WNBL history beckons in Lauren Jackson celebration

COOLIO's Gangsta's Paradise was top of the music charts, Paul Keating Australian prime minister and Telecom had just changed its name to Telstra.

It's 1995 and the WNBL, in its 14th season, records its biggest ever crowd of 7500 at the Grand Final between fierce rivals Adelaide Lightning and Melbourne Tigers.

It's a record that's remained untouched but could be broken on Saturday when the Southside Flyers and Sydney Flames play in the first ever WNBL game at Melbourne's John Cain Arena in a special showcase celebrating Australia's greatest ever basketballer, Lauren Jackson.

Triple Olympic Medallist Rachael Sporn represented the Opals alongside Jackson, was MVP in that record-breaking Grand Final which drew a record attendance and is flying in from Adelaide this weekend to be courtside.

She has fond memories of that October day 28 years ago when the then Clipsal Powerhouse was rocking.

"We set the crowd record in 1994 in double overtime in the Grand Final with about 6000 then beat the record the next year. 95 was such a low scoring Grand Final, it was 50-43, so the biggest crowd saw a defensive game, not a wonderful offensive spectacle but a grind!" she recalled this week.

"Because I was so familiar with the arena, you could tell during the game it was a record crowd. It seated 8000 and because it was so close to being full and with the noise, the atmosphere and vibe it was pretty special."

Sporn says as captain, raising the championship trophy in front of an electric crowd was a career highlight.

"Going back-to-back in front of that crowd, putting the cup above my head was incredibly special. My most favourite part was always cutting down the net, taking turns and all taking a little bit.

"It was the mid-90s when basketball was booming, I remember the publicity in the lead up to the game was amazing, everything sort of fell into place it just would have been nicer if it was an 80-73 scoreline."

Southside Flyers star Bec Cole hopes this weekend's fixture sets a new precedent for the league.

"I don't think there's enough marketing around women's basketball in general and it's super exciting this is hopefully a starting point for where the game needs to go to," she said.

"It's so great we're making history doing this but I also think this should be happening every single weekend. I'm obviously super excited and super pumped because how amazing that we can get this many fans to a game but I also think every week the WNBL is on we should have fans, bigger venues and be growing the game and people who want to come not only because the game is so exciting but we have great athletes and role models.

"The fact it's the biggest stage, that's where our WNBL athletes should be."

The eight-club WNBL features arenas from Bendigo to Townsville, the UC Capitals play out of the National Convention Centre and the Flyers home court is at the State Basketball Centre in Melbourne's outer eastern suburbs.

As Sydney captain, Keely Froling regularly plays in front of a bumper crowd at Qudos Bank Arena in double headers with NBL sibling Sydney Kings.

"It's really exciting to play at John Cain Arena and bring this huge profile to women's sport and the WNBL. This season we've seen the crowds grow and the support has been great so it's really important that we continue to grow that," she said.

"The other big thing has been the amount of media and advertising around this game, we've really pumped it up and the Flyers have done a great job.

"And it generates all this excitement for this game and hopefully we can do that around the country, like we do at Qudos Bank Arena, and this is the starting point."