Kiwi basketball legend Kirk Penney calls time on stellar 20-year career - 'Retiring in NZ with the Breakers means a lot to me'

New Zealand Breakers guard and Tall Blacks great Kirk Penney has announced he will retire from basketball at the end of the current NBL season.

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The 37-year-old guard told reporters today the time was right.

"Playing basketball has been a big part of my life and retiring in New Zealand with the Breakers means a lot to me," he said.

"I'm so happy to be able to do it here. To bring [my career] back to New Zealand and complete it, full circle, is really special to us."

Penney first broke onto the basketball scene in 1998 when he joined the New Zealand NBL team, the North Harbour Kings, as a 17-year-old where he earned Rookie of the Year honours.

The shooting guard played another two seasons for the Kings before heading overseas to begin his college career at the University of Wisconsin where in his junior year he led the Badgers in scoring, averaging 15.1 points a game while shooting at 45.4 per cent from the field.

Penney's performances as a junior and senior at Wisconsin earned him All-Big Ten first team honours as well as an honourable mention All-American.

Penney then entered his name in the NBA draft but wasn't selected in the star-studded 2003 class which included the likes of NBA superstars LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwayne Wade.

He did however manage to join the Timberwolves later that year for the Summer League where he led the league in three-point shooting, which helped the Kiwi sharpshooter land a contract with the Minnesota franchise.

The deal wasn't meant to be though as he was waived prior to the start of the 2003-2004 season.

But his NBA dream didn't end there, with Penney signing with the Miami heat on November 3 and making his NBA debut that night, scoring three points against the Dallas Mavericks, making him the second New Zealander after Sean Marks to play in the NBA.

Penney was waived four days later by the heat and after a short stint with the LA Clippers the following year, he turned his attention towards the Isreali and Lithuanian Basketball Leagues for two years.

Finally, in 2007, Penney opted to come home, signing on with the previously-unsuccessful New Zealand Breakers to play in the NBL. 

His presence was almost immediate, with Penney averaging 24.2 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.3 steals over 31 games as well as being named in the ALL-NBL first team in his first season.

Penney followed those numbers up the next year by leading the league in scoring. He also became the first Kiwi player to earn the NBL's MVP award for his efforts where he averaged 24.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.8 assists over 28 games.

But Penney didn't get his hands on the big trophy until the 2010-2011 season when he led the Breakers to their first NBL title when the defeated the Cairns Taipans 2-1 in the grand final series.

Penney then departed the Kiwi NBL franchise for another stint in Europe before coming back to the NBL with the Illawarra Hawks in 2015 for one season.

Penney returned to the Breakers the following season and has been with the team until today's announcement - he picked up his 150th game for the Breakers last December.

The Breakers will try to send Penney out on a high when they begin their NBL playoffs run on Saturday with their semi-final series against minor premiers, Melbourne United.

The 37-year-old former NZ player says it's special to be able to end his career where it all began. Source: 1 NEWS