Basketball’s golden era is popularly accepted to be between the ’80s and 90s. Great players from the era include the legendary Michael Jordan whose name and plays still influence the game in the present.

Considering the sheer talent of players that left the world in awe during those years is enough proof of how great the period was.

The same is true for Adelaide’s 36ers, more locally known as the Sixers. They are southern Australia’s only representative in the NBL (National Basketball League).

While they are still active and demonstrate much power as a competing team today, their golden days can be traced to their performance in the 1980s. It was during their first decade in the league, that they were also able to secure their first grand championship.

The Team’s Founding

grant kelley

It started when the West Adelaide Bearcats were left as the sole representative of the region in 1982. The region’s basketball association decided to round up members from state league teams to form a club named Adelaide City Eagles.

That year, the Bearcats won the championship, but the Eagles earned a solid 7th place despite it being their first season.

The next year, Adelaide City Eagles changed their name to Adelaide 36ers as a nod to South Australia’s colony proclamation in 1936. The name may had brought them some good fortune as they finished 6th and 3rd during that year and the next, respectively.

In 1984, the team got their first shot at the finals by going head-to-head with Nunawading Spectres. It was the last year they were headed by Mike Osborne as head coach and the start of major changes in team composition.

Major Team Transformation

Between seasons, West Adelaide Bearcats dropped off the league due to financial constraints.  The Sixers absorbed several well-performing Bearcats and faced the 1985 season with a merged bench of players.

In the same year, Olympic representative Ken Cole stepped in as head coach. The 1985 Sixers team consisted of imports, rookies, and veterans.

They worked their way up to the finals where they faced the Brisbane Bullets. It was a predicted win in the semi-finals but despite stellar scores during the earlier stages, they failed short of the crown after two matches.

The 1986 Championship Title

Adelaide 36ers’ Golden Era

Going into the next season, the coach Cole continued to assign new positions strategically and the key players responded in kind. The team came out undefeated in their hometown matches and bagged the Championship title with a sizeable difference in wins from the runner-up.

The Sixers landed several spots in the Semi-finals and Finals after winning the championship in 1986. It was not until 1998 that they got hold again of the top spot of the season.

Adelaide’s Sixers in the Present


Today, the club is currently owned by the notable tycoon, Grant Kelly, who swears on continuing South Australia’s passion for basketball. The Sixers had undergone much improvement under Kelly’s custody and continue to impress the public with their performance both locally and overseas.

Their home games are held at Adelaide Entertainment Centre, with tickets are being sold out regularly for Sixers matches. Being the sole representative of the region, the team receives much love and support from their local fans.