NBA

Luc Longley: The Incredible Journey of the First Australian to Make the NBA

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Luc Longley overcame all odds to become a three-time NBA champion. His journey to the NBA is one of the most unique and unknown stories of all time.

Luc Longley was born in Melbourne but grew up in Perth, a city in Western Australia. He attended Scotch College in Perth and was relatively unknown during his school days. He ended up being discovered by the head coach of the University of New Mexico, who was in Perth to scout one of his teammates.  However, it was Longley who attracted the coach’s attention and ended up being recruited to join the university team.

After all four years in college, Longley had climbed up NBA teams radars. He was 7’2” and had averages of 19 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 blocks. Longley even led the Lobos to the NCAA tournament in his senior year.

In the 1991 NBA draft, the Minnesota Timberwolves selected Longley with the 7th overall pick. Longley found the transition to the NBA difficult, averaging just 5 points per game through his first two seasons. Midway through his third season, Minnesota traded Longley to the Chicago Bulls. 

LONGLEY TAKES OFF WITH THE BULLS

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The Chicago Bulls won 72 games in the 1995/1996 season. The Australian began to play his best basketball, as he was promoted to the starting lineup by legendary coach Phil Jackson. The season ended with a title, Chicago defeating the Seattle Supersonics in six games.

Longley became not only the first Australian to play in the NBA but also the first Australian to win an NBA championship. He remained on the team during the “Last Dance,” season, winning the 1998 NBA title and sealing the Bulls second three-peat. In what would be his final year with Chicago, the big man took his game even further. Longley averaged career highs in the three main statistical categories.

Longley went on to spend his next two years in Phoenix, before retiring after a final season in New York due to Degenerative Arthritis in his foot, at age 32. He struggled with health for much of his career, sometimes juggling multiple injuries. He addressed how difficult this struggle was to the Guardian in 2013.  

“My biggest job in the NBA was not guarding Shaquille O’Neal or learning post-moves, it was managing my body.”

Luc Longley on The Guardian

LIFE AFTER BASKETBALL

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After the NBA, Longley moved back to Western Australia, where he distanced himself from the game. He initially struggled to deal with the reality of not being a player anymore. Despite buying a small stake in the NBL’s Perth Wildcats, Longley did not reconnect with the game until he was asked by Brett Brown to mentor a young Aron Baynes. 

Today, Longley lives a quiet life in a small town on the coast of Western Australia. He serves as an assistant coach for the Australian National Basketball team. He will forever be remembered as the trailblazer for Australian players in the NBA. Australia is now one of the world’s biggest basketball nations, with an elite national team along with a rising domestic league. Much of this can be credited to Longley, who will forever go down in the history of Australian Basketball. 

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  1. […] Pippen played 11 seasons with the Chicago Bulls, racking up seven all-star appearances and six championships during that run. His time in Chicago […]

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