There is evidence of basketball games being played in Melbourne as early as 1905, following the spread of the sport from its origins as an 1891 invention of Dr James Naismith, Canadian-born physical education leader for the Young Men's Christian Association (YMCA) College in Springfield, Massachusetts. By 1920, clubs were established in Presbyterian churches at Fitzroy, Collingwood, Carlton, Richmond, South Melbourne, North Melbourne, Flemington-Kensington and Toorak. In 1927 the YMCA built a centre that included a dedicated basketball court at Princes Bridge.
Ivor Burge, a graduate of Springfield College, returned from the United States in 1931 to play a leading part in the development of basketball in Australia through his work as director of physical education at the YMCA. The Victorian Basketball Association was officially established in 1931, with Presbyterian, YMCA, Army and Church of England the foundation members. The first Victorian Championship was held in the early months of 1932 and was won by a YMCA team coached by Ivor Burge. This team dominated the State championships, losing only five games in five years. The YMCA continued to feature prominently until 1960 when the club disbanded.
During the 1930s and 1940s the Victorian Championships had many changes of venue. The first games were played at the YMCA; later they moved to the Royal Exhibition Building, Fitzroy Stadium, St Luke's Hall in Fitzroy and the Footscray Drill Hall, returning to the Exhibition Building in 1947. In 1953 the Exhibition Building was not available and inferior venues were used, such as church halls or Wirth's Park on St Kilda Road or the Hall of Industries at the showgrounds.
The Australian Junior Boys Championship was inaugurated in 1954 and the Australian Women's Basketball Championship in 1955. The disappointment of not obtaining a permanent venue as a legacy of the 1956 Olympic Games prompted an agreement with the Albert Park Trust to convert an Army stores hut into a six-court basketball stadium in 1958. By the early 1970s Ken Watson, secretary of the Victorian Basketball Association, had become secretary of the Amateur Basketball Union of Australia. Lindsay Gaze, who went on to take part in seven Olympics, three as a player and four as a coach, became the first full-time employee of the sport when appointed general manager of the Albert Park Stadium and Basketball Victoria.
The first Australian Basketball team to compete internationally, coached by Ken Watson, took part in the 1956 Melbourne Olympics. The result of 12th in a field of 15 was respectable considering that at this time there were only around 2000 registered players in Victoria. In 1966 the Melbourne club recruited a former American college player, Fred Guy. Guy led the Tigers to the State title and an undefeated record in 1967. The impact that Guy had on basketball caused other clubs to follow suit, and by the mid-1970s former American college players were beginning to dominate most clubs. During the 1970s the number of prime basketball stadiums in the Melbourne metropolitan area grew from three to 18. Basketball became clearly the largest of all Olympic sports and by the late 1990s the number of players in Victoria had grown to over 200 000. Victorian teams, particularly the Melbourne Tigers, dominated Australian championships.
In 1979 the National Invitation Basketball League, which later became known as the National Basketball League, was formed. Initially the League was played in the typical suburban stadiums that had relatively small capacities. By the mid-1980s, however, entrepreneurial businessmen introduced private ownership of clubs and moved games to the biggest and best entertainment venues around the country.
Although Victorian club St Kilda won the first two National League titles, the dominance of Victorian clubs was broken during the 1980s. North Melbourne captured the title in 1989. Southeast Melbourne and the Melbourne Tigers each won two titles between 1992 and 1997 and North Melbourne won their second title in 1994. Since then interstate teams have dominated.