3 back at the NSEC.
An NSEC packed to the rafters witnessed history in Game 3, with an emphatic performance sealing the Championship on the home court. The whole crowd stayed to celebrate on court with the team, as Tom Abercrombie was named MVP of the Grand Finals series and foundation Breaker Paul Henare cut down the net.
The city of Auckland celebrated with the Club, with the team receiving a victory parade up Queen Street and a Mayoral Reception in Aotea Square.
The Championship season marked the end of foundation Breaker Paul Henare’s 8 season career with the Club.Recognised as being the heart and soul of the Club, Henare was honoured at the first NSEC home game in the 2011-12 season by being the first Breaker to have his singlet retired. The number 32 singlet was raised to the rafter at one end of the NSEC, and the Championship banner at the other end.
2011-12 season Champions
Prior to the 2011-12 Season the Breakers became the SKYCITY Breakers, the club entering into a long term partnership with New Zealand’s biggest entertainment brand in the largest sponsorship deal in the Club’s history.
2011-12 also saw the Club play 3 games at Vector Arena in the central city, setting new records for basketball crowds in New Zealand including a sold out 3rd game with 8000 fans seeing the SKYCITY Breakers defeat the Sydney Kings.
With 5 other home games sold out and membership numbers at record levels, 2011-12 has also seen the Club respond to the challenges on court. The departure of Penney to Spain has seen Abercrombie step into a leading role, and the arrival of point guard Cedric Jackson has given the home fans plenty to cheer about.
After defeating the Crocs in the Semi-final games, the Breakers had to face the Wildcats in the Grand Final. After a win in a sold-out Vector, the Breakers had a tough night ahead at The Jungle. A sea of red and a wall of noise led the Wildcat to victory in the second Grand Final.
For the decider, grand final game three, Vector Arena sold out with 9,250 tickets sold in less than an hour. After an exiting match, the Vector Arena erupts – back-to-back!
The new season saw the return of Corey Webster and the introduction of Will Hudson to the team.
The 2012-2013 season got off to a rocky start with the Perth Wildcats gaining some much needed payback after the loss to the Breakers in last season’s championship final.
After this small set back the team went on to win their next two home games and turned up the heat for the “Sunshine Swing” in North Queensland to come away victorious against both Townsville and Cairns. Heading into their first home game of the New Year the Breakers were leading the league 13 wins to 3 losses.
By the middle of March, the Breakers set a club record with a 15 game winning streak which matched their third straight minor league premiership.
The Breakers took on the Sydney Kings in the semi-finals and after putting them away in two games the Breakers advanced to the finals with the hope of a three-peat.
After taking out the first game against Perth at Vector Arena with the crowd behind them, the team looked for a clean sweep for the finals. Playing in front of a record Perth crowd of almost 14000 fans covered in red, the Breakers played and intense second game with plenty of tension ending the game with a dramatic 4 point difference, final score 70-66.
The Skycity Breakers defeated the Perth Wildcats 2-0 in the grand final series, and achieved an amazing feat, back to back to back championships! A Three-peat!
Dean Vickerman was appointed head coach of the SKYCITY Breakers after the departure of Andrej Lemanis and foundation Breaker Paul Henare was appointed as the new first assistant coach.The playing roster also undertook a makeover following the departures of 2012-13 MVP Cedric Jackson, fellow American Will Hudson, veteran Dillon Boucher and swingman Leon Henry.
The import replacements were Kerron Johnson a point guard out of Belmont University and forward Darnell Lazare signed from Sydney Kings. Jeremiah Trueman returned to the club and Reuben Te Rangi was rewarded with a full contract after impressing as a development player
The first game began with the retiring of Dillon Boucher’s number 24 player’s singlet; he played 220 games for the SKYCITY Breakers and was a foundation player. The team rewarded him with a first game victory over the Wollongong Hawks. This promising start was followed by four straight losses necessitating adjustments to the playing squad. Crowd favourite Gary Wilkinson returned but due to the demands of the player points cap both Lazare and Trueman had to be released from their contracts. Wilkinson’s arrival produced a second win against the Hawks but at the half way point of the season the team had a 6-8 record and were struggling for consistency. Over the Xmas period centre Alex Pledger suffered a serious ankle injury forcing Casey Frank to leave the comfort of the Sky TV commentary booth to suit up for the team. As it turned out the Pledger injury was season ending and Frank in his third stint with the club played the last 13 games of the season.
The season was marred by inconsistency, the team only winning back to back games on two occasions. The final record of 11-17 meant the club missed the end of season play-offs for the first time since the 2009-10 season. Despite the losing record there were some individual highlights to reflect on. Tom Abercrombie was the individual leading scorer (434pts @15.5ppg), back to the sort of form he displayed prior to his 2012 ankle injury. Club MVP Mika Vukona was at his consistent best, recording a career high 17 rebounds and 8 assists against Melbourne Tigers. Gary Wilkinson scored a career high 33 points against Sydney, Reuben Te Rangi a career high 22 points against Adelaide and Corey Webster fashioned his most consistent season to date.
CJ Bruton was farewelled in the last game of the season against the Cairns Taipans. The former international won three of his six NBL Championship rings with the SKYCITY Breakers, appeared in 179 games and amassed 2,049 points and 466 assists.
The SKYCITY Breakers fan base and corporate support continued to grow. Over 7,000 fans turned out to watch a pre-season game against Chinese club side Donnguan Leopards and almost 8,000 bid farewell to CJ Bruton in his final game for the club. Seven regular season games were played at Vector Arena up from five the previous season.