Tall Blacks big man, Rob Loe has today confirmed his retirement from the Tall Blacks, ending a remarkable 90-game career in the black jersey spanning 14 years (2009-2022).
The 31-year old’s decision comes following both his retirement from the New Zealand Breakers in the Australian NBL yesterday, and also the recent retirement of Tall Blacks teammate Tom Abercrombie – with whom Rob played in two World Cups (2014 and 2019) and a Commonwealth Games in 2018.
Rob says that the decision to retire from the Tall Blacks was both a simple and a difficult decision for him to make.
“It’s tough and it’s not at the same time; while I’m always proud to represent my country whenever I can and another chance to put the black jersey on would’ve been cool, ultimately my main focus now is just being home with my family,” says Rob.
“In terms of a World Cup there’s a lot that goes into it before the event and during it, a lot of time spent away from family and away from that next chapter of life that I want to start.”
Born in England, Rob grew up in Auckland where he attended Westlake Boys High School, helping the team win two national championships and being named the school’s most outstanding basketball player three years in a row.
It was in his final year at Westlake that Rob first represented New Zealand in the black jersey; the 6’11” centre a standout at the 2009 FIBA U19 World Championships in Auckland. At just 17 years – the youngest member of the team – he led the Junior Tall Blacks in scoring at 18.8ppg along with 7 rebounds. That same year, he made his senior Tall Blacks debut versus Australia to help win the 2009 FIBA Oceania Championships, this time as the youngest player in the tournament.
Rob says that he looks back on the birth of his Tall Blacks career with fond memories.
“One of the highlights [of my career] was when I first made the Tall Blacks back in 2009, it was an incredible experience for me as a young basketballer player – I was only 17 at the time,” says Rob.
“Just learning from the guys, Mika [Vukona] stands out for me especially, and all those older players on that team like Casey [Frank], Kirk [Penney], as a young athlete it just opened my eyes to the world through basketball and it was an incredible experience.”
Subsequent appearances in the 2011 Oceania Champs and 2012 World Cup qualifier games, while also playing college ball for at St Louis University in the United States, earned Rob the starting centre position for the Tall Blacks at the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.
On the world’s biggest basketball stage for the first time – at times facing up against NBA stars Anthony Davis, Jonas Valanciunas and DeMarcus Cousins – 22-year-old Rob showed glimpses of his talent; averaging 3.5ppg and 2.8rpg over 6 games, including an 11 point, 6 rebound showing against Turkey where he shot 3-4 from downtown. Rob says it was an eye-opening experience for him.
“The first World Cup in Spain was just incredible; just an amazing chance to compete against the best basketball players in the world.”
In 2018, Rob was part of the bronze medal-winning Tall Blacks team at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, averaging 9.4ppg and 5rpg. His next pinnacle event was the 2019 FIBA World Cup in China, where he averaged 11ppg, 4.8rpg and 3.2apg while showcasing his shooting ability – hitting 12/23 (52%) from outside over five games, second only to Corey Webster in the squad.
Most recently, Rob appeared in the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2023 Asian Qualifiers where he helped the Tall Blacks secure a place in the 2023 FIBA World Cup, averaging 14.3ppg and 9rpg over four contests. His last appearance was at home in Auckland last August, with the centre tallying 9 points and 6 rebounds in New Zealand’s emphatic 100-72 win over Jordan.
Rob says it has always important for him to wear the black singlet with honour, as playing for a New Zealand national team – in any sporting code – is a massive privilege for any athlete.
“There’s an immense amount of pride that goes into wearing the black jersey; it’s an honour every time I get a chance to put it on, and it’s a testament to the type of people who have been around the Tall Blacks over the years; from past and present players to our athletes of the future. Everyone jumps at the opportunity to put it on – and when you put it on, you feel like you’re part of the family and you do whatever you can for your brothers.”
Rob’s message to his Tall Blacks teammates for the upcoming FIBA World Cup – which tips off from 26 August to 10 September in the Philippines – is simple.
“My message is just ‘go with confidence’, you know we’re a small country but we do big things on the world stage and we’ve shown it in the past and we can show it again this year.”