The City of Adelaide was planned by Colonel William Light, whose statue overlooks the town centre from its lofty perch at Montefiore Hill. The name Adelaide LIGHTNING utilised Light’s surname, when South Australia decided at the end of 1992 to submit a composite team into the Women’s National Basketball League.
Since the league’s 1981 inception, SA had enjoyed the representation of three club teams through Noarlunga City, West Adelaide and North Adelaide. In that 11-year span, the State’s solitary championship success was through North Adelaide in 1990.
In 1992, SA fielded two teams – the Adelaide Comets and West Adelaide Bearcats before, in 1993, the final step was taken. The Lightning was formed as South Australia’s sole entry into the Women’s National League in 1993.
Under the stewardship of coach Jan Stirling, who would later go onto coach the Australian Opals to World Championship and Olympic medals, success followed instantly for the Lightning, reaching the Preliminary Final in the club’s inaugural season. That 3rd-placed start was overshadowed in 1994 when the Lightning stormed to the championship and began an amazing era for the club.
In 1995, the club did the unthinkable and became only the third side in the WNBL’s history to win consecutive championships, defeating Melbourne 50-43 in front of a record attendance for a women’s basketball game in Australia of 7,100 at the Clipsal Powerhouse.
In 1996, the Lightning girls made it three in a row, defeating the Sydney Flames at the Sydney Entertainment Centre and became only the second club to three-peat. The Lightning finished runners-up in 1997 before again winning the Championship in 1998, giving them an amazing four Championship wins in five years, a feat unparalleled in sport at this level in Australia.
Since 1998, the team has never missed a finals series, played in the 2000 Grand Final and have progressed to the preliminary final on five other occasions. After 12 successful seasons, Stirling retired from coaching the Lightning.
During the clubs successful dominance on the league in the mid 1990’s, the Lightning was led by legendary Opal Rachel Sporn. Sporn represented Australia at three Olympic Games, winning two silver and one bronze medal, and three World Championships. She played 377 WNBL games and was named MVP in 1996 and 1997 and was a key member of the Lightning’s four championships. She is a WNBL Life Member and was inducted into the Basketball Australia Hall of Fame in 2007.
The team changed to private ownership in 2005/06 with Fellas Gifts taking over the team for the season and they changed the name to Adelaide Fellas. This only lasted for one season and then they sold the team to Link Engineering, the current owners, and keeping in mind that the team had always been known as the Adelaide Lightning, Vince Marino the new owner, then decided to put Lightning back into the name and the team was then named Link Lightning Adelaide.
In season 2013/14 the Adelaide Lightning signed a one year management agreement with the Adelaide 36ers for the 36ers to run the marketing, membership and sponsorship for the season to share resources of the two clubs.