Basketball: Breakers, Tall Blacks great Tom Abercrombie to retire at end of ANBL season

An era will end at the conclusion of NZ Breakers' 2023/24 ANBL season, when captain Tom Abercrombie hangs up his low-cuts for good.

The veteran Tall Blacks swingman will step away from the sport at the end of the team's current campaign. They're in a battle to make the playoffs, needing to win at least one of their final two games to lock up a post-season berth.

Abercrombie's departure will bring the curtain down on one of New Zealand basketball's most decorated careers. 

Tom Abercrombie has played 425 games for the Breakers.
Tom Abercrombie has played 425 games for the Breakers. Photo credit: Getty Images

Through his 16 seasons, the Aucklander has played in all four of the Breakers' ANBL championships, winning the final series Most Valuable Player award in 2011. He's the only player to appear in all six of the team's trips to the finals.

In 2012, he received All-NBL First Team honours.

Emotions ran high at Tuesday's press conference, where a teary Abercrombie, 36, confronted the reality of leaving his beloved Breakers.

"Basketball has been a massive part of my life for as long as I can remember, providing me countless joys and experiences, but all good things must come to an end," said Abercrombie, after taking a moment to gather himself.

"I've been so lucky to spend my entire career playing for the Breakers - my hometown team - in front of my friends and family.

"Sport has taken me around the globe, but in doing so, has only reinforced that it's here, in this place with this team, where I've truly been able to find myself." 

Abercrombie has paid tribute to former owners Paul and Liz Blackwell for giving him his start with the side, his coaches and teammates, before making a special pledge to his family - including his three children.

"To my children, Pilot, Porter and Pacer - thanks you for letting your dad live out his dreams," he said, choking back his tears. "It's time for me to be there for you now."

Abercrombie made his debut for the Breakers in 2008, and holds the club record for points (4434), games played (425), field goals made (1536), three-pointers (568), free-throws (794), steals (302) and blocks (262).

"Playing for the Breakers has meant everything to me," he said.  

Tom Abercrombie dunks.
Tom Abercrombie dunks. Photo credit: Getty Images

"It's been about representing a family, a country, and a lot of people have put their heart and soul into this organisation."

In recent seasons, Abercrombie has seen his court-time diminish. During the current campaign, he's averaged just 19 minutes per game - his fewest since his 2008/9 debut - and he admits the writing had been on the wall "for a while" regarding his retirement.

"Going into this season, I knew it would be my last one," he noted. "I've tried to not think about it as much as possible.

"Probably halfway through the season was when I really made that decision in my head and talked to my family about it. It's snuck up on me, and once you sit here and start talking about it, it becomes a bit more real and emotional. 

Tom Abercrombie cuts down the net after winning game three of the NBL Grand Final series in 2011.
Tom Abercrombie cuts down the net after winning game three of the NBL Grand Final series in 2011. Photo credit: Getty Images

On the international stage, Abercrombie has made 110 appearances for the Tall Blacks, since his 2006 debut. He retired from international basketball last year.

"Tommy is one of the greatest players I've ever had the honour of coaching, but he's really one of the greatest people I've ever had the honour of meeting," said Breakers coach Mody Maor.

On Friday, Abercombie may play his final game at Auckland for the Breakers, when they face Brisbane Bullets in a must-win showdown.

"For almost 20 years, Tom has led the Breakers on and off the court, and embodied what it means to be a Breaker," said Breakers owner Matt Walsh. "I am personally very grateful for Tom’s partnership for the last six years and I can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds for him." 

Walsh confirms Abecrombie's No.10 jersey will be retired, and hang alongside fellow club greats and teammates Paul Henare, Dillon Boucher and CJ Bruton in the rafters of Spark Arena.

Abercrombie boasts career ANBL per game averages of 10.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists.