They are blokes who brought crowds into venues in New Zealand basketball by the mere mention of their names but it'll be the last time Lindsay Tait and Dillon Boucher will grace Pettigrew-Green Arena in Napier tonight.

It'll be Tait and Boucher's swansong at the Taradale venue when their 2 Cheap Cars Super City Rangers tip off at 7pm against Taylor Corporation Hawks in week 13 of the Sal's Pizza National Basketball League (NBL).

"I think legends is a pretty good word [to describe them]," says Hawks coach Zico Coronel, urging the PG Arena faithful to turnout en masse to pay tribute to the veterans who played their final home game at Trusts Arena, Auckland, last Sunday.

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Coronel, who was assistant coach with Tait, 36, and Boucher, 42, in Auckland, Wellington and Waikato franchises, says apart from the countless NBL crowns and awards the pair collected in decades of playing, they also have been outstanding teammates and humans.

The veterans, he says, are very knowledgeable and those fortunate enough to have had anything to do with them would have found them extremely beneficial.

"Their longevity is quite incredible," he says after Boucher made his NBL debut in 1994 to go on to not only claim nine NBL crowns but also join ex-Nelson Giants player Phill Jones in the 400-plus caps club last year.

The small/power forward's 13 combined career championships is the most in ANBL/NBL history. He made his Tall Blacks debut in 2001.

Born in Sydney, Australia, Tait moved to Auckland at 4. The point guard made his debut in 2000 before going on to claim three NBL titles each with the Auckland Stars and Wellington Saints as well as one with the Auckland Pirates.


"It's a great time for the people who love the game of basketball to pay their respects to great careers of two people who have had some amazing battles with the Hawks franchise over the years and to send them off in good fashion and have the privilege to see them play as a last opportunity," says Coronel.

Tait was the Corey Webster of yesteryear. When he took court things simply happened amid heightened expectations when home or rival fans rode emotional waves of elation or despair.

He is a three-time finals MVP, three-time league MVP, three-time Kiwi MVP and been named on nine All-Star Fives.

Hawks coach Zico Coronel says Dillon Boucher and Lindsay Tait will galvanise the Rangers tonight. Photo/Photosport
Hawks coach Zico Coronel says Dillon Boucher and Lindsay Tait will galvanise the Rangers tonight. Photo/Photosport

His battle and victory over cancer, diagnosed last October, has changed his outlook on life.

"I've basically been told that everything is good right now but I don't think you can ever put those things fully behind you so I guess I'm one of the lucky ones," he says, content to stay healthy and commit to his check-ups in the hope the cancer stays away after a seven-hour operation that took out his thyroid gland.

It got into his lymph nodes, causing complications with his neck muscles that affected the way he used his left side of the body.

The illness was the driving force behind his final stint in the NBL to prove to himself and his sons, Mikaere, 12, and Marley, 6, things don't always go your way so sometimes you have to "guts it out".

"Going through those [medical] processes changed my perspective on life. A lot of things before that which I thought were important - life and death - were very quickly brought into perspective."

Work commitments and family mean he doesn't have the time to dedicate to the Rangers to treat the game the way he feels it should be treated.

"That means it's time for me to step away and let these young fellows do their thing," he says, hoping he can make contributions from the sideline to a game that has given him so much.

For Tait his whanau is "pretty much all he's got now".

In terms of team, the Jeff Green-coached Rangers is "the worst team he has ever been a part of, by far".

He grapples with his competitive demons but he sees that as part of the gift and curse that has enabled a "smaller guard" like him to play as long as he has.

"If I didn't have the dog or fight in me I probably wouldn't have had a start from the jump."

He and partner Brooke Watt are expecting a baby boy on September 5, which is blessing considering he had to undergo radiation treatment.

"With another son in the way, I'm taking it as a massive blessing. It's another reason why it's kind of making it easier for me to step away from the game because I'm going to start concentrating on how I can be as good a father as I can be, I guess."

Super City Rangers point guard Lindsay Tait tries to zip past Hawks swingman Dion Prewster. Photo/Photosport
Super City Rangers point guard Lindsay Tait tries to zip past Hawks swingman Dion Prewster. Photo/Photosport

Tait runs representative and high performance programmes, including camps.

"That's what I know and that's what I'm passionate about so I plan on trying to dig my heels in to give back as much as I can."

He thanks all the Bay fans who have supported me. He's not on social media but other people relayed messages to him of support.

Tait is grateful to all those who support not just him but the game of basketball.

"You know it's big for us in this country. I look for ward to playing there one more time and, hopefully, we can hang in there to give them something to cheer about."

A laughing Tait says he'd rather play in a stadium where fans booed them than shimmying and faking at empty venues.

Tait says he was lucky to have won a title in Napier but had also encountered some tough losses.

"We've already lost to them twice so we know they're going to be good but it's a nice place to play so I'm looking forward to going out there for one more run to finally leave an impression on people, I guess."

As an age-group mentor, he impresses on youngsters the need to invest time and effort to succeed in life.

Super City Rangers veteran Dillon Boucher (centre) talks to his team in a group huddle. Photo/Photosport
Super City Rangers veteran Dillon Boucher (centre) talks to his team in a group huddle. Photo/Photosport

Boucher says he's had a dream run in his 25 NBL seasons and considers himself lucky not to have picked up too many serious injuries.

"To be honest I'm not able to keep my body in the shape it needs to be in because I don't have the time to put into my individual training," he says, revealing he'll return to PG Arena for Breakers' games or his children's tourney.

He echoes Tait's sentiments on the thrill of winning an NBL title here in 2005 but expects it to be no different a battle tonight.

While Paora Winitana and Paul Henare are his good mates there was no love lost on the courts when he played here.

Boucher says the NBL is an ideal stepping stone with semi-professional/professional players, comprising young and wily veterans, helping mould his template for the international arena.

"Young up-and-coming players have the opportunity to come into a league where you have a really mixed bag of locals and imports in it."

Boucher thanks the New Zealand basketball faithful who have supported him.

"They either cheered for me or against me - it doesn't matter because that's why I am where I am now."

He says that sort of passion and support has enabled him to eke out a living from the sport for 25 years.

Coronel expects the Hawks to wipe the slate clean against the Rangers tonight despite beating them twice this season. "All that experience makes them a great team to play chess with," he says.

Throw in US import Clayton Wilson, Marcel Jones and Dominique Kelman-Poto, who he suspects should be NBL rookie of the year, and the visitors can beat anyone on their night.

Because Boucher and Tait are so well liked and respected, Coronel says the pair will galvanise the Rangers to finish on a high note.

"I'm sure that every single player in that team will feel incredibly grateful for the knowledge with them and mentoring that those two would have provided them throughout the season and possibly in previous seasons."

The Hawks are in fourth place but still face a threat from the Wheeler Motor Canterbury Rams in fifth place so it's imperative they keep winning.

They play a double header this week, tipping off against the Go Media Manawatu Jets at 3pm on Sunday.

They will reload next week with another double header against the rams at Cowles Stadium, Christchurch, on Friday, July 27, and then host the Mountainairs the following dat at 7pm at the PG Arena.