A reporter exposes the ABA graveyard.
After my most recent (and last ever) ABA post, I received a number of emails from SLAM readers, journalists, ABA fans and observers around the country. No one email was more informative than one from former ESPN Radio Vermont correspondent, Chris Munson. After covering the Vermont Frost Heaves, Munson has done extensive research into the league and has been kind enough to allow us to publish his findings here. — Matt Caputo
by Chris Munson
I don’t have any involvement in the league. I am the former Sports Director for ESPN Radio Vermont and have written for Our Sports Central, US Basket, the Vermont Guardian, Vermont Times and Varsity Magazine. My wife’s company transferred us to Jacksonville which is where I currently reside. I had to get a “real job” when I moved here but keep in the game with writing and doing play-by-play and color for University of North Florida. (Basketball, soccer and volleyball with baseball to come in the spring.)
I became interested in the league when the Frost Heaves came to Vermont. After interviewing Alex Wolff I did some research on the league and found out just what a train wreck it is. I have literally been called every name in the book by Joe Newman, but only because I have written the truth about the league. After breaking the news on Quintin Townsend, he really blew a gasket. Needless to say, I am not on Mr. Newman’s Christmas card list.
Below you’ll find a fairly accurate list of the ABA teams that have come and gone. If you know of any more, let me know. The list grows by the second and I can’t seem to keep track of it all.
Take care and keep up the good work,
– A –
Albany Thunderdawgs: Could not reach an arena deal.
Albuquerque (Native America): Team to be made up of all Native Americans.
Alexandria Wind Jammers, Va.
Anderson Champions: Two attempts.
Arkansas Aeros: Began play in 2006. They played their home games at the All-Star Sports Arena in Springdale, Ark. They ceased operations on March 15, 2007. The team compiled a 25-2 record during their short existence. The team had absorbed the operations of their brother franchise, the Arkansas Rivercatz following the unexpected closure of the ‘Catz’ headquarters location hotel in Pine Bluff.
Arkansas Fantastics: Began play in 2007 in Fayetteville, Ark. The team was co-owned by former America’s Next Top Model contestant Furonda Brasfield and Arkansas Razorbacks all-time assist and steals leader Kareem Reid.
Arkansas Rivercatz: Based in Pine Bluff, Ark. The team was originally called the Little Rock Rivercatz, and was scheduled to play in Little Rock at the Barton Coliseum. The team had a 34-game schedule with 16 home games on the slate to be played at the Pine Bluff Convention Center. They compiled a 17-7 record and were ranked no. 15 in the ABA Power Rankings before the team’s headquarters, the Royal Arkansas Hotel and Suites suddenly went out of business, forcing the team to merge operations with its brother franchise, the Arkansas Aeros.
Arkansas RimRockers: Joined NBA Development League, currently inactive.
Austin: Never named.
– B –
Baltimore Pearls: Playing in Baltimore, Md. The Pearls played inaugural season home games first at a local boys and girls club, before moving up to a local high school. The team finished a dismal 2-23 and missed the playoffs. The team played at the Coppin Center at Coppin State University in Baltimore. The team folded shortly after beginning the 2006 season. Renamed the Bay Lions but never played a game.
Beijing Aoshen Olympians: Not confirmed if they will be back for the 2008-09 season but it is not looking good. Team is based in Singapore and played all of their games at home.
Bellevue Blackhawks: Defunct team owned by Michael Tuckman, based in Bellevue, Wash. In their maiden season (2004-05), the Blackhawks finished in fifth place in the Red Division. In the playoffs, their semi-final game against the Utah Snowbears was canceled after Utah disbanded. On March 26, 2005, they lost to the Arkansas RimRockers 118-103 in the ABA Championship game in front of 15,000 fans at Alltel Arena in North Little, Rock, Ark. This was the largest crowd ever to attend an ABA game. Tuckman was named the 2005 ABA Executive of the Year. The team returned to the ABA for the 2005-06 season, but came under fire as the team regularly canceled home games, and some fans came under attack from Tuckman. The Blackhawks finished 1-10 and did not make the playoffs. The team has not played since.
Bellingham Slam: Now in International Basketball League.
Big Valley Shockwave: (Turlock, Calif.)
Birmingham Magicians: An ABA team playing in Birmingham, Ala. The team went 6-14 during their inaugural 2005-06 season. Despite reports of returning to the league in 2007-08, the team is not listed on the ABA’s 2007-08 schedule.
Boston Blizzard: Played one season; folded in Sept. 2008.
Buffalo Silverbacks: PBL 2008-09
– C –
Calgary Drillers: Based in Calgary, Alberta, Can. The team participated in a portion of the 2004–05 season and then suspended operations in Feb. 2005. The president of the team was Allan Howell, past president of the CFL Ottawa Roughriders, who went on to found the Niagara Daredevils, another ABA team that lasted three games in 2005 before folding itself. Poor crowds.
California Terminators: A planned ABA expansion franchise in 2005 that is no longer scheduled to play. They were replaced in the offseason by the California Eagles.
California Eagles: Never played. (Ventura, Calif.)
Cape Cod Frenzy: Moved to Manchester, N.H.
Carson Buzz: Moved to Maywood? (Calif.)
Cedar Rapids Running Guns
Central Valley Dawgs: Replacement for Visalia?
Charlotte Krunk: Now in Continental Basketball Association as Atlanta Krunk.
Chicago Throwbacks: Now in PBL.
Chicago Rockstars: 2006 expansion franchise, based out of Chicago. The team was originally to play its home games at the Emil and Patricia Jones Convocation Center of Chicago State University but, upon learning that the former would not be completed on time, elected to play at Northeastern Illinois University. As of Feb. 1, 2007, the Rockstars have canceled the remainder of their season and ended ties with the ABA. The team has not folded; however, they are actively pursuing several basketball leagues, and will make a decision in the near future.
Chicago Skyliners: Based in Chicago, Ill. The team began play in the fall of 2000. They played in the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill. After having relocated to Las Vegas, Nev. during the 2001-02 season, the former Skyliners were renamed the Las Vegas Slam.
Chicago Soldiers: Based in Chicago, Ill. The team played three games in the fall of 2004 before folding that December finishing with a record of 1-2.
Cicero Cometas USA: Folded. (Chicago, Ill.)
Cincinnati Monarchs: Based in Cincinnati, Ohio. The team began play in the fall of 2004. They team folded operations during their first season. They had a 7-7 record at the time they left.
Cleveland Rockers: AKA Lake Erie.
Colorado Storm: Based in Denver, Colo. Originally intended to be based in Colorado Springs, the team began play in the fall of 2004, and ceased operations in 2005. The Storm compiled a 3-13 record, winning two at home and one on the road, finishing in sixth place in the ABA’s White Division.
Columbia Rottweleilers: Never played.
Columbus Mustangs: (O.H.)
Corning Bulldogs: Left the ABA after only a few games and moved to Elmira, N.Y. The Bulldogs joined the National Professional Basketball League last season, where they played in the league finals and also hosted the event. They joined the Eastern Basketball Alliance for the 2009 season.
– D –
Detroit Dogs: Based in Detroit, Mich. The team began play in the fall of 2000 and played in the Cobo Arena but is now defunct.
Detroit Panthers: Two seasons and folded.
– E –
Edmonton Cheetahs: Were to play in 2005 if the Calgary Drillers survived. Calgary died and so did Edmonton.
El Paso S’ol: Scheduled to begin play in the 2007-08 season, and based in El Paso, Texas. The team was formerly known as the New Mexico Style and played in Santa Fe, N.M. for the 2005-06 season. Did not play the 2007-08 season.
– F –
Florida Pit Bulls: Now in Continental Basketball Association as East Kentucky Miners.
Fort Worth, Texas
Fresno Heatwave: Moved to Sacramento.
– G –
Gallup Outlaws: Have attempted three times and just folded again in 2008-09.
Georgia Reigning Knights: Duluth, Ga.
– H –
Halifax Rainmen: One season in the ABA, folded during playoffs and went to the PBL.
Hammond Rollers: Moved to Salk Valley and folded.
Hampton Roads Titans
Harbor Shore Dreams
Harlem Revs (N.Y.)
Hawaii Hurricanes: Folded before the start of the 2007-08 season. Financial issues, embezzlement by their owner.
Hermosillo Seris: Based in Hermosillo, Mex. The team began play in the fall of 2004 and folded operations in Jan. 2005 because of financial difficulties. The Seris had a 3-6 record at the time they left.
Hershey: Moved to Maryland to become the Nighthawks.
Hollywood Fame: Based in the Los Angeles, Calif. It was an expansion team for the 2006-07 season. The team played its home games in Santa Monica College’s Corsair Pavilion. It had previously announced it would play at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena and at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, but financial cost forced them to move locations. Folded.
– I –
Indiana Alley Cats: Originally announced as an expansion franchise for Indianapolis, Ind. Later on, however, the team moved to Anderson, where they played at O.C. Lewis Gymnasium, on the campus of Anderson University. On the court, the Alley Cats were one of the most successful franchises in ABA history, posting a 27-4 record. Their winning percentage is only topped by that of the 2005-06 Utah Snowbears, who were 25-1. The Alley Cats were coached by Greg Graham. Despite this level of success, the second seed Alley Cats were upset by the 13th seed Strong Island Sound. Off the court, the Alley Cats struggled. Crowds hovered around 400-500 fans.
Indiana Legends: The Indiana Legends were an ABA team from 2000-02. The owner of the team was current owner and founder Joe Newman. In 2000, the team played in Hinkle Fieldhouse and reached the semifinals in the playoffs, only to lose to the Detroit Dogs. The Legends second year was worse. At first there was a salary dispute going on with the players, then they had to change their home venue to the Pepsi Coliseum at the Indiana State Fairgrounds, followed by high school gyms. Their year ended by losing to the Las Vegas Slam in the ABA play-in game. Indiana folded during the off-year of the ABA, 2002-03.
Indianapolis Alley Cats: Moved to CBA.
– J –
Jacksonville JAM: Now in Premier Basketball League—(Folded as part of the PBL)
Jalisco Solos: Played in 2000-01.
Jersey Jaguars: The Jersey Jaguars (also called the Jersey SkyCats during their first and only season) were an American Basketball Association team in 2004-05. A second owner–Graham Sampson–was brought on board to handle the business side of the franchise; however, his decision to pull out less than one week prior to the team’s opening game resulted in Eford taking over all ownership duties, and also led to the name change from Jaguars to SkyCats. The SkyCats/Jaguars were the third ABA team in the state, after the New Jersey Americans of the original league (who would eventually become the New Jersey Nets) and the Jersey Squires of the current incarnation of the ABA (the Squires eventually moved to Philadelphia, then disbanded in 2004-05). The SkyCats played their home games at the Bill Bradley Center on the campus of Ramapo College in Mahwah, New Jersey. They finished in fifth place in the White Division with a 12-9 record. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Maryland Nighthawks, 124-105.
– K –
Kansas City Knights: The Knights were one of the ABA’s charter franchises and began play during the 2000-01 season. In 2001-02, the following season, the Knights posted a league-best 35-5 record that year and ended up winning the ABA championship under head coach and University of Kansas alumnus Kevin Pritchard. Soon after winning the title, the ABA took the year off to re-organize. The ABA then resumed play in the 2003-04 season. The Knights competed in the ABA for the 2003-04 and the 2004-05 seasons before going dark for 2005-06. League offices were based there in 2003. (Lenexa, Kan.)
Kentucky Mavericks: Were scheduled to play in 2008-09 in Bowling Green then problems with ownership came up. Now under a new name and will play in Owensboro, Ky. Owner Jason Smith indicted on charges of passing bad checks.
Kentucky Pro Cats: Based in Covington, Ky. The team began play in the fall of 2001 and played in the Connor Convocation Center on the campus of Thomas More College. Covington is part of the Northern Kentucky portion of the greater Cincinnati, Ohio metro area. However, the team failed to garner significant support from either Northern Kentucky or Southern Ohio and soon thereafter disbanded.
Kentucky Retros: Scheduled to play in 2007-08. Did not play.
King County Royals: The King County Royals are a team of the American Basketball Association based in King County, Wash. (which the cities of Seattle and Bellevue are part of) and owned by John Dominguez, who also owns the Bellingham Slam. Were run by the Slam and folded when Bellingham moved to the IBL.
Knoxville Noise: The Noise announced they were leaving the ABA and focusing their efforts on the upcoming WBA season on Jan. 7, 2006. However, the team never played a game in the WBA.
– L –
Lake Charles Hurricanes (La.)
Lake Erie Rockers
Las Vegas PROLYMs: An expansion team located in Las Vegas, Nev. The team began play as the Las Vegas Venom, but later suspended operations in Nov. 2006. Planned to return for the 2007-08 season but folded.
Las Vegas Rattlers: Based in Las Vegas, Nev. The team began play in the fall of 2000 as the Chicago Skyliners. After Chicago, the team became known as the Las Vegas Slam. In 2002, the Slam folded. The franchise was revived as the Rattlers in 2004. The team again folded in 2005 because of financial difficulties.
Las Vegas Slam: Based in Las Vegas, Nev. The team began playing in Las Vegas during the 2001-02 season. Originally the team had been based in Chicago as the Chicago Skyliners in 2000-2001 and the start of 2001-2002. The team played in the Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas. The team folded in 2002 and is now defunct.
Lincoln Thunder: Expansion team in Lincoln, Neb. that was introduced in the 2005-06 season. The team decided to take the 2006-07 season off, was to return in 2007 but did not play.
Long Beach Laguneros
Long Beach Breakers: The Long Beach Breakers is a team of the American Basketball Association scheduled to begin play in 2007. The team was known as the Long Beach Storm before an ownership change in April 2007.
Long Beach Jam: Now in NBA Development League as Bakersfield Jam.
Los Angeles Aftershock
Los Angeles Stars: The Los Angeles Stars of the American Basketball Association became the Los Angeles Aftershock before the start of the 2005 season. The Aftershock had an 11-15 regular season record and made it to the playoffs, but lost in the second round to the San Jose Skyrockets. Were to play in the CBA but folded.
Los Angeles Push: Were to play during the 2007-08 season but folded. Were to play in Pasadena but could not find an arena.
Louisiana Blues: The Louisiana Blues are a 2006-07 expansion American Basketball Association franchise in New Orleans, La. Did not play.
Louisiana Cajun Pelicans: Based in Baton Rouge. The team began play in the winter of 2005. The team joined the league after the Oklahoma City Ballhawgs left after one game. The Pelicans finished with 2-10 record, and finished in seventh place in the White Division.
– M –
Manchester Millrats: Played one season and went to the PBL.
Maryland Nighthawks: Now in PBL.
Memphis Houn’Dawgs: The Memphis Houn’Dawgs was an American Basketball Association (ABA) team based in Memphis, Tenn.The team began play in the fall of 2000. The team played in the DeSoto Civic Center in Southaven, Miss., and only played the 2000-01 ABA season before disbanding. They finished second place in the Eastern Division with a 19-21 record.
Minnesota Ripknees: Briefly joined the PBL after starting play as a member of the ABA in 2006. They finished their inaugural season 24-8 playing their home games at the Gangelhoff Center, good for first place in their division. However, a financial dispute prevented the team from participating in the playoffs. Did not play in 07-08.
Minneapolis/St. Paul Slamma Jammas: Based in the Twin Cities that was scheduled to play the 2005-06 season, but folded before playing any games.
Minot City Freeze
Mississippi Miracles: Folded during playoffs (2006-07)
Motown Jammers: (Detroit, Mich.)
Montreal Matrix: Moved to the PBL.
Motown: (Detroit, Mich.) Jammers.
– N –
Nashville Rhythm: Began play in the 2004-05 season. It was one of the first teams composed of male athletes ever to compete at such a high level with a female head coach, former Vanderbilt University star Ashley McElhiney. After a tumultuous season and a half, the team folded Dec. 7, 2005. On Jan. 29, 2005, while coaching a one-point comeback win over Kansas City, Ashley McElhiney was fired by the team’s co-owner Sally Anthony after an on-court dispute between the two women. The dispute began over McElhiney’s decision to play Matt Freije, another former Vanderbilt star. As an attempt to gain publicity, the Rhythm (reportedly with Anthony’s blessing) signed Freije to a two-game, $10,000 contract. Anthony claimed to have disapproved of the deal, and demanded that McElhiney bench Freije. The coach refused, not wishing to play without whom she considered the best player on the team. During the third quarter of the game, Anthony became incensed with McElhiney’s decision, and charged onto the court to confront her coach. Reportedly, the co-owner loudly used profanity and obscene gestures before being escorted out of the building by a security guard. The Rhythm managed to come back and win the game, but McElhiney was again fired by Anthony shortly afterwards. In addition, she threatened to fold the team if the players took McElhiney’s side against her and the other co-owners, one of whom is Anthony’s husband.
New Jersey Jaguars
New Jersey Skycats: Hackensack, N.J.
New Mexico Style
New Orleans Blues
New York Xpress
Niagara Daredevils: Folded when team couldn’t pay their players.
Norfolk Ballerz: They played part of the 2006-07 ABA season as the Richmond Ballerz before ending their season on Feb. 23, 2007 due to scheduling problems attributed to several nearby ABA franchises failing to start the 2006-07 season or folding early in the season. The Richmond Ballerz were coached by former Virginia Tech guard Michael Davis.
North Carolina Renegades
Northeast Pennsylvania Breakers: Moved to the USBL, played one season and folded.
– O –
Ohio Aviators: An inactive team based in Canton, Ohio. The team finished 3-13 in their lone season (2005-06), and lost in the first round of the ABA playoffs.
Oklahoma City Ballhawgs: Based in Oklahoma City, Okla. The team began play in the winter of 2004. The team folded after only one game, a loss, and were replaced in the league by the Louisiana Cajun Pelicans.
Ontario Red Wolves
Ontario Warriors: Based in San Bernardino, Calif. The team began play in the fall of 2004. The team finished in third place in the Red Division in 2005. They lost to the Arkansas RimRockers in the first round of the playoffs. Folded.
Orange County Buzz: Moved to Maywood.
Orange County Crush
Oregon Riptide: Scheduled to play, never did. Owner had setup basketball camps for kids but the camps closed when it was discovered that owner Jeremy Brice was a registered sex offender. Sold to Christopher Sears.
Orlando Orange Men
– P –
Palm Beach Imperials
Pennsylvania Pit Bulls: Based in McKeesport, Pa.
Pensacola Aviators: An expansion team located in Pensacola, Fla. They were originally scheduled to play the 2004-05 season, but the tenant at the Civic Center would not allow another team to play there.
Philadelphia Fusion: Based in Philadelphia. The team folded in Feb. 2005 with a record of 3-10.
Phoenix Eclipse: Based in Phoenix, Ariz. The team began play in the fall of 2001 and played in the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Phoenix; however, it has since folded and is now defunct.
Pittsburgh Xplosion: Now in CBA.
Pittsburgh Patriots: Never played.
Portland Reign: Based in Portland, Ore. The team began play in the fall of 2004. The team folded in Feb. 2005, having posted a 4-8 record to that point.
– Q –
Quad City Riverhawks: Now in PBL.
Quebec Kebs: Two seasons in the ABA, went to the PBL.
– R –
Reading Railers: Now in PBL.
Reigning Knights of Georgia: Based in Duluth, Ga. The team began play in fall 2004. They finished in 10th place in the Blue Division with a 3-18 record and did not make the playoffs in their only season.
Reno Rockers: Owned by Joe Newman’s nephew; folded in 2007.
Rio Grande Valley Silverados: Now in Continental Basketball Association
River City Ballers: Lincoln, Neb.
Rochester Fire (Minn.): Scheduled to begin play in 2007-08. However, as of Nov. 2, 2007, the status of the franchise was in question when it was announced that the majority owner was trying to sell the team just days from the start of the season.
Rochester Razorsharks: Now in PBL.
Rock River Fury: Now in PBL as Rockford Fury.
Rome Legions: In Sept. 2007, the club announced that it would not participate in the 2007-08 ABA season.
– S –
Salt Lake Dream: Based in Salt Lake City, Utah. The team’s inaugural season was slated to begin Nov. 2006 as a member of the Red Conference (the western conference of the ABA). The Dream ceased operations before playing a single game after having a number of financial difficulties.
San Antonio Stallions
San Francisco Pilots: The Pilots began play at Kezar Pavilion, in San Francisco, Calif. The team posted a great record in the months of November and December and had a lot of local media attention going into the home-stretch. However, due to a steam pipe leakage at Kezar, the team was forced to cancel numerous games and move others to Potrero Hill. The Pilots resumed play against Aoshen Olympian–in Maywood–then continued a home and home series in San Francisco. The San Francisco Pilots were selected as the “West Alternate” for the ABA playoffs, however the team was not asked to participate in the tournament, and going into the offseason, the future of the Franchise was uncertain. The team is defunct.
San Jose Skyrockets: Moved to the CBA.
Savannah Kings: Folded in Nov. 2008.
Southern California Surf: Based in Anaheim, Calif.The team began play in the 2001-02 ABA season but is now defunct. It became the Long Beach Jam.
Southern Alabama Bounce: Played in Mobile, Alb.
Southern Georgia 36ers: (Albany, Ga.)
St. Louis Flight: Based in St. Louis, Mo. The team began play in the fall of 2004. They finished the 2005 season with a 9-19 record, which was good for a seventh place finish in the White division. In the playoffs, they lost to the Mississippi Stingers in the first round, 96-84. The team folded early in the 2005-06 season.
St. Louis Rotweilers
Saint Louis Stunners: Come and gone a couple of times.
Southern Alabama Bounce
Southern California Legends
Strong Island Sound: Well known, no research needed.
Syracuse Raging Bullz: Played during the 2007-08 season. After postponing a couple of games to better market the team, the decision was made to cancel the remainder of the season.
– T –
Tacoma Navigators: The Tacoma Navigators, owned by Michael Tuckman, are a defunct team. The Navigators made it to the playoffs in their first and only season (2005-06) only to forfeit their first round game in Newark, N.J.
Tampa Bay Strong Dogs: Based in Tampa, Fla. The team began play in the fall of 2004 as the Harlem Strong Dogs. They finished in fourth place in the blue division with a 14-6 record. They lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Kentucky Colonels 108-105. After the 2005-06 season the team announced they would be moving to Tampa for the 2006-07 season. However, due to lack of corporate and community support, the team announced they would not play, and as such, never played the 2006-07 season. Folded.
Tampa Bay ThunderDawgs: Based in St. Petersburg, Fla.The team began play in the fall of 2000. The team played in the Bayfront Center Arena. The team played only the 2000-01 season.
Tampa Bay Tornados
Tennessee Mud Frogs: Based in Chattanooga, Tenn. The team was originally going to play in 2007, but changed their plans, starting in the fall of 2006. Never played…
Tijuana Tasmanian Devils: Changed name to Dragons.
Toledo Royal Knights: Based in Toledo, Ohio. The team was known as the Toledo Ice before a Dec. 2006 change of ownership. The team canceled the rest of their season because of lack of funding.
Twin City Ballers: Played in 2006 in Benton Harbor, Mich.
– U –
Utah Snowbears: The Utah Snowbears were a basketball team in the revived American Basketball Association based in Taylorsville, Utah for the 2004-05 season. The team played its home games in the Lifetime Activities Center on the Redwood Campus of Salt Lake Community College. Led by guard Clay Tucker and forward Harold Arceneaux, the Snowbears finished the regular season with a 25-1 record, then won two playoff games to qualify for ABA’s championship round. However, despite a 27-1 record, the franchise folded before the season ended. The new Snowbears were successful on the floor, but struggled in other ways: poor attendance, financial difficulties, lack of coverage in local media outlets.
– V –
Vancouver Dragons: Supposed team that was to be similar to Beijing. Jim Harrick was announced as their coach but then later denied the report. Never named.
Vermont Frost Heaves: Won two ABA titles and went to the PBL.
Visalia Dawgs: Finished in ninth place in the Red Division with a 3-20 record in 2005. Folded.
– W –
Waco Wranglers: Now in United Basketball League
Westchester Phantoms: Folded Dec. 2008
West Palm Beach, Fla.
Wilmington Sea Dawgs: Now in PBL
Winston-Salem: Folded Dec. 2, 2008.
– Y –
218 failed teams
49 teams scheduled for 2008-09 with a 30-game schedule.
2001-02: 208/252 games (90.4 percent) — Seven teams
2003-04: 206/252 (81.7 percent) — Seven teams
2004-05: 668/1,116 (59.8 percent) — 31 teams
2005-06: 755/1152 (65.5 percent) — 32 teams