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BBL mourns loss of highly regarded historian and statistician John Atkinson

The British Basketball League is deeply saddened to have learned of the passing of British Basketball historian and statistician John Atkinson.

One of the few British Basketball historians, John was often regarded as one of the most highly regarded historians and statisticians in the country, affectionally referred to in social circles as ‘Statkinson’.

John had been involved with British Basketball for just over 50 years, initially in college in the West Midlands where he picked up the reigns of his college basketball club and helped them have a season in the first division of the West Midlands league.

It was his time at West Bromwich College where John was first introduced to statistics and started regularly attending games after college and practicing collecting game statistics. He also spent time conducting endless research on the sport of basketball dating back to the 1930s, 40s, 50s and 60s.

In 1973, he then joined the Crystal Palace Basketball team as a Statistician in the then National Basketball League, which had formed the year prior. He would spend nine years with the club, developing his own paper-based system for collecting and sharing basketball statistics, a system which he would go on to teach other aspiring Statisticians over the years and be used across British Basketball for years to come.

After leaving Crystal Palace in 1982, he then went to work covering numerous basketball competitions for the then newly launched Channel 4. He later would also go on to work with other broadcasters including Sky Sports and ITV Sport and continue working with national and international federations, and basketball teams around the country, to preserve statistics and historical data for future generations.

In the mid-2000s, John relocated to Spain, continuing to work, and eventually returned to the UK briefly in 2012 where he worked as a Basketball Statistician in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

With two homes (his mother’s UK home and his Spanish home) filled with endless amounts of boxes filled to the brim with historical data and statistics, John, in partnership with University of Worcester and fellow statistician Jenny Collins, co-founded the National Basketball Heritage Center in 2015 and donated his work to the University, opening publicly in 2016.

The center now houses the biggest collection of basketball literature in the United Kingdom, with everything from scoresheets, box score statistics, magazines, newspapers, clippings, media guides, year books, programs, and memorabilia, dating as far back as 1947.

“I hope it’s the beginning of unifying groups in Basketball for the sake of players from the past, players from the present, to put context into basketball in the UK, which is long overdue,” John told media at the launch.

The archive is a testament to the dedication and commitment that John always showed for the sport and had it not been for his hard work, much of British Basketball’s history might’ve been forever forgotten. And whilst he will be dearly missed, perhaps many can take solace in knowing that the legacy of John and his work will continue for years to come, always in his memory of him.

“John worked tirelessly over decades to ensure British Basketball had and maintained detailed historical records,” said Andy Webb, BBL Chief Operating Officer. “We all owe him a huge debt of gratitude. He will be sadly missed by all in the sport and there will never be another like him. Thank you, John.”

The BBL would like to extend its thoughts and prayers to the family and friends of John at this very difficult time.

For more information on the National Basketball Heritage Center, please visit: http://library.worc.ac.uk/basketball-heritage-research-collections.

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