History

The history of the Lions goes back to the Hemel Lakers, established in 1977. aaaaaaa

In 1993 Vince Macaulay, formerly a player in the BBL, took over the team and continued to run it out of the Dacorum Leisure Centre.

Troubled times came in 1996 when the Dacorum Council decided that the Leisure Centre needed to be refurbished and would therefore close for two years, there was no plan of where the club would play.

A discussion took place with Watford Football Club and the Watford Council about a redevelopment of Vicarage Road, to include a new South Stand that would house a 3,000 seated indoor facility which would house the Royals.

With this in place, the team renamed itself Hemel & Watford Royals and then Watford Royals in 1996. Playing out of the Watford Leisure Centre the Club continued to exist.

In 1997 the Watford Football Club earned promotion to the Premier League and all thought of investment in the ground fell through, leaving the Royals to stay in the decaying Centre or relocate once again.

This time it was off to Milton Keynes, the fastest growing city in the UK, no basketball club and a promise of a home alongside the yet to be named football club in a new Arena.

The team became known as the Milton Keynes Lions. Home was the Bletchley Leisure Centre and Macaulay started hiring staff and players. the team started to gain credibility as good quality players arrived, Tony Windless, Eric Burks, Nigel Lloyd and many more. Lloyd took the team to a final, the BBL Trophy at the NEC in 2000, a valiant effort ended in a one point defeat to the Chester Jets.

However it was not until Macaulay took the reigns again in 2007 that the club would claim it's first every title and it's best ever season performance in the League, winning the BBL Cup at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham, defeating the Newcastle Eagles, they also reached the Playoff Finals, losing to the Guildford Heat.

The long awaited Arena continued to fail to arrive, the Lions home, Bletchley Leisure Centre was scheduled to be knocked down and a new one built, albeit, half the size, once this happened in 2009 the Lions were homeless.

Creative thinking led to the team setting up home in Middleton Hall, the centre of the Milton Keynes Shopping Centre. A fantastic set up saw the team playing in front of 1200 spectators and looking like they had finally arrived.

This though was short-lived. The Shopping Centre decided they needed to carpet the open space effectively removing the Lions. Still no Arena arrived.

Not to be beaten, the club acquired a warehouse, disused for 7 years and converted it into a training court and home court. A fantastic move, all the Lions Junior teams were brought into the same venue and the club had a home, live games on Sky TV and 24 hour access.

This move though coincided with two very poor seasons under Head Coach Mike New. The team failed to make the Playoffs in either season. As plans were afoot for another challenge the club were informed that they had to leave as the landlords had sold the land, and the Council had approved planning for a furniture store.

Try as he might it looked like Macaulay had come to the end of the road. Unable to find anywhere else to play or convert, unable to acquire any land on which to build a home for the club brimming with talent at every level, the club faced the abyss. All this in Olympic Year 2012.

As the season approached Macaulay announced that things were grim and if somewhere was not found the club would no longer be able to remain in Milton Keynes after 15 years. Nothing happened locally and the club withdrew from the League.

Macaulay though was able to persuade London that if it needed a tangible Olympic Legacy then basketball, in an Olympic venue, was what was needed and they agreed!

The London Lions were born, playing out of Crystal Palace National Sports Centre in Year One, the team qualified for the end of season Playoff's with an all English squad. following renovation at the Park the team moved into the Copperbox Olympic facility in August 2013 and duly sold out 7,000 seats for it's first ever game there against US College side, Iowa University. Again the team qualified for the Playoff's with a creditable 6th place finish. In the spirit of legacy, the club is forging partnerships whilst building a truly community club in London in association with GLL the largest leisure provider in the city and Reach & Teach the largest club in English Basketball.....

Under new company branding and contributory ownership the club had a hugely succesful 2014-15 season. The team qualified for the BBL Trophy Semi-Finals before losing to the Leicester Riders and then having finished joint fifth made the end of season Playoff's, that road led all the way to the O2 Arena for the Final after victories over Worcester Wolves and Cheshire Phoenix.

At the O2 in front of 15,000 fans the Lions fell to clean sweep Champions, Newcastle Eagles, all is set for continued progress for London's only professional basketball team.

BBC

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