Basketball: NZ Breakers hope to draw on history with return to spiritual home of North Shore Events Centre

North Shore Events Centre is full of memories for NZ Breakers captain Tom Abercrombie.

This was the venue he grew up playing basketball and watching the Auckland club play its early seasons in the Australian NBL.

Four years into his own Breakers career, he was named Most Valuable Player, as they won a championship - the first of four - on NSEC's parquet floor and this was where he helped them to their most recent crown in 2015.

Young Tom Abercrombie (circa 2013) rises high above the NSEC basket.
Young Tom Abercrombie (circa 2013) rises high above the NSEC basket. Photo credit: Photosport

Six years have passed since the Breakers last played at the boutique Northcote gym, but they return there this weekend at a pivotal point in their quest to reach the ANBL playoffs next month.

"Many memories, obviously playing with the Breakers, but all my junior basketball as well," reflected Abercrombie, 36, who has spent 16 seasons with the club. "It's a special place for me and the club.

"You say six years, but it doesn't feel that long. It's great to be back."

North Shore Events Centre will always be the spiritual home of the Breakers, who played their first 15 seasons there. With a seating capacity of only 4000, it was deemed too small and outdated, after American Matt Walsh purchased the team in 2018, and home games were moved to Spark Arena downtown.

Over his 400-plus games for the club, Abercrombie has played 86 of those at NSEC, winning 65 - a 76 percent success rate. The Breakers have won 100/145 on this court... or its predecessor, at least. 

"They've upgraded the floor since last time we were here," observed Abercrombie. "We don't have the poo-brown on the TV to look at, which is good.

"You don't get as many people as Spark, but everyone's packed in a little closer. There's a bit more of a buzz about it, it's a fun environment to play in and, having been here as kid to watch games, it's a fun environment to watch too.

"This place gets rocking, it gets rowdy. People come out of their shells here and that doesn't always happen on the Shore, but this is a safe place for them to get loud and rowdy." 

The Breakers will hope to recapture some of that feral element for their Friday night appointment with Tasmania Jackjumpers, who have duplicated that atmosphere in their own home venues over their first three seasons in the league.

With seven games remaining on their schedule, the home team lag two wins outside the top-six playoff positions and calculate they may need five victories to sneak into the post-season.

Ekene Ibekwe hits a buzzerbeater to win the 2014/15 ANBL championship at NSEC.
Ekene Ibekwe hits a buzzerbeater to win the 2014/15 ANBL championship at NSEC. Photo credit: Photosport

Coach Mody Maor has never stalked the sidelines of now-Eventfinda Stadium, but he is well aware of the karma flowing through its rafters, where the retired jerseys of club legends Dillon Boucher, Paul Henare and CJ Bruton hang. 

"Part of what makes this place special is its history and its roots," he said. "This is where it all started.

"When we practice here, I feel it... when we come here to watch the Tall Blacks or the NZBL, I feel it. I'm excited we get a chance to play here."

Maor hopes a little of that history rubs off on his outfit, so they can create a little more.