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  1. #1
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    Default Defunct Teams, Defunct Leagues

    Your favo(u)rite American here on these boards, Durban, thought about developing a thread devoted to pro basketball franchises and pro basketball leagues from days gone by that were not in the NBA, ABA (both original and this mockery of a current one), CBA, IBL, IBA (current version), PBL, NBDL, CBL, WNBA, USBL, among them for quite some time. See, as an amateur basketball historian and afficionado, I like to know more about leagues that many of us, especially here in America where casual fans--and even hardcore ones--don't think about. It's an issue of access, familiarity, and curiousity. Not to mention in a lot of cases, poor organization and underfunding. Thereby prompting a negative reputation of pro basketball in America that is not named NBA for years.

    Let's start with Las Vegas, a city that has lots of practice with "pretender" sports leagues for about four decades--and thus a sports graveyard like San Antonio is. Debate still rages over whether Las Vegas is truly a pro sports city. We even discuss this on these boards several years ago. Not surprisingly, gambling is a major reason why the top leagues shy away from it for expansion candidates or relocating franchises. In basketball, Las Vegas endured the WBA's Gamblers, the CBA's Silvers, the WBL's Silver Streaks, the ABA's Slam, Rattlers, Aces, and now Destroyers. And still that city can't get a true NBA invite even after hosting an NBA All-Star Weekend. During all these years, the UNLV Runnin' Rebels serve as the de facto pro basketball team for the city.

    So now I start it all with the Las Vegas Silver Bandits from the original IBL with many thanks to the site Fun While It Lasted. One of the more notable pro basketball teams based in Las Vegas from a decade ago. This team featured Lionel Hollins as head coach, fresh off his interim coaching stint with the Vancouver Grizzlies after an ownership changed there. Hollins since returned to the Grizzlies franchise after its subsequent move to Memphis and is the best coach the franchise has ever had. On the playing side, there was J.R. Henderson, Ed O'Bannon (NCAA champs from UCLA 1995), and George Ackles (former UNLV star). But Hollins wasn't the first Silver Bandits coach. That honor went to Rolland Todd, the first ever coach of the Portland Trail Blazers. The league turned its back on the Bandits when owner Jackie Robinson (no, not THAT one) failed to get funding to cover the rest of the season when it had its hands full with the woes of the New Mexico Slam, Baltimore BayRunners, and the San Diego Stingrays.
    http://www.funwhileitlasted.net/2012...vegas-bandits/
    Last edited by Durbansandshark; 13-04-2012 at 07:52 AM.
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    Many of you have on these boards never ever heard of the World Basketball League. Or at least had very vague memories about it, if you ever read the FIBA Basketball Monthly magazines back in the day. Don't feel too bad. It only lasted three and a half seasons. I have made fleeting mentions of the league as part of a bigger subject, like most recently, my history of Canadian pro basketball up to the NBL Canada's creation.

    The WBL is best known as a summer season minor pro basketball league from 1988 to 1992 whose notable and unique requirement (or gimmick, if you prefer) was that players had to stand no taller than 6'5" to play on the team, an outlet for smaller players who want to continue on to the pro level when taller size seems to be at a premium. Teams were based in cities in both the US and Canada where there was no existing NBA franchise, mostly in medium cities. Though in its final season in 1992 that did not get to play in full, the WBL's height maximium was raised to 6'7". This twist of having players under the height limit certainly made for some entertaining and high-octane offensive games.

    Its demise came during the midst of the 1992 sesason when it was revealed Phar-Mor executive, WBL founder, and Youngstown Pride owner Mickey Monus was bankrolling the league's financial losses by systematically embezzeling $10 million from the publicly-owned, Youngstown-based discount pharmacy chain that he owned called Phar-Mor. It collasped immediately, and Monus was convicted to 11 years in federal prison. Those actions help extend the negative percetion minor league pro basketball it has in the US. Other investors included the legendary Bob Cousy, who had a previous experience with minor league sports as commissioner of the American Soccer League in the late 1970s and early 1980s despite not knowing a lick about the sport for a league that needed name recognition. There was also Norm Drucker, a 25-year veteran of NBA and ABA officiating, later the NBA's head of officiating who held the WBL's capacity in it.

    Furthermore, league rules mandated WBL franchises at the time to have 60% ownership by the league and 40% local, supposedly to prevent league instability and keep disenchanted local ownership from closing up shop. But effectively Monus ruled each of those too. Later it went up to 80% league control.

    Monus' Youngstown Pride was one of the better WBL teams during that time. The Pride won the WBL back to back in 1989 and 1990 beating the Calgary 88s both times. Even with its minor tag, the league had some college and eventual NBA stars. Youngstown's most notable players were Tim Legler and Mario Elie.

    Like with several subsequential American-based basketball minor leagues, it round out the schedule with its teams by allowing mostly European teams from Finland, Estonia, Greece, The Bahamas, Norway, The Netherlands, The Ukraine, Russia, and the former Soviet Union to play against them to have a taste of American players and have it count in the standings. Those teams were older and played together longer...and decidely slower. Oftentimes, the faster WBL teams won on sheer athleticism.

    I recall on lucky Saturday summer afternoons on TV back in 1990-91, if the reception was decent enough despite significant amount of "snow" present, I could catch a couple of WBL games from a Sportschannel America feed on a low-watt reception channel from far away that we didn't officially have (Channel 7 on the VHF dial as part of a Sports Weekend America) like a Calgary 88s game or a Youngstown Pride home game against the Soviets that had Tit Sokk on the team months before the Soviet breakup. I also recall seeing the Memphis Rockers, the Erie Wave, and the Saskatchewan Storm playing games on Sportschannel's feed a couple of times. I was cable-deprived at the time. Neither home game for the first two at the Olympic Saddledome or the Beeghley Arena, respectively, even through the TV snow, was well-attended
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  3. #3
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    One of the things lost about the WBL lied in the fact that many of the Canadian-based franchises in the league, with the exception of the Vancouver Nighthawks from the first season in 1988, were quite successful on and off the court in comparasion to the US teams. For many Canadian basketball fans, this was their biggest exposure to Canadian pro basketball teams at the time. Didn't had to deal with the since-gone Canadian CBA teams like the Alberta Dusters and the Toronto Tornados competing and conflicting with their interest with the NBA's massive exposure. The advent of the FIBA World Basketball Championships in Toronto and Hamilton and the NBA's Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies were several years off that would take basketball to the next level there. This era in the 1970s-1990s was where pro basketball in Canada was starting to become more accessible.

    Clearly, Canadians were ready for another pro sport along with hockey, and they proved that. Halifax, with its affinity for basketball already in place with hosting the CIS Final 8 for several years and the success and support of the Atlantic University Sports basketball, had the Windjammers which was, until the current Rainmen in the ABA/PBL/NBL Canada, one of the more successful pro franchises the city had. Saskatoon featured the Saskatchewan Storm that lasted for a few years that pulled decent crowds. Winnipeg Thunder, a new team that until the league's collapse in 1992, drew 15,000 fans in its home opener at the old Winnipeg Arena before going down to more respectable crowds. It enjoyed considerable corporate and public support until the league's instability caused problems and increased competition in the local minor-league world made things tough like when the Winnipeg Goldeyes baseball team arrived. Calgary 88s, named for the 1988 Winter Olympics and often the westernmost Canadian WBL outpost after the end of Vancouver, once in a while was great and holds the best winning percentage of all the Canadian-based WBL franchises at .659. Hamilton Skyhawks also did well. But for all of that success, none of the Canadian teams won a WBL title.

    In its final season, five of its 10 teams were up in Canada--Hamilton, Winnipeg, Halifax, Saskatchewan, and Calgary. In many of these cases, players there were local celebrities like they were their own NBA franchises. The end came when many of the WBL teams were missing payroll. With their success, the next year those teams left, like the Rainmen, Saint John Mill Rats, and the Quebec City Kebs after them many years later, formed their own Canada-only basketball league. Hamilton later moved to Edmonton in the middle of its first Canadian NBL season in 1993 and like the WBL, they would play games that would count in the standings with non-league teams like the Canadian men's basketball team. That NBL would last two years.
    Last edited by Durbansandshark; 20-05-2012 at 05:41 AM.
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    Houston didn't just make history once in women's pro basketball in the US with the Comets winning 3 league titles starting back in 1997. Houston is the city that first made women's pro basketball history by winning the first nationwide league championship in the old WPBL back in 1979, but, unlike the Comets later, the Houston Angels didn't last as long and folded after the WPBL's sophomore season. Like the Comets though, they had the league's best record at 26-8

    The Minnesota Fillies, which at the time had one of the few, if not the only, female head coaches in the league in 29-year old Julia Yeater, became the one of three WPBL franchises to last all three seasons of the league's existence.

    Another thing that is interesting is hours before this home game the Fillies had with the Angels was of Minnesota traded away the league's leading scorer Brenda Chapman to the Milwaukee Does.

    http://www.funwhileitlasted.net/2012...ouston-angels/
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    The WBL's Las Vegas Silver Streaks. One of the more successful pro basketball endeavors Las Vegas has seen in its all-too-brief time there in all of the franchises that came and went through the city. Actually the most successful. The Silver Streaks won the first WBL title in 1988 over the Chicago (later Illinois) Express. Like many Las Vegas basketball entities, it capitalized on the promotion of former UNLV stars and coaches to drum up local interest seeing them go pro. After three years from 1988 to 1990 it went kaput and dragged its carcass to be the Nashville Stars for one season before the whole league did likewise.

    http://www.funwhileitlasted.net/2012...ilver-streaks/

    July 24, 1989 Sports Illustrated article about the World Basketball League with the then-ownerless Silver Streaks as the focal point.
    http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/vau...8612/index.htm
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    Until the arrival of the Grizzlies in 2001, Memphis, like Las Vegas still is, toiled away in pro basketball pretender leagues that didn't last long while having a very solid college basketball program. It had the Memphis Pros, the Tams, the Sounds, the Hot Shots, and the Houn'Dawgs. But one of the more notable Memphis ones came from the World Baketball League outside of the ABA ones that actually originated from New Orleans was the Rockers.

    The Rockers lasted for two seasons (1990-1991) playing at their Mid-South Coliseum home in their purple and silver colo(u)rs. Unlike some local ownership in that league which could be hit and miss sometimes, the Rockers had some solid backing with cotton magnate Billy Dunavant partnering with four prominent black businessmen--Calvin Anderson, Pat Carter, Claude English, George Jones and Harold Shaw Sr. all each forked $200,000--to pay for the $1 million fee as the 20%. Dunavant, former owner of the popular USFL team the Memphis Showboats from 1984-86, also had aspirations at the time for an NFL expansion team for 1995 to fill the Liberty Bowl to have been called the Hound Dogs in an expansion derby with St. Louis, Baltimore, and eventual winners Charlotte and Jacksonville, indicative of the chicken feed money to him on the Rockers.

    Basketball operations were handled by ABA and NBA coaching journeyman Tom Nissalke (Dallas Chaparrals, San Antonio Spurs, Utah Stars, Seattle Supersonics, Houston Rockets, Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks assistant). Nissalke later went to become the commissioner of the short-lived National Basketball League in Canada later on in the 1990s. Like with any minor pro team, the Rockers, to drum up local interest, brought aboard former Memphis St. Tiger players like Andre Turner and Vincent Askew. Other notable players from that franchise include former Notre Dame star David Rivers, who ended up enjoying a lengthy career professionally in Europe, and the unforgettably-named House Guest. But the best players from the Rockers that went on to NBA success after that league overlooked them were Askew and New York Knicks star John Starks.

    http://www.funwhileitlasted.net/2012...inois-express/
    Jusqui'ici tout va bien...

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