Heritage Month: Greatest Individual Performances
Picking out the greatest individual performances of just Andrew Gaze or Leroy Loggins is a thankless task, let alone the rest of the NBL over the past 40 seasons, but we’ve chosen a selection of some of the great showings by some legends of the game to close out Heritage Month.
ANDREW GAZE – MELBOURNE TIGERS
612 games (1984-2005) – averaging 30.9 with 101 games of 40-plus points
To pick out one performance from the legendary 612-game NBL career of Andrew Gaze with the Melbourne Tigers is impossible. In fact if we were to pick out a list of the best 10 or 20 individual performances in NBL history, it’s not unrealistic that Gaze deserves every one of those spots.
Who is to say that his career-high performance of 60 points in 1987 against the Newcastle Falcons was indeed any better than his 59 points in 1991 against the Illawarra Hawks or his 58 points again against Newcastle in 1986, or his four 54-point efforts against Canberra both in 1987, Brisbane that same season and Wollongong 11 years later.
Or were any of those better than 52 points against the North Melbourne Giants in 1987, his 51 points against the Geelong Supercats in 1991 and the Hobart Devils in 1992, or 50 points against the Canberra Cannons in 1994 and Hobart in 1985.
I think you get the message. Gaze quite simply had far too many great individual performances to pick one out and which was the best of his career is likely in the eye of the beholder.
Gaze’s performances over his career were just simply remarkable. They were incredible at the time but even more so with the benefit of hindsight.
In 20 seasons and 612 games for the Tigers, he averaged a phenomenal 30.9 points. But to consider that 101 of his 612 games saw him score 40 or more points defies belief. That included a 1987 season when he averaged 44.1 points even though his team won just three games.
The best pure scorer in NBL history, Gaze’s ability to shoot from anywhere on the floor will never be replicated. On top of his scoring feats, he proved himself a great winner winning championships in 1993 and 1997 on top of his seven MVP awards and being a 16 times leading scorer.
LEROY LOGGINS – BRISBANE BULLETS/WEST ADELAIDE BEARCATS
567 games (1981-2001) – averaging 23.1 with 23 games of 40-plus points
Like Gaze, picking out which of the 567 games of the legendary Leroy Loggins was the best in the NBL was too hard of a task. Every one of his 23 games of scoring 40 or more deserves recognition, but he was far from just a scorer so some of his all-round showings could have easily made the list too.
Loggins’ career-high in points came in 1987 for the Brisbane Bullets against the Melbourne Tigers when he hit 55 points. But he also scored 54 points against Coburg in 1986 and all up scored over 40 points on 23 separate occasions.
But it was his all-round brilliance that still to this day sees him regarded as the best import in NBL history. Across 567 games, he finished up averaging 23.1 points and 6.8 rebounds.
He was NBL MVP in 1984 averaging 29.5 points, 10.6 rebounds, 3.4 steals and 1.8 blocks. His second MVP trophy came in 1986 where he put up 29.8 points, 8.9 boards, 3.3 steals, 3.1 assists and 1.3 blocks. He backed up again in 1987 having averaged 28.0 points, 7.3 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 2.9 steals.
Again it’s simply a matter of personal choice on which of Loggins’ games you think was his best performance. We’ll leave that to you. His body of work stands alone on this list and it’s hard to see it ever being matched.
REG BIDDINGS – FORRESTVILLE EAGLES
v Bankstown Bruins – April 12, 1981
Reg Biddings would become the first import at the Adelaide 36ers in 1982 and would create quite the legacy. But the man affectionately known as ‘Sir Reginald’ made quite the impact a year earlier with the Forrestville Eagles.
And on April 12, 1981, he set a scoring record in the NBL that would last three years and would only be bettered once across the whole 40-season history of the league.
Biddings delivered a remarkably unstoppable performance for the Eagles on the night and much of his damage was done in the first half. Heading into the sheds, he already had 45 points to his name before going on to add 18 more in the second half, largely due to foul trouble.
He finished with 63 points in the 98-90 victory for Forrestville over Bankstown at Bankstown Stadium. The then 23-year-old ended up shooting 25-of-50 from the field and 13-of-17 at the charity stripe to make up his scoring outburst.
Making it all the more stunning is the fact that season the NBL played just 40-minute games and there was yet to be a three-point line.
AL GREEN – WEST ADELAIDE BEARCATS
v Frankston Bears – May 25, 1984
Well you simply can’t have a list of the greatest performances in NBL history without it including the record scoring effort that came off the hands of Al Green with the West Adelaide Bearcats in 1984.
Even though Green’s Bearcats ended up losing the game, his performance was just stunning finishing up with 71 points on the back of shooting 25-of-41 from the floor, 4-of-12 from three-point range and 17-of-22 from the foul line. He also had five assists and five rebounds.
It was the ultimate showcase of his talents but he was in the middle of a brilliant purple patch where he averaged 51 points for that month and 39.5 points over that entire season in 1984 for West Adelaide.
That night at Frankston Stadium was all the more remarkable because of Frankston’s eventual 153-125 victory with Mark Gaze scoring 43 points, Wayne Burden 42, Chuck Rose 29 and Tom Flavin 27.
It might have been a loss and Green might have had plenty more memorable nights across his 340-game NBL career with West Adelaide, Adelaide and Newcastle, but it’s that night of 71 points in May 1984 that will live on forever.
IAN DAVIES – NEWCASTLE FALCONS
v St Kilda Saints – May 5, 1985
Often forgotten in conversations around some of the greatest scorers in NBL history, Ian Davies’ shooting prowess was legendary. A natural scorer who never saw a shot he didn’t like, Davies created NBL history with 13 made threes, the most in a single game against St Kilda in the only game ever played in Swan Hill.
Such was his scoring ability that Davies led the 1980 Moscow Olympics in scoring for the Boomers, with an average of 29.3 points per game.
What made his history making effort all the more extraordinary was that the Falcons were at the conclusion of a triple-header, having started the round playing on Friday in Hobart, followed by a game in Melbourne on Saturday with a Sunday afternoon fixture with St Kilda ending the round.
Davies finished the game with a career-high 47 points on 13/24 shooting, but the fatigued Falcons dropped the game by one, 130-129 after winning their first two games on the road trip.
JAMES CRAWFORD – PERTH WILDCATS
v Melbourne Tigers – September 6, 1987
James Crawford had a career for the ages for the Perth Wildcats going on to become a legend of the club and a three-time championship winner, but his whole 1987 season was the best of his career and it was highlighted by a brilliant night on September 6.
It was Crawford’s first season with the ‘Cats having started his NBL career with the Geelong Supercats and Canberra Cannons, and what a mark he instantly made.
It was undoubtedly highlighted against the Melbourne Tigers with the Wildcats on the back end of a double-header road trip having beaten Eastside Melbourne the previous night.
They backed up on Sunday against the Tigers at Albert Park and came away with the 153-119 victory and Crawford putting up the performance of his career.
With Andrew Gaze putting up 48 points in the same game, Crawford stole the show finishing with a career-best 57 points to go with 11 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots. The ‘Alabama Slammer’ shot 24-of-36 from the floor and 9-of-10 from the foul line to make up the 57 points.
No doubt over his 371-game career in Perth did Crawford deliver plenty more noteworthy performances, but it’s that September afternoon in 1987 that means he well and truly belongs on this list.
DARREN ROWE – GEELONG SUPERCATS
v North Melbourne Giants – July 28, 1990
There has only been one quadruple-double in NBL history and that belongs to Darren Rowe with the Geelong Supercats up against the North Melbourne Giants in 1990.
It might not have seemed like anything but an ordinary night at The Arena in Geelong on July 28, 1990 but it remains the only game in NBL history where a player has recorded a quadruple-double.
The Supercats went on to beat the Giants 131-123 and it was Rowe’s performance that was largely responsible for that.
The forward finished the night with the remarkable stat-line of 25 points, 17 rebounds, 11 blocked shots and 11 assists having played all but 34 seconds of the game.
He shot 9-of-18 from the field and 7-of-8 from the free-throw line to make up his 25 points but that only partly told the story of what he achieved on that night.
Shane Heal and Bobby Locke both scored 31 points apiece for the Supercats on that night, but it will always be remembered for the ultimate performance of filling up the box score by Rowe.
JOHN DORGE – GEELONG SUPERCATS
v North Melbourne Giants – April 12, 1991
It was another standout individual performance by a Geelong Supercats player that remains prominent in the record books when big man John Dorge blocked 14 shots on his own against the North Melbourne Giants in 1991.
It was the opening game of the season for the Supercats as they took on the Giants at The Glass House on April 12, 1991 and it was a remarkable performance by a big man who remains one of the best in the business in NBL history.
Dorge had an outstanding NBL career winning championships with the Brisbane Bullets in 1985 and 1987, and at the South East Melbourne Magic in 1992 and 1996, and wherever he went he was quite the presence around the basket.
That was never more evident than that season-opener in 1991. Dorge blocked an astounding 14 shots of hapless North Melbourne shooters to set the league record. He also had 26 points and 14 rebounds on the night to give him a triple-double. His touch around the basket with ball in hand was impressive too shooting 12-of-16 from the field.
He did play and star in bigger games, but nothing quite tops that triple-double highlighted by 14 blocked shots to open the 1991 season.
DEREK RUCKER – NEWCASTLE FALCONS
v Geelong Supercats – April 30, 1994
Derek Rucker will go down as one of the NBL’s great imports and a terrific scorer highlighted by his career-best of 51 points not to mention having scored more than 40 points on 25 different occasions, but it was his passing ability that made stand out too.
It would be easy to pick out Rucker’s 51-point performance for the Townsville Crocodiles against the Brisbane Bullets in 1998 as the highlight of his career, or in fact any of those 25 games of 40 or more points not to mention the fact he averaged over 30 points a game across three seasons in his career.
But the 1990 MVP spent the 1994 season with the Newcastle Falcons and put some remarkable passing numbers.
The highlight came on April 30 of that season when the Falcons went on to beat the Geelong Supercats 130-106 at Newcastle Entertainment Centre.
It was an impressive Falcons line-up with Tonny Jensen going on to score 20 points, Michael Johnson 20 and Paul Kuiper 19, but it was Rucker who was the star who ran the show.
He dished out an NBL record 24 assists on the night to go along with 24 points, four rebounds and three steals. He would go on and average 10.6 assists a game that season to go with 25.2 points, and while it was just one season in a glittering career, it certainly deserves acknowledgement.
SHANE HEAL – BRISBANE BULLETS
v Townsville Crocodiles – September 23, 1994
Shane Heal is another NBL great who could have had any number of his performances through his career put in the spotlight, but his 61 points for the Brisbane Bullets against the Townsville Crocodiles in 1994 just can’t be overlooked.
Heal had the highest-scoring season of his career with the Bullets in 1994 going at 25.2 points a game. That was highlighted on September 23 when he scored his highest individual tally, and the third highest scoring performance in NBL history.
It was Heal’s third season back at the Bullets in his second stint in Brisbane having played with the Geelong Supercats in between, and he certainly delivered a brilliant 1994 campaign all round.
But on that September night against the Crocs at Townsville Entertainment Centre, the Bullets went on a scoring spree to win 141-105 and it was Heal who stole the show.
‘Hammer’ finished the game with 61 points on the back of shooting 19-of-29 from the field and a simply stunning 12-of-19 from three-point territory along with 11-of-12 from the foul line. He also had four assists and three rebounds.
The 61 points Heal scored is the third highest in NBL history while his 12 threes made is only behind the 13 hit by Ian Davies for the Newcastle Falcons in 1985. His 19 three-point attempts is also equal fourth highest in league history.
DARRYL McDONALD – NORTH MELBOURNE GIANTS
v Adelaide 36ers – October 22, 1994
Darryl McDonald played 485 games in the NBL after arriving to play with the North Melbourne Giants in 1994, but it’s hard to look beyond a triple-double and hitting the game-winning shot in your first season and first Grand Final game as his standout performance.
Certainly D-Mac went on to have countless other games that deserve recognition during his long and distinguished career in the NBL, but that first season for the Giants saw him really announce himself with a bang.
McDonald was runner-up in MVP voting that season while also narrowly missing the Best Defensive Player Award, but during the Grand Final he cemented his legacy.
Game 1 of the 1994 Grand Final Series took place at Adelaide Arena and it ended up going into overtime between the 36ers and Giants. But it was there where McDonald won the game to give North Melbourne the 95-93 victory.
It wasn’t just the fact that he hit the game-winning shot, but along the way the dynamic point guard racked up a triple-double consisting of 17 points, 10 assists and 10 rebounds. He wasn’t too far away in another category either with nine turnovers. He shot 6-of-10 from the field and 5-of-6 at the line.
It only set the stage for what was to come the rest of his NBL career before retiring after another championship with the Melbourne Tigers in 2008.
RASHAD TUCKER – PERTH WILDCATS
v West Sydney Razorbacks – November 26, 2003
Speaking of triple-doubles, it became something of a common occurrence during Rashad Tucker’s time with the Perth Wildcats.
Robert Rose might still lead the league in triple-doubles with 13 of those in his remarkable career, but Tucker seriously threatened that record at the Wildcats in the back half of the 2003/04 season.
He arrived mid-season and that had to step up to play an even more dominant role when club legend Ricky Grace got injured. What Tucker delivered was simply remarkable.
He ended up recording six triple-doubles between November 26, 2003 and February 28, 2004 and it was the first of those that really set the tone for what was to come.
On that night for the Wildcats against the West Sydney Razorbacks at Challenge Stadium, Tucker finished with 20 points, 13 rebounds, 10 assists and three steals on the back of shooting 7-of-14 from the floor, 1-of-1 from deep and 5-of-6 at the charity stripe.
The Wildcats won the game 118-113 with Sam Mackinnon also delivering a triple-double for the Razorbacks with 21 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.
Tucker would go on to average 17.7 points, 9.6 rebounds, 6.6 assists and 1.3 steals a game that season with the Wildcats that included the six triple-double performances. Over 139 games in the NBL with Perth, the Melbourne Tigers and Cairns Taipans, he put up 13.9 points, 7.4 boards and 3.9 assists.
MARTIN CATTALINI – CAIRNS TAIPANS
v Brisbane Bullets – November 22, 2006
Martin Cattalini is one player who might be underestimated when greats of the NBL are talked about, but all his remarkable scoring talents were on show when he put up 51 points for the Cairns Taipans against the Brisbane Bullets in the 2006/07 season.
Cattalini began his career with his hometown Perth Wildcats in 1993, winning a championship in 1995, and then joining the Adelaide 36ers going on to win titles in 1998 and 1999 as well.
His next NBL stop was in Cairns where he became the true go-to man on a talented team and he put up his career-best numbers.
That was highlighted on November 22, 2006 at Cairns Convention Centre with the Snakes beating the Bullets 122-119 and Cattalini putting in the performance of his career.
He finished with 51 points and 12 rebounds on the back of shooting 17-of-29 from the field, 5-of-11 from three-point range and 12-of-13 at the foul line.
It was the ultimate display of his full array of talents and it’s always surprising he isn’t up there in discussions among the great NBL players.
He was as pure a scorer for an Australian that the NBL has seen when allowed to thrive outside of Andrew Gaze.
Combine that with the fact that he won four championships and continued to be a strong contributor right up to his retirement after the 2010 title back in Perth, he deserves to be on this list for that 51-point performance and his career body of work.
JOHN RILLIE – TOWNSVILLE CROCODILES
v Perth Wildcats – February 18, 2009
It might not have been John Rillie’s career-high when he nailed 10 three-pointers for 34 points to sink the Perth Wildcats for the Townsville Crocodiles in 2009, but it sure is a performance to be part of folklore.
Rillie was nearing the end of his NBL playing career and had even been asked to take on a lesser role by coach Trevor Gleeson at times throughout that 2008/09 season, but in a cut-throat quarter-final at Perth’s Challenge Stadium, he delivered a performance for the ages.
With the odds stacked right against the Crocs, Rillie hit a remarkable 10 three-pointers to end the night with 34 points as Townsville came away with the 103-96 to set up a semi-final battle with eventual champions, the South Dragons.
There were plenty of other stars that night for the Crocodiles with Corey Williams putting up 28 points, eight rebounds, four steals and three assists. Brad Williamson nailed 4/9 threes for 19 points too but it will be forever the last great performance of the great 368-game career of Rillie.
KIRK PENNEY – NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
v Perth Wildcats – April 10, 2011
As far as clutch road performances with their team’s season on the line goes, it’s hard to go past what Kirk Penney did for the New Zealand Breakers in Game 2 of the semi-final series against the Perth Wildcats in 2011.
The Breakers had finished the season as regular season champions but then lost Game 1 to the defending champions at home by 23 points meaning they had to win at Challenge Stadium to force the decider back in Auckland.
Despite the cauldron like atmosphere against them in Perth, Penney put the Breakers on his back to deliver a performance to cement his legacy in the NBL and in New Zealand basketball.
Without doubt Penney deserves to be recognised as one of the best catch-and-shoot players in NBL history and his ability to work off picks and screens to get open is Reggie Miller-like.
But every player needs a defining performance and for Penney, it was that night in Perth. He finished with 38 points made up of shooting 9-of-20 from the field, 4-of-13 from three-point range and 16-of-20 at the free-throw line.
He might have had better shooting nights over his career, but never did he deliver a more crucial clutch performance. From there, the Breakers won Game 3 easily at home, beat the Cairns Taipans for the championship and went on to win four titles in five years in the NBL.
CEDRIC JACKSON – NEW ZEALAND BREAKERS
v Melbourne Tigers – November 30, 2012
With the NBL moving to 40-minute games for the 2009/10 season and beyond, triple-doubles have largely become a thing of the past but not for three-time championship winning New Zealand Breakers point guard Cedric Jackson.
Jackson joined the defending champion Breakers for the 2011/12 season making an immediate impact helping them to back-to-back championships.
He was back again for the 2012/13 season and put up some remarkable numbers including his triple-double haul against the Melbourne Tigers on November 30, 2012 at North Shore Events Centre.
Jackson finished the game with 28 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists and four steals on the back of shooting 12-of-17 from the floor, 2-of-4 from long range and 2-of-2 at the free-throw line.
The Breakers won the game 94-64 and would go on to win the championship, completing the three-peat and then won again in 2015 when Jackson returned after not being there for the 2013/14 season.
Having played four seasons with the Breakers made up of three championships and four Grand Finals, Jackson’s impact can’t be underestimated.
CHRIS GOULDING – MELBOURNE TIGERS
v Sydney Kings – March 9, 2014
The highest-scoring individual performance since the NBL reverted to 40-minute games came off the hot hand of Chris Goulding for the Melbourne Tigers late in the 2013/14 season against the Sydney Kings.
Goulding delivered 50 points for the Tigers in the 92-82 win over the Kings at Hisense Arena to be the first player to break the 50-point barrier since Ebi Ere delivered 51 points for the Brisbane Bullets against the Adelaide 36ers in 2008. But that was still a 48-minute game.
It was a performance for the ages by Goulding as he was simply unstoppable against the Kings.
He finished with the 50 points made up of shooting 20-of-33 from the field, 9-of-14 from beyond the three-point arc and just 1-of-3 at the foul line.
He played all 40 minutes of the game and also had six rebounds in the best individual performance in the current 40-minue era of the NBL.
BRYCE COTTON – PERTH WILDCATS
v Illawarra Hawks – March 5, 2017
Without question one of the best mid-season moves in NBL history came at the turn of the year last season when the Perth Wildcats signed Bryce Cotton.
The result was that the Wildcats went from the bottom of the table when he arrived to winning the championship and his impact on that happening was remarkable.
Cotton had already proven his value helping the Wildcats into the playoffs and then he went up another notch setting the tone with 34 points in Game 1 of the semi finals in Cairns against the Taipans.
But he had another gear to go still and he showed that in Game 3 of the Grand Final Series at Perth Arena against the Illawarra Hawks.
Cotton ended up with 45 points to secure the Grand Final MVP. He shot 12/17 from the field, 7/12 from deep and 14/15 at the stripe.
It was the best performance by any player at Perth Arena and best in a 40-minute Grand Final.
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