Extinct Bears in Brighton

Brighton’s basketball team was formed in 1973 by Dave Goss, with a squad of part-time players; the team’s fixtures were in the County League. The team were known as the Brighton Bears until 1984, when they became the Worthing Bears, before returning to their original name in 1999. They played in the British Basketball League and their home venue was the Brighton Centre.

The Bears started playing in the National League Division Two in the 1977-78 season and signed their first overseas players — Americans Kevin Kallaugher, Fritz Mayer and Pete Durgerian. By the 1981-82 season, they were playing in Division One but finished it bottom of the league.

In 1983-84, a new head coach, Bill Sheridan, improved the team and they finished that season in 8th place. However, financial problems meant they had to leave the Brighton Arena and play home games in arenas all over the south, including Bognor, Eastleigh and Hastings. Eventually, the settled in Worthing, based at the Leisure Centre there, and began the 1984/85 season as the Worthing Bears.

In November 1984, the club secured a sponsorship package with Nissan and became known as Nissan Bears of Worthing. This sponsorship ended at the conclusion of the 1985-86 season and, failing to secure new sponsors, the club did not play for over a year.

Eventually, the Bears were resurrected in time for the National League Division One 1987/88 season; they won the league, with an unbeaten record. The club went on to beat Brixton to become Division One Play-off Champions.

In 1989, they gained another American player, Herman Harried; he top-scored in 21 of his 26 games that season, and his statistics read 31 points, 18 rebounds, 3 assists, 4.5 steals and 3 blocks per game. In 1990/91, the Bears entered the Premiership and won the Club of the Year award.

Despite all their success, the club was always plagued by financial problem and, in 1995, it was put up for sale; Brighton Council saved the day with a £30,000 grant. However, a year later, the council withdrew an agreed £25,000 grant after the club put its franchise up for sale without informing councillors. In August 1997, American multi-millionaire Greg Fullerton bought the franchise; by November, he had pulled out, without explanation. Unsurprisingly, the club finished bottom of the league that year.

The following season came the announcement that the Bears were returning to the Brighton Centre for the 1999/2000 season, in the hope that increased revenue and media exposure would give them a secure financial future. Initially, this proved to be the case, but attendances fell the following year.

In 2002/2003, coach Nick Hurse became sole owner of the club and All Stars Rico Alderson and Ralph Blalock were signed; the Bears won their first 11 games of the season. In 2005/2006, NBA legend Dennis Rodman played for the club for three games, fresh from his appearance on Celebrity Big Brother, and he drew huge audiences for the Bears. It later transpired that the Bears had broken player eligibility rules by playing Rodman alongside their three permitted work-permit players. In the summer of 2006, the Bears announced that they would be taking a year off from the BBL ‘in the interests of the long term viability of the franchise’.

Nick Nurse was explored the possibility for club into an NBA Development League or the proposed rival British Basketball Association (BBA), but nothing came of these plans. Nurse moved back to the US, and club was dissolved. The Brighton Bears played their last game in the British Basketball League on April 14 2006.