While the Bendigo Basketball Association commenced in 1947, the first basketball game played in Bendigo was organised by Mr Claude Pang on 26th July 1938.
Teams were made up primarily from members of the Returned Services League and were originally located at the Defence Forces Army drill hall in Mundy St. The floor was unpolished timber and the numbers of teams small, but the competition was always fierce.
Following these early days the Bendigo YMCA became involved in the promotion and conduct of the basketball competitions and the games moved from the drill hall to an outside court at the YMCA in the early 1950’s. Court lights were operated by a coin in the slot resulting in arguments in the dark over which team had to pay. Interest in the competitions was high with a feature match broadcast live on radio every Thursday evening. Games were also played at the Bendigo Prison and an under sized court at the Bendigo Teachers College.The new Mundy St YMCA stadium was constructed in 1965. The Bendigo Basketball Association started on the 12th July that year with 8 mens, 9 womens and 9 junior boys teams. On the 4th December 1968, 4 junior girls teams joined the Association. Competitions for men and women and junior boys and girls expanded and Bendigo soon became a very successful Association in the Victorian Country leagues.
In 1969 competitions had expanded to a point that both the womens and mens competitions could not be accommodated at the YMCA and so Bendigo Womens Basketball formed the Sandhurst Association and moved home base to the Bendigo Showgrounds where games where played on asphalt courts.
In February 1976 both men’s and women’s basketball in Bendigo rejoined to conduct all competitions at the new West Bendigo Stadium. This new 2 court Stadium featured a main court capable of seating 1,000 spectators. Over the next 15 years the Bendigo Basketball Association grew rapidly with National Junior Championships and National Senior Finals conducted at the new venue.
Basketball participation numbers continued to expand and additional school stadiums were used to cope with the overflow of competitions. In 1985 the BBA was made up of a total of 89 teams. The growth in the membership of teams since that time has been steady and at times significant. In 2003 the BBA competition involves 330 teams.
Bendigo now has the reputation of being a powerhouse of Australian basketball. Both at junior and senior level Bendigo players and teams have shined. The Bendigo Braves entered the SEABL in 1985 as the first Country Association representative and proved to be immediately successful in attracting community support and winning a national championship in 1988. The Braves went one better in 2005 by winning the ABA National final as well as the South Conference final. The Lady Braves culminated their dominance of Victorian Country basketball by also stepping up to become National Champions in 2001. This was followed by another National ABA title in 2003.
The annual Junior Classic Tournament held on the Australia day holiday weekend has continued to grow each year with some 35 associations participating with over 240 teams playing on 16 courts around the city. This tournament has become the premier junior basketball tournament for country Victoria.
The Bendigo Sports and Entertainment Group was formed as Bendigo Stadium Ltd in 1989 as the management and financial arm of the Bendigo Basketball Association. The initial role of BSEG was to take up a lease on the West Bendigo Recreation Reserve and to take responsibility of the loan funding to extend the West Bendigo Stadium from 2 to 5 courts in creating the New Schweppes Centre.
BSEG is a not-for-profit community based organisation also operating as a licensed Club with the primary function of providing the management for the operation of the Bendigo Schweppes Centre. Built onto the original West Bendigo Stadium the new Schweppes Centre provided expanded facilities from 1991 to meet the growing demand for indoor sporting facilities in the Bendigo region.
In 2003 the completion of the $4.8m Schweppes Centre development has taken the home of Bendigo basketball to a higher level – 7 courts and first class facilities for all members. In 2014 the local domestic competition has 385 teams, the Junior Braves 19 teams and Senior Braves 4 teams.
In 2022 a new look took shape. New naming rights partner Red Energy came on board, rebranding Bendigo Stadium to Red Energy Arena. After significant developments in 2019 and a new main court arena it is now the largest indoor stadium in regional Victoria, with over 10,000 people come through the doors each week for basketball activities.
The Bendigo Basketball Association is extremely proud of players and officials who have achieved international status from Bendigo including Jontee Brown, Bree Wright, Rhonda Vise, Nina Cass, Max Brisbane, Kristi Harrower, Aaron Trahair, Glen Saville, Mathew Campbell, Emily McInerny and Tim Mills.