The annual National Māori Basketball tournament reached new heights in 2021 after record number of entrants turned out for the week-long event.
Iwi from around the country put together 284 teams across 34 different grades, with games being scattered across various venues in Rotorua from 26-30 January – Rotorua Energy Events Centre, Rotorua Girls High School, John Paul College and Western Heights College.
Organising Committee Member Paxman Taurima said the growth of the competition over a relatively short time has been astonishing.
“Last year we had around 220 teams and the year before that we had about 190, so in as little as two years we’ve had another 100 teams enter the tournament.
“While basketball is certainly the focal point of everyone travelling to Rotorua, you could argue that it’s the off-court activities and interactions that deserve the credit for drawing more people in each year.
“I’ve been around since the beginning and I never would have imagined that it [the tournament] would be what it is today. It’s really been mind-blowing”
Paxman Taurima tie to the tournament runs deeper than most with the idea for the gathering stemming from his father, Willie Taurima.
The Māori basketball stalwart put the wheels in motion in the early years of last decade before finally staging the inaugural tournament in 2014.
“The first go-round had about 50 teams, many of which we begged to take part, but dad [Willie] was adamant that it would pick up,” Paxman Taurima added.
“I don’t think a lot of people thought that there would be a collective buy-in for just a basketball tournament, but what’s happened is that it’s become so much more than a game. For many participants, it’s an opportunity to reconnect with their extended whānau and strengthen ties to their iwi.
“Everyone who plays has to also lend a hand with the running of play outside of their games, whether that be score bench, refereeing or general volunteering.
As well as having winners for each grade, a grand prize, named the Willie Taurima Memorial Trophy after his passing in 2018, is awarded to the iwi who have not only won grades but who also best demonstrated the tikanga of the event. This award has been won by Ngāti Toa, winners of five gold medals in 2021, every year since it was introduced.
The national Māori representative sides are also selected from the fixtures across the week, where the teams are hoping to compete in World Indigenous Games later this year.
Top Five Iwi (Placing)
- Ngāti Toa
- Ngāti Kahungunu ki Heretaunga
- Te Arawa
- Ngāti Raukawa kit e Tonga
For more on the 2021 Māori Basketball Tournament, its history and results, click here.