Basketball: Last shot at numbering up

By Kris Shannon

After 20 years and six Australian NBL titles, CJ Bruton plays his final game for the Breakers tonight. He tells Kris Shannon about the numbers that marked his career.

Breaker's veteran CJ Bruton plays his last game in the Aussie NBL tonight. Photo / Greg Bowker
Breaker's veteran CJ Bruton plays his last game in the Aussie NBL tonight. Photo / Greg Bowker

7 First basketball memory
When I was 7, any time Dad (Calvin Bruton, snr) was playing, we'd go as a family, wish him luck, and when he went in the locker room we'd go to the back court and get some shots up.

3 The first three-pointer
My first game (for Perth in 1994), I came on close to the end of the first quarter and I fouled Darryl Pearce on a three-point shot. The Iceman, as smooth as silk, just knocked down all three. I knew I had to make up for it really quick, otherwise I might not hit the floor again. The next play, it was almost the end of the quarter. I dribbled down, got between the three-point line and half-court and let it fly. It went in off the backboard. I just kept running towards the bench and everyone was up and celebrating. I couldn't celebrate - I just thought, at least I made the shot and hopefully coach doesn't bench me for what I did wrong. He let me start the next quarter.

1 The first championship with Sydney
It was the fifth game of the series and everyone was out of gas. Down the stretch [West Sydney] got in front and it felt like I had nothing left.

Then Ebi Ere, the import from Oklahoma, went down and made three straight shots and started clapping. And that clap meant we were ready to go. We closed the game out, drew fouls and made our foul shots. When that final buzzer went it was like magic. I went to my dad, hugged him, and gave him the ring.

4 Fourth championship
Before we ran out on the floor, I looked at the boys and told them how special it was to play in big moments like that. I said, 'Right now, I'm proud to go with my brothers to war. This is going to be one of the moments we'll remember for a lifetime.' All the players I've won a title with, when we walk out on the floor, I tap twice. When we have double-claps, it means we've gone through the war and we have that special bond.

6 Sixth ring and rivalry with Perth
After we got dropped by Perth in the first game that season, I remember being written off and people saying it was over. As we rolled on, we lost to them again, then we lost to them in Perth. But when it counted, when it came finals time, I knew we would beat them. We'd seen each other so much and it was physical - on the court, it was as rough as it was going to get.

516 The final appearance in the Aussie NBL
I just hope the fans enjoy themselves and appreciate what I've done, even those watching at home on TV. There's been a lot of messages and letters coming to the club and it's been very special to hear what I've meant to the club. For me, it's been a blessing. From meeting [owners] Paul and Liz [Blackwell], to the organisation, to playing in front of sell-outs. I've envisaged playing in front of sell-outs since my dad was able to do that with the Wildcats. He did it for a club - I get to go do it for a country.

- NZ Herald

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