Sean Pero MacPherson Cameron (MNZM), New Zealand basketball legend, nine-time New Zealand Championship winner (player), two-time New Zealand Championship winner (coach), two Olympic games, three World Championships, 2002 World Championship All Star Five, 2006 Commonwealth Games silver medalist and a multitude of games in the Black singlet over an illustrious 17-year career.
And now the very first New Zealander inducted into the FIBA Hall of Fame. Following today’s announcement from the global governing body, Cameron will be inducted at a ceremony in Geneva in late September, but that might struggle to match the emotion when the current Tall Blacks broke into Tu Kaha O Pango for Cameron when they heard the news in Beirut.
In the letter from FIBA Secretary General Patrick Bauman, Cameron’s incredible career was described as having greatly contributed to the growth of the game in New Zealand, and around the world.
Basketball New Zealand CEO Iain Potter said Cameron’s recognition was wholly deserved and an incredible honour for the man, our country and for the game.
“Pero has been such a massive influence on the game, on and off the court. His strength and presence as an amazing player and the sheer power of his personality has been such that he truly in a giant of the game, in literal and metaphorical terms.
“On behalf of the Board, the team at Basketball New Zealand and the entire basketball community, here and in Australia where he now lives with his family, I congratulate Pero on this wonderful and deserved recognition of an outstanding career.”
Cameron received the news while on tour with the Tall Blacks in Beirut at the FIBA Asia Cup, where he is in his assistant coaching role, working alongside his former team mate and great friend Paul Henare, doing what he does best these days, inspiring and teaching the next generation.
Not one for too many words on such an occasion, Cameron took time to reflect on his career to date in the sport he loves so much.
“Immediate thoughts go mum and dad and my family who have supported my career as a player for the last 20 years really. Mum and dad Mata and Stuart, my wife Jennelle and kids Tobias, Flynn and Layla, what they have gone through supporting the athlete chasing their dreams, it is not easy. I think the success on the court starts with their support, but also the support of my team mates, coaches – it is endless. That is a direct reflection of how well the Tall Blacks were going back in that period, from about 1999 to 2005 – that stretch was pretty good.”
When told of the news at a practice session, the young Tall Blacks turned in a passionate and heartfelt rendition of Tu Kaha O Pango, their energies and respect directed solely at Cameron, with captain Reuben Te Rangi saying he was proud to represent all who have worn the black singlet in honouring the man they call ‘PC’.
“Pero is one of our greats and we as a group are lucky to have him in the coaching team, teaching us and inspiring us. Whether it is one on one work with players, on the training court, or with some of his endless stories of his playing days and the things he has seen and achieved, he is just someone we all look up to. That haka was on behalf of everyone who knows PC and has benefited from spending time with him, on or off court.”
Someone who took the chance to be in the middle of the haka rather than his typical courtside position watching was Henare. A long-time team mate and great friend of Cameron, he described the moment he heard of the Hall of Fame induction.
“I was over the moon, he deserves it, he has just had such an amazing career and done so much for basketball in our country and relatively speaking, he is an unsung hero in the greater scheme of things, so to see him get this recognition is amazing. I am extremely proud of him and happy for him to get this sort of recognition.
“He is so well known, I don’t know a comparison but Wynton Rufer I hear was similar on a world stage for what he did, and Pero is exactly the same. No matter where we are in the world we walk in a gym and someone knows him and his story and what he has achieved and the player that he was, and that speaks volumes.
“Physically he was unique in terms of the way he played. The skill set, the IQ, the steely nerves and the clutch plays he made is what made him so special.
“Pero will most likely play it off and give credit to his family and coaches and talk about the honour of playing for his country. Which is all true, but that is him as a person, he probably felt awkward standing in front of the group and being recognized by this group here and now, but that is just another thing that makes him so special.”
Cameron was first selected for the Tall Blacks in 1994. In 2000, for the Sydney Olympics, he became co-captain of the side, and was elevated to sole captain the following year.
Former team mate and national coach Nenad Vucinic is in no doubt as to the status of Cameron on the world stage.
“He is unique, as a person and a player. This is as well-deserved award and should have happened a long time ago, but is really a reward to all of basketball in New Zealand, but he is the face of New Zealand basketball for years and I am so thrilled to see this happening for him.
“I will never forget the respect that top players in the world, especially the members of the All Star Five from Indianapolis, how much they respected him and spoke about him. I am originally from Yugoslavia and if Pero Cameron walks down the street in Belgrade like he did three years ago, everyone knows him. He is famous in the world, much more than in New Zealand.”
Arguably, his most memorable moment as captain of the Tall Blacks came in 2002 when the team stunned the basketball world by making the semi-finals of the 2002 FIBA World Championship, eventually losing to Germany for fourth place.
In the tournament, Cameron averaged 14.7 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game and became the only non-NBA player to make the all-tournament team. He was joined on this team by established NBA superstars Dirk Nowitzki and Peja Stojaković and NBA rookies-to-be Yao Ming and Manu Ginóbili.
Cameron has fond memories of that World Championship.
“We felt we were on the right track, our coaches Tab, Nenad and Murray, we all felt as a group that it was possible. The belief came from there and we had an amazing preparation and then the tournament just clicked for us. We could tell we were going to be good, competitive in every game.
“Our guards Kirk and Phil were amazing, our point guards were amazing, our bigs Tappy (Rob Hickey) and Eddie (Ed Book) scored at will and kept things rolling. I think getting in that All-Star Five, they had to choose someone from our group, it could have been anyone, Kirk, Phil, one of our point guards who changed games with defence. There were a lot of good things that came together.”
Cameron retired from international duties having played in two Olympic Games (Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004) and three World Championships (2002, 2006 and 2010). Cameron was part of a golden generation of New Zealand basketball that produced the likes of Sean Marks, Kirk Penney, Rob Hickey, Tony Rampton and Phil Jones, amongst others.
Cameron’s family lives and breathes basketball, married to Jennelle, they live on the Gold Coast with their three children, Layla, Tobias and Flynn, with his two sons both selected in the Anchor Junior Tall Blacks at the recent FIBA World U19 Championships in Egypt. His mother Mata is a former coach of New Zealand age group teams. Sister Jody is a former Tall Fern and former coach of the Junior Tall Ferns, brother Raymond is a former player with Waikato in the NZ NBL while other sisters Jeannie and Zeta both played provincial basketball in Northland.
School: Whangarei Boys High School
Height: 200cm (6’7”)
New Zealand Tall Blacks
Debut 1994, retired 2010
Three Olympic Games
Three World Championships
Fourth place finish at the 2002 FIBA World Championships
Named to the FIBA All Star Five in 2002
Commonwealth Games silver medal, 2006
Two Oceania Championships
NBL Championships (as player): 9 – Auckland (1995–1997, 1999, 2000), Waikato (2001, 2002, 2008, 2009)
NBL Championships (as coach): 2 – Wellington (2010, 2011)
NBL Rookie of the Year: 1992
NBL All-Star Five: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001
Kiwi MVP: 1993, 1994, 1995, 1997, 1999
Outstanding NZ Forward: 1994, 1995, 1996, 1998, 1999
Outstanding Forward: 1998
Rebound Champion: 1993
Coach of the Year: 2010
Five years in the Australian NBL, as a foundation player for both the NZ Breakers and the Gold Coast Blaze
Cameron played in Malaysia, England, Turkey and Iran during his club career
NBL Coach of the Year, Wellington Saints, 2010
Assistant Coach, Tall Blacks, 2011 –
Assistant Coach, Gold Coast Blaze, ANBL, 2011-12
Head Coach, Gold Coast Rollers, Queensland State League, 2015 -
Commonwealth Games Silver Medal – 2006
SPARC Leadership Award – 2003
World Championship All-Tournament Team – 2002
Maori Sportsman of the Year – 2002
Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit, for services to basketball – 2011 Queen's Birthday Honours
FIBA Hall of Fame - 2017