This episode we’re going back to the days when the NBL had no TV coverage and was played in tin sheds. our regular host of the Aussie Hoopla podcast Dan Boyce sits down with two-time NBL Champion and the man who still holds the record for the most points ever scored in the NBL (71 points) “Mean Al” Green.
We decided to get Al Green’s thoughts on the Adelaide 36ers plans to add an extra championship to their resume, that being won by Green and West Adelaide in 1982.
New Adelaide 36ers owner Grant Kelley told Boti Nagy in March about plans to combine the histories of the West Adelaide Bearcats and the Adelaide 36ers.
“I’d never want to take the (championship) banner West Adelaide Bearcats won in 1982,” he said.
“But I believe we can add it to the four the 36ers have won because West became part of the club.” Kelley said.
The Bearcats were one of the NBL’s founding teams in 1979, they won a title three years later behind stars Leroy Loggins, Ken Richardson and Al Green. The 1982 Bearcats team is the only team to ever feature three NBL MVP’s on one squad. The Bearcats finished runners-up in 1983 grand final before falling on financial difficulties in 1984 which caused the club to vacate the NBL.
In 1985 the Adelaide 36ers took advantage of this by replacing current coach Mike Osbourne with Bearcats coach Ken Cole and added five former Bearcats players Al Green, Ray Woods, Don Shipway, David Spear and Peter Ali to their roster in 1985.
“We had five guys join the 36ers that year… and the coach. That was the nucleus of Adelaide 36ers and thats where the history of the clubs was really made” said Green.
After the Adelaide 36ers strengthened its roster with West Adelaide talent they were able to finish in the NBL’s top two teams for the next four years. The highlight being the well-known championship run in 1986 where they became known as “The Untouchables”.
The 36ers went 24-2 in 1986, a 92% winning percentage that no NBL team has ever matched since. During that run, Al Green was the club’s starting point guard and leader as they defeated the Brisbane Bullets to claim the club’s first title.
“It’s so important because that West Adelaide merger is where the history was made, people don’t understand that, there’s “No Untouchables” for the 36ers if that doesn’t happen”
The 1986 season and West Adelaide’s impact on it did more for South Australia than simply grow the sport of basketball. The 1986 championship and four years of the club sitting at the top of the ladder resulted in sell-out crowds at their home court, the 3,000 seat Apollo Stadium.
These sell-outs prompted the government to invest in building a much larger entertainment venue and the 12,000 seats at the Titanium Security Arena (Adelaide Arena) was the result. The Arena has since featured netball, theatre and musical acts which have all be able to travel and perform in Adelaide as a result of the success the club generated between 1985-1988.
The success of Adelaide basketball in the 1980’s helped grow the Adelaide 36ers into the club it is today, one of the elite franchises in Australia sport.
It could be fair to say without the West Adelaide Bearcats part in South Australian history there would be no 12,000 stadium and the state would not have been privy to many sporting or musical acts who have traveled and performed in the Adelaide Arena since.
Dan took the opportunity to discuss many other topics with Al Green, these included;
- Memories of his time playing at Louisiana State University and playing for legendary NCAA coach Dale Brown.
- Facing racial attacks from the Ku Klux Klan which included seeing burning crosses on the way to games and once having a shotgun held to his head.
- Al talks about how he won the Stawell Gift and how he almost represented Australia in the Commonwealth Games in 100m sprint.
- Did you know Al Green was the reason Magic Johnson played college basketball for Michigan State instead of North Carolina State, he explains how that went down.
- Al Green was drafted into the NBA by the Houston Rockets and also trialled with the Phoenix Suns in the 1980’s, he shares what the NBA was like at the time after they had just merged with the ABA.
- The NFL were also interested in Al, despite the fact he’d never played American Football. He explains how that happened and why he chose basketball over NFL.
- Al has made many friends over his career and he shares experiences he had with players like Magic Johnson, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, etc.
- In 1982 Al Green was MVP of the league but wasn’t named in the All-NBL 1st team, we discuss how that could have happened.
- Thoughts on the standard of imports in today’s NBL.
- Memories of his three years playing for the Newcastle Falcons
And to top it all off, we get him to take us through exactly what happened, the day he dropped 71 points in an NBL game.