Head coach of the British Basketball League's Sheffield Sharks, Atiba Lyons, recently called the league the "UK's best kept sporting secret."
For those that already follow the league religiously, it's no secret at all. They frequently see exciting late-game comebacks, dramatic buzzer beaters, and plenty of shocking results that make Lyons' statement a valid one.
Case in point, these most surprising BBL games.
April 2, 1999: Sheffield Sharks 87, Manchester Giants 85
The finish to the 1998-99 BBL regular season was the league's most dramatic. In front of the second largest crowd to ever watch a basketball game in England, at the time, Sheffield and Manchester battled to the final buzzer in a winner-takes-all regular season championship.
The Sharks and Giants were tied in points at the top of the table, but late in the game it was Sheffield that held a 10-point lead. That lead faded quickly and with 3.5 seconds left the game was tied 85-85. Unsurprisingly, the Sharks put the ball in the hands of the man that won them the National Cup on a buzzer beater earlier that year, Terrell Myers. Off the inbound, Myers faked out two Giants defenders and hit an 18-footer to give Sheffield their second league title in four seasons.
12 January 2014: Leicester Riders 72, Newcastle Eagles 69
For a few years now, Leicester and Newcastle have been the class of British basketball. To identify where this burgeoning rivalry was born, you don't need to look back much further than the 2012-13 BBL Cup Final, where Leicester edged out the Eagles to win their first Cup ever, 85-80.
Leicester overcame a late 11-point deficit to win the 2013-14 BBL Cup Final
Newcastle had the chance to exact revenge the following season and with an 11-point lead in the final six minutes, it appeared they would. But the Eagles' offense let up off the pedal, scoring just nine points in the final quarter. Two huge threes gave Leicester the lead with a minute to play, which they held onto for their second straight Cup win at the Eagles' expense.
06 January 2017: Essex Lions 86-84 Manchester Giants
One thing fans and punters alike love about British hoops is its level of parity that makes it impossible to predict what will happen on any given night, let alone in the league's knockout competitions. Case in point, the recent BBL Trophy matchup between Essex and Manchester.
Although Manchester is having an abysmal BBL campaign, they were still listed as -10000 favourites against Division 1/second-tier Essex online, where a wide range of sportsbooks means that you can wager on most sports including basketball, in the first round of the BBL trophy. But the Leopards' two former BBL talents Darrell Bethune and Mike Martin combined for 52 points, giving Essex the upset win and making any punter that took their +1150-money line look like a genius.
13 January 2008: Milton Keynes Lions 69-66 Newcastle Eagles
Possibly the biggest upset ever in a BBL Cup, the Milton Keynes (now London) Lions were tasked with taking on Newcastle in the 2007-08 Final. Despite having a long history, the Lions had little to show for it in their mostly empty trophy case. That wasn't really expected to change, as Newcastle were the established power of the league and just two years removed from winning all four major trophies in a single season.
To have any sort of shot, Milton Keynes needed to play out of their minds. After getting a slow start out of the way, they did. Thirteen-made three pointers gave them enough of a cushion to withstand a late Eagles' rally and to win their first ever major trophy.
23 November 2014: Leicester Riders 84-85 Glasgow Rocks
Ahead of their 2014 quarterfinal meeting, Leicester were the two-time defending BBL Cup champions, whereas Glasgow hadn't made it past the quarterfinals in seven years. Understandably, casual and diehard fans alike predicted a comfortable Riders victory.
Instead, it looked like it would be just a narrow one, as Leicester held just two-point lead with only two seconds remaining. That's when the Rocks' Kieron Achara bobbled an inbound pass in Leicester's' own end, then turned and threw up a prayer from 30 feet out. The ball careened off the backboard and through the net as the buzzer sounded, delivering a shocking end to Leicester's dreams of a Cup three-peat.
14 April 2012: Newcastle Eagles 74-82 Mersey Tigers
Ahead of the 2011-12 BBL season, some didn't even expect defending-champions Mersey to field a team due to financial issues. After a delayed start to their season, the Tigers eventually began play but saw a massive drop-off in performance from the prior year. Instead, 2011-12 belonged to Newcastle, who for the second time in their history won all four major competitions.
Given the Eagles' status as the UK's most successful hoops club, a repeat of this feat wasn't that unexpected. Title-challengers Plymouth lost on April 11 that season, officially clinching the league title for Newcastle. Amid great fanfare, the championship trophy would be presented a few days later at their next home game. But those meddlesome Tigers (who finished second from the bottom in the league) dampened the celebrations, pulling off a surprise 74-82 road win at Sport Central.
12 February 2016: London Lions 82-90 Surrey Scorchers
In their first season as the Scorchers, Surrey was anything but hot in the middle of the 2015-16 campaign. Heading into a mid-February road match against London, the Scorchers hadn't recorded a league win in nearly two months.
Late into the fourth quarter, it appeared that run would extend to 0-8. Down 21, Surrey finally seemed to reignite, scoring 11 straight baskets. That allowed the Scorchers to reclaim their first lead of the game since the opening quarter, outscore the Lions 35-6 in the fourth, and finally get back in the win column.
Townsville Heat adds Anderson to their roster, ex Cheshire P. - 1 day ago
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Townsville Heat (QBL) added to their roster 27-year old British forward Jamell Anderson (200-90). He just played at Cheshire Phoenix in British BBL league. In 33 games he recorded 10.7ppg, 5.0rpg, 2.5apg and 1.9spg this season. The last season Anderson played at Leicester Riders (also in BBL) where in 34 games he averaged 6.6ppg, 3.2rpg and 1.5apg. He helped them to win the regular season and make it to the final. They also played in the Cup final. A very spectacular season in his career... [read more]
Townsville Heat (QBL) added to their roster 27-year old British forward Jamell Anderson (200-90). He just played at Cheshire Phoenix in British BBL league. In 33 games he recorded 10.7ppg, 5.0rpg, 2.5apg and 1.9spg this season. The last season Anderson played at Leicester Riders (also in BBL) where in 34 games he averaged 6.6ppg, 3.2rpg and 1.5apg. He helped them to win the regular season and make it to the final. They also played in the Cup final. A very spectacular season in his career as he was voted to Eurobasket.com British BBL All-Defensive Team. The list of the past achievements is quite long as among others Anderson's team won British BBL Cup for two years in a row (2013 and 2014). He represented United Kingdom at the 3x3 World Championships in Greece five years ago. Anderson has played also professionally for other British teams like Nottingham Tribe and Essex Pirates.
It's our penultimate line-up of 2016-17 and while a trio took their last opportunity to shine as their respective seasons came to an end, two of our starters will be hoping to re-appear as they head into the Play-Offs! Mike DiNunno (Cheshire Phoenix) As the curtain fell on an eventful season at Phoenix, the playmaker signed off his participation in spectacular style with a typically influential contribution. Di Nunno lit it up at Cheshire Oaks Arena against Leeds Force by harvesting a ma... [read more]
It's our penultimate line-up of 2016-17 and while a trio took their last opportunity to shine as their respective seasons came to an end, two of our starters will be hoping to re-appear as they head into the Play-Offs!
Mike DiNunno (Cheshire Phoenix) As the curtain fell on an eventful season at Phoenix, the playmaker signed off his participation in spectacular style with a typically influential contribution. Di Nunno lit it up at Cheshire Oaks Arena against Leeds Force by harvesting a massive 36 points in just 22 minutes, after sinking a sizzling eight scores from beyond the three-point line. He also had three rebounds, three assists and not a single turnover during his time on court.
Callum Jones (193-G-85, college: Pace) (Manchester Giants) They may have finished propping up the table, but there was at least a smile of sorts heading into the summer for Giants as they ended their participation with an exciting home win against Plymouth Raiders. That was largely down to a magnificent effort from Jones, as he led his team to victory with a quite brilliant line. The guard finished with a majestic double-double of 26 points and 16 rebounds, while adding seven assists for good measure.
Earl Brown (Cheshire Phoenix) Finishing the season with a flourish and arguably the most consistent performer throughout a campaign of changes for Phoenix, Brown was in scintillating form against Leeds. While his team-mate DiNunno excelled in the backcourt, the forward scythed down Force by registering a huge double-double. He did the business in the paint with an astonishing 84% from the field for 28 points and also added 14 boards and five steals.
Leslee Smith (Bristol Flyers) Despite their worrying start to the season, Flyers find themselves in the Play-Offs after a weekend win double which catapulted them into seventh place. It was imperative Flyers got off to a positive start in their double-header and Smith brought the noise in a big way against Manchester. He was sensational and very much the difference-maker in a hard-fought victory against Giants with a monumental 19-point and 21-rebound double-double to delight the locals.
Tony Wroblicky (DBL Sharks Sheffield) The Sharks are now looking to defend the BBL Play-Off title they famously won at The 02 in London last May and if they manage to do it, you can expect Wroblicky to have a big hand in it. He was on fire for Sharks as they ended Worcester's record winning streak by beating them on the road and in front of the BBC Sport cameras. He weighed in with an outstanding double-double of 25 points and 13 rebounds, also not spilling the ball once in 30 minutes on the hardwood.
Off the Bench - Rashad Hassan (London Lions), Kieron Achara (Glasgow Rocks), Jermaine Sanders (Leeds Force), Rahmon Fletcher (Esh Group Eagles Newcastle), Hameed Ali (Bristol Flyers), Chaz Rollins (Surrey Scorchers), Rob Marsden (Leeds Force).
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