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A humble Giant amongst sports legends talks sponsorship, retiring and community

Nelson Giant Phill Jones
Fico Finance Nelson Giants legend Phill Jones alongside our Bowater Toyota Parts Express Van which has been promoting his achievements this season.

This year saw the passing of the huge milestone for Nelson's favourite basketballer, the legendary, and very humble, Phill Jones. He broke the previous record by achieving 350 games in the National Basketball League mid way through the season, and remarkably most of them have been for the Nelson Giants. In the end he finished up with 369 games, a feat certainly worth celebrating, and a feat that also saw the emergence of another rather large announcement - his retirement from the sport he loves.

Phill began first playing way back in 1993, and he has only missed a couple of local seasons during this whole time, playing both in New Zealand and in Europe and Australia. Both of the times he missed out were due to the rules and regulations surrounding the requirements of athletes to return from "overseas duties" within certain timeframes. For the most part of it he has played for the Nelson Giants as a component of his busy international basketball schedule and has quickly established himself as a cornerstone not only of the entire Fico Finance Nelson Giant's Franchise but also NZ Basketball in general, and the local Nelson sports community as a whole.

He has also played extensively overseas during this time as well on a professional scale, which not only provided an income, but also enabled him to play year round for close to 14 years. He has had a great journey, playing basketball professionally, and raising a family on the basketball circuit. But as with all things, there comes a point where change is inevitable and Phill has chosen to make the move to the next stage of his basketball journey on his own terms, stepping down from a key players role in the Nelson Giants to take on a more managerial one within the franchise.

We recently sat down with Phill and talked about being a professional athlete in Nelson, playing your heart out for the local team, what it means to give back to the community, and how corporate sponsors shape the landscape of sports in this age of professionalism.


Hitting the magic 350, breaking the record and a career of highlights.

Phill Jones
Phill in the locker room post game with the commemoration he was presented to acknowledge his milestone.

350 games in the same code is quite an achievement. Finishing on 369 is even more impressive and breaking Willie Burton's record of 361 was the icing on the cake.
Just think of how many games All Black Richie Macaw has played in the national league. As of right now, he has played 34 provincial games and has 129 caps in Super 15 for the Crusaders. Compare that to Phill's 369 games and you soon get the picture, and of this 359 of those games were for the same team! That "359 games for the same team" record is likely to remain intact for quite a while and a legacy that Phill deserves to feel very proud of.

The two-time Olympian has scored more points in the New Zealand NBL than any other Kiwi player and is second overall in league scoring history. In 2004, he ranked second among all points scorers at the Athens Olympics.

He has had a massive career spanning 21 years, with 19 of those featuring a spot on the Nelson Giants! After moving from Reefton in 1992 to play high school basketball at Nelson College, Jones made his league debut a year later. He had a season with Otago and eight years in Europe. He played three years for the New Zealand Breakers and two with the Cairns Taipans. There are more than 200 games for the Tall Blacks under his belt, including three World Championship tournaments and two Olympic tournaments. Understandably Phill Jones has become the face of Nelson Basketball more than any other. And the fact of the matter is, for those that have had the pleasure of spending any time in his company, he is an amazingly humble, kind and friendly man! The perfect role model and the perfect sportsman to have representing your brand!

phill jones

Phill kindly came along to our busy Bowater Toyota showroom recently to sit and have a chat about his time with the Nelson Giants and share with us, as a sponsor of the team, what the future held for not only himself, but for the team as well as they moved through what could be seen as a rather large change with one of their key players, and public faces of the game, retiring. 


The role of sponsorship in professional sports leagues.

giants-logoIn this modern age of professional sports, professional sports people and corporate sponsorships on many different levels it is often hard to create conversation about why a business chooses to align themselves with a sponsorship package for a local sports team. Unless you are a naming sponsor most people probably aren't aware of the role your business plays in getting the team onto the field, or the court in this case.

Bowater Toyota have been a proud sponsor of the Fico Finance Nelson Giants for many many years now, sponsoring vehicles for key people within the organisation amongst other things. This has proved to be a valuable sponsorship for the Giants organisation as a whole, as even though they are partially funded through grants such as those received from coaching in schools, they still need to raise the funds to pay the players, get up to 12 players and support staff to away games, promote themselves and hold games here at home.

Running an organisation such as the Fico Finance Nelson Giants is expensive. Even the logistics of taking a team on the road to an away game starts adding up real quick. Without the help of corporate sponsors behind the scenes these teams quite simply wouldn't exist according to Phill.

The combined support from the local corporate sector means that teams like The Fico Finance Nelson Giants can exist and give the local Nelson community something to get behind, participate in, and really believe in. After all what is more rewarding, and instills a wonderful sense of community, than a stadium full of people on the feet cheering the local heros on to a win! If you haven't been a part of this wonderful experience you need to put it on your bucket list!

As Phill stated during our talk, the key to the success of a team like the Fico Finance Nelson Giants is it's high visibility into the community. The kids are a massive part of the whole thing, and aspects like the coaching in schools is part of what makes the Giants sustainable. The children get excited by seeing and meeting the Giants, get inspired to participate in the sport and in turn become it's future and as a by product they also motivate their parents to attend the local games as a family. As far as great family nights out go, it is pretty hard to top the atmosphere and family friendly fun a local basketball match provides!


Being a part of the community. The rewards of success.

Being a super successful sportspersonthat is very well known in the community brings it's responsibilities but also great rewards. When you add your own family into the mix the rewards become generational, with Phill's kids being now old enough to understand exactly what Dad does. Phill has been such a huge part of the Nelson Giant's for almost 2 decades now, and it has to be said that his humility and overall gentle and humble nature have rubbed off on an entire organisation. The Fico Finance Nelson Giants have an amazing culture within their team of social responsible behavior. They have consistantly been over the decades amazing role models. For Phill Jones, it is all about talking to people, and being approachable. In the modern age of professional sports, dealing with people, the media and sponsors is all part in parcel of your job. As Phill has so admirably demonstrated over the last 20 plus years, it is all about a set of remarkably consistant values, both personally and within the team culture.

relay for life
The Fico Finance Nelson Giants helping us with our Relay For Life  - Phill Jones and Chris Bowater fly the Bowater Motor Group flag whilst doing some laps.

Another key aspect to the success of the Giants as an organisation is the participation by the public face of the team, the players, in any and all promotional activities when requested by a sponsor. We have been a sponsor of the team now for a very long time, and have had a lot of occassion to have various members of the Giants come along and represent, as well as add in some excitement.

This is a wonderful part of the interaction between team and sponsor, and is actually quite a rarity in these busy times when it is actually quite hard to motivate anyone to do anything extra outside of their "core business". So to have a culture of respect and inclusiveness with sponsors be instilled within a sports team is refreshing.

Fico Finance Nelson Giants
Phill Jones and the Fico Finance Nelson Giants that came along and supported us as we participated in this years Cancer Society Relay For Life.


What the future holds for Phill Jones, the Fico Finance Nelson Giants and the state of basketball in our community.

Moving forward is something that Phill has thought long and hard about. He has chosen to exit the floor on his own terms, with his head and body still in it. He has given so much over the years and feels that the time is right to now focus some quality time on his family - a family that has sacrificed alot over his career, with such a huge time commitment required to be a professional athlete and the Captain of a team.

Phill, his wife Kat and ex Giant Ed Book are all involved in an Academy type coaching platform for under 13's, and under 15's, to establish a pool of young basketballers that will hopefully return to play for the Giant's at some point. Phill was asked to coach these kids in a newly formed Academy and is very excited, and humbled, to be able to motivate and inspire these kids that have grown up loving basketball, and watching him play. It is this sense of giving back to the community that really personifies the spirit of Phill, and something that the franchise will benefit from with years to come as he becomes more of a mentor figure, both with the local kids and with the Giants as a whole.

Next year is going to be a bit of a change for the Fico Finance Nelson Giants with a change of coach on the cards, and the likes of Phill, Mika, Gus and Finn needing to be replaced. The one thing that we all need to remember is that Nelson has always had a team in the national league and Nelson consistantly produces a whole lot of Tall Blacks. These big changes are understandably going to have a bit of an impact on the makeup of the team, but Phill coming on as a director of the franchise means he will still be component of the club behind the scenes, with many different player based management components coming into the mix, and he will still be one of the faces of the Nelson Giants....... and never say never eh Phill.......

On a personal level Phill will be concentrating on growing his business as an insurance broker for ANZ on a local level. If you need advice on this, are looking to change, or just want to deal with a genuinely honest, sincere, all round nice guy, then Phill Jones is probably the lovliest insurance broker you will ever meet! Best of luck with future endeavours away from the court Phill - from the team at Bowaters it has been an absolute pleasure doing business!


Here are some of the highlights from Phill's time in basketball:

In 1993, Jones debuted in the New Zealand NBL for the Nelson Giants, playing for them for six seasons. Following the 1998 season, Jones signed with Kouvot of Finland for the 1998–99 Korisliiga season. In 1999, Jones joined the Otago Nuggets for the 1999 season. After one season with the Nuggets, he re-joined the Giants and played for them every year until 2014 (except for 2005 and 2007).

In 2000, he re-joined Kouvot for the 2000–01 Korisliiga season. In 2001, he signed with Honka Espoo for the 2001–02 season, but later re-joined Kouvot in January 2002.

In the summer of 2002, Jones signed with Oregon Scientific Cantù of Italy for the 2002–03 season.

In 2003, Jones signed with the New Zealand Breakers for the 2003–04 NBL season.

In 2004, Jones re-signed with Cantù, playing for them until 2007. Jones subsequently missed out on the Giants' 2007 championship after returning from Italy two days too late to complete his five-game requirement to be eligible to join the Nelson roster.

In July 2007, Jones signed a two-year deal with the New Zealand Breakers.

In June 2008, after 14 years of playing for the Tall Blacks, Jones retired from international basketball.

In July 2009, Jones signed with the Cairns Taipans for the 2009–10 NBL season.
In May 2010, he re-signed with the Taipans for the 2010–11 NBL season.

On 10 May 2014, Jones played his 350th game for the Nelson Giants in a 83–94 loss to the Southland Sharks.

On 16 May 2014, Jones tied the all-time record for NBL games played. In the Giants' 77–82 loss to the Hawke's Bay Hawks, he played his 361st game, tying the record with NBL great Willie Burton who played from 1985–2006. On 23 May 2014, he broke Burton's record, playing his 362nd game in a 91–82 win over the Manawatu Jets. In 31 minutes of action, he recorded 11 points, 3 rebounds, 5 assists and 1 steal.

On 27 June 2014, Jones' number 13 was retired by the Giants following Jones' final home game at Saxton Stadium in which the Giants defeated the Southland Sharks 101–89.

On 4 July 2014, Jones played his 369th and final NBL game in the Giants' 71–87 semi-final loss to the Wellington Saints

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