The Brisbane Bullets were founded in 1979 by Bob Young and Fred Van Dongen. Fred represented Brisbane at the NBL’s foundation meeting in an empty airline hangar at Sydney airport and had this to say about their thinking at the time.
“We feared if we didn’t go in it from the start, we wouldn’t get another chance. So we went for it.” – Fred Van Dongen
From that meeting the Bullets became one of ten foundation teams, joining two clubs each from Melbourne, Sydney and Adelaide as well as the Canberra Cannons, Newcastle Falcons and Illawarra Hawks to form the National Basketball League.
The first Bullets game was played on Saturday 24 February, 1979. A couple of hundred people gathered at Auchenflower Stadium for the birth of a new addition to the Queensland sporting landscape. The Bullets winning tradition would begin from that very first game, with a 77-70 victory over eventual grand final participants the Canberra Cannons.
Bob Young coached the inaugural side and Bruce Fitzgerald was named captain. The team wore red & white uniforms reflected the city's colours and floral emblem, the Poinsettia.
The Bullets competed in 30 consecutive seasons for the club, from 1979 to 2008 with a win/loss of 483-385. In this time, they made it to the postseason 21 times, winning 66% of their home games on the way to three Championships.
The first Brisbane Bullets NBL Championship came in 1985 where they defeated Adelaide and had a regular season record of 20-6, after finishing Runners-Up in 1984.
“Not many people realise that the Bullets were the first team to bring a national competition trophy to Brisbane in the professional era.” – Brian Kerle
Brian Kerle was head coach of the side from 1984-1992. In that time the Bullets had a winning record of 65%, reaching the play-offs six times, with two championships and two runners up finishes.
The second Brisbane Championship came in 1987 where the Bullets defeated the Perth Wildcats. That season, Leroy Loggins not only won the Grand Final MVP, but also the League MVP (his third, also 1984 & 1986) and defensive player of the year.
The Bullets third and most recent NBL title was won in 2007. In that season the team went on a 21-game winning streak, an NBL record that is still held today. Current Bullets assistant coaches, Sam Mackinnon and CJ Bruton were integral members of the team coached by Joey Wright. Defeating the Melbourne Tigers in a best of five Grand Finals series, Sam Mackinnon was named the Larry Sengstock Medalist (Grand Final MVP) along with being awarded the NBL MVP and Best Defensive Player. Joey Wright also received Coach of the Year.
Despite narrowly missing out on a Grand Final appearance in the 2007/08 season, the Bullets departed from the league after the former owner was forced to sell the club, handing back the license to the NBL.
After years of public outcry to reinstate the Brisbane Bullets, moves were finally put in place to have the Bullets return to the league for the 2016–17 season. The Australian Boomers coach at the time, Andrej Lemanis was brought in to steer the newly reinstated team and remains head coach of the side to date.
The team primarily adopted the traditional Queensland sporting colours of maroon and gold and returned to their former home venue at the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre, Southbank. With the Entertainment Centre at Boondall as the Bullets alternate venue.
In 2017/18 the primary uniform colours changed to blue and gold reflecting the traditional Brisbane Bullets club colours.
The Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre and the Brisbane Entertainment Centre played home to the Bullets over the years however they found a new place to call home ahead of the 2019/20 season.
For the first time since re-entering the competition in 2016, the Brisbane Bullets were able to practice, play and recover at the one facility, with the club moving to a brand new, state of the art facility in Nissan Arena.
The NBL and the Brisbane Bullets saw substantial growth in all areas including game attendance, TV viewership and across all digital platforms in the 2019/20 season and will look to grow in NBL21 and beyond.
3 (1985, 1987, 2007)
NBL Grand Final Appearances
6 (1984–87, 1990, 2007)
NBL Hall of Fame Inductees
Cal Bruton (1998), Larry Sengstock (2006), Danny Morseu (2002), Brian Kerle (2006), Leroy Loggins (2006)
Leroy Loggins (1984, 1986, 1987), Derek Rucker (1990), Steve Woodberry (1999), Sam Mackinnon (2006/07)
NBL Coach of The Year
Brian Kerle (1984, 1990), Joey Wright (2004, 2007)
NBL Grand Final MVP
Leroy Loggins (1987); Sam Mackinnon (2007)
All NBL First Team
Brian Banks (1980), Larry Sengstock (1982), Leroy Loggins (1984–88, 1990, 1993–94), Andre Moore (1990), Derek Rucker (1990), Steve Woodberry (1998/99), Stephen Black (2004), Sam Mackinnon (2007), Ebi Ere (2008), Lamar Patterson (2018/19, 2019/20)
All NBL Second Team
Randy Rutherford (2001/02), Bobby Brannen (2003/04, 2004/05), Sam McKinnon (2005/06), C.J. Bruton (2007/08), Torrey Craig (2016/17), Daniel Kickert (2016/17)
NBL Most Improved
Wade Helliwell (2002), Reuben Te Rangi (2018/19), Will Magnay (2019-20)
NBL Defensive Player
Leroy Loggins (1987, 1990), Ben Castle (2003/04), Sam Mackinnon (2006/07), Torrey Craig (2016/17)
NBL Rookie of the Year
Shane Heal (1988), John Rillie (1995)
NBL Sixth Man
Mike McKay (1996), Reuben Te Rangi (2018/19), Jason Cadee (2019/20)
Four Bullets have been immortalised with the clubs' greatest honour of having their jersey number permanently retired:
#30 Leroy Loggins, leads every statistical category for the Brisbane Bullets, setting the club records for total points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals over a legendary 513 game career, with twelve seasons as team captain. A two time 'Leaping Leroy' is a member of the NBL Hall of Fame and the league's pre-season trophy is named after him.
#22 Ron Radliff is remembered as a prolific three-point shooter over 188 games and is the only person to be a part of all three Bullets NBL Championships; two as a player and one as an assistant coach in 2007. 'The Rat' is top six all time in points, field goals, three-point field goals, three-point percentage, assists and steals.
#7 Larry Sengstock captained the club to two championships in 1985 and 1987, and a run of four consecutive Grand Final appearances from 1984-1987. He is top 10 all time in Bullets' points, rebounds, assists, steals, blocks and free throws compiled over a 208 game career. Larry is a member of the NBL Hall of Fame and the league's Grand Final MVP Medal is named in his honour.
#52 Robert Sibley played the second highest amount of games for the club at 305 games, and was part of both the 1985 and 1987 Championship teams. ‘The Baseline Bandit’ was an integral part of the club during the 80’s and 90’s and as a Brisbane born and bred champion, synonymous with an era of Bullets Basketball success.