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The Continental Basketball Association (CBA) was a professional men's basketball league in the United States. It was affiliated with USA Basketball, the sport's governing body in the United States.

History[]

The amazing Continental Basketball Association was a United States based professional basketball minor league from 1946 to 2009. The CBA often billed itself as the "World's Oldest Pro Basketball League," since its founding on April 23, 1946, pre-dated by two months, the founding of the National Basketball Association. The league's original name was the Eastern Pennsylvania Basketball League and it fielded six franchises - five in Pennsylvania (Wilkes-Barre, Hazleton, Allentown, Lancaster and Reading) with a sixth team in New York (Binghamton, which moved in mid-season to Pottsville, Pa.). In 1948, the league was renamed the Eastern Professional Basketball League. Over the years, it would add franchises in several other Pennsylvania cities, including Williamsport, Scranton and Sunbury, as well as place teams in New Jersey (Trenton, Camden, Asbury Park), Connecticut (New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport), Delaware (Wilmington) and Massachusetts (Springfield).i

For the 1970-71 season, the league rebranded itself the Eastern Basketball Association, operating both as a professional Northeastern League and as an unofficial feeder system to the NBA and ABA. After expansion to Anchorage, Alaska in 1977, the league was renamed the Continental Basketball Association for the 1978-79 season.

The CBA's first commissioner was Harry Rudolph, the father of Mendy Rudolph, one of the first great referees of the National Basketball Association. Coincidentally, 32 years later, in 1977, Jim Drucker, the son of Norm Drucker, another top NBA referee, began a 12-year association with the CBA, as its Deputy Commissioner, Commissioner (1978-86), General Counsel and President of CBA Properties.

During Drucker's term, the league expanded from 8 to 14 teams, landed its first national TV contract (with B.E.T.) and saw franchise values increase from $5,000 to $500,000. The league also instituted a series of novel rule changes including sudden-death overtime, a no foul-out rule, and changed the way league standings were determined. Under the "7 Point System" seven points were awarded each game. A team was awarded three points for winning a game and one point for every quarter it won. As a result a winning team would wind up with 4 to 7 points in the standings, while a losing team could collect anywhere from zero to three points. The league used this method to calculate division standings from its implementation in 1983 until the league's end in 2009.

Also during this time, the CBA created a series of spectacular (for that time) halftime promotions. The most successful was the "1 Million Dollar CBA Supershot". In an era where the typical basketball halftime promotion would feature a winning prize of less than $100, the CBA's Supershot, created in 1983 offered a grand prize of one million dollars if a randomly selected fan could hit one shot from the far foul line (69'9"). No one won the insured prize but the shot attracted national media coverage for the league in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, The Sporting News. In 1985, the CBA followed with the "Ton-of-Money Free Throw" which featured a prize of 2,000 pounds of pennies ($5,000) if a randomly selected fan could make just one free throw. Two of 14 contestants were successful. The next year, the league created the "Easy Street Shootout". In that contest, the league selected 14 contestants (one from each city) and the person who made the longest shot was awarded a $1,000,000 zero coupon bond. The winner was Don Mattingly (no relation to the New York Yankee baseball player) who represented the Evansville (Ind.) Thunder. And, after the league's 1985 All-Star Game in Casper, Wyoming, the league invited fans to make a paper airplane from the centerfold of their game program (each identified with its own unique serial number imprinted on it) and attempt to throw the paper airplane through the moon roof a new Ford Thunderbird which had been driven to mid-court. Four fans were successful and a tie-breaker determined the winner who drove home with the new $17,000 sports car.

In 1984, seventeen years before the television program American Idol made it commonplace to find an "unknown" and make them a star, the league created the "CBA Sportscaster Contest" to select its color commentator for its weekly game of the week televised on the B.E.T. television network. With tryouts in cities nationwide, that promotion garnered the league national attention on the NBC Nightly News, Entertainment Tonight, Sports Illustrated and other media.


Notable CBA accomplishments[]

Integration[]

In the 1946-47 Eastern League season, the Hazleton Mountaineers had three African-American players on their roster during the season - Bill Brown, Zack Clayton and John Isaacs. Isaacs previously played with an all-black touring squad, the Washington Bears, while Brown and Clayton were alumni of the Harlem Globetrotters.

In the 1955-56 season, the Hazleton Hawks Eastern League team were the first professional league franchise with an all-black starting lineup: Tom Hemans, Jesse Arnelle, Fletcher Johnson, Sherman White and Floyd Lane.

Three-point line[]

Although the 1961-63 American Basketball League used a three-point scoring line, the Eastern League added a three-point line for the 1964-65 season. In that year, Brendan McCann of the Allentown Jets led the league with 31 completed 3-pointers. Although three-point plays in the 1960s were very few and far-between, the Eastern League did develop several scorers who used the three-point shot to their advantage.

Collapsible rims[]

After Darryl Dawkins shattered two basketball rims in the 1979-80 NBA season, the CBA tested out a collapsible hinged rim. Eventually, other leagues converted their rims over to the collapsible hinged model, which is still in use today.

Ten-Day contract[]

In the early 1980s, the CBA and the NBA entered into an agreement where CBA players would be signed to 10-day NBA contracts, mostly to replace an injured player or to test out a top CBA prospect. Under the 10-day contract rule, a player is signed at the prorated league minimum salary for 10 days. If the NBA team likes the player, the team can sign him to a second 10-day contract. After the second 10-day contract expires, the team must either return the player to the CBA or sign him for the rest of the NBA regular season.

The Isiah Thomas years (1999-2001)[]

In 1999, all the league's teams were purchased by an investment group led by former NBA star Isiah Thomas. The combined ownership plan was unsuccessful, and by 2001, the CBA declared bankruptcy and ceased operations. Several of its teams briefly joined the now defunct International Basketball League.

The following is a timeline of the events surrounding Thomas' ownership of the CBA:

  • August 3, 1999 - Former NBA superstar Isiah Thomas purchases the CBA - the entire league, including all the teams, and its marketing company, CBA Properties - for $10 million. Thomas says that the league will now operate as a single-owner entity, and that the CBA will continue to be the official developmental league of the NBA.
  • October 7, 1999 - the sale of the CBA to Thomas is finalized. Thomas paid $5 million up front and agreed to make four additional payments to the CBA's former team owners for the remainder of the debt.
  • October 24, 1999 - Thomas announces that there will be salary cuts in the CBA. The average salary of $1,500 per week will be reduced to $1,100 per week, with rookies getting $800 a week. Thomas' reasoning is that by reducing the number of veterans in the league, there will be more young players available for NBA teams.
  • January 18, 2000 - For the first time in three years, the CBA holds an All-Star Game. The Sioux Falls SkyForce hosts the event. The All-Star Game also features an All-Rookie game, featuring the CBA's top 16 rookies.
  • March 2000 - the NBA offers Thomas $11 million and a percentage of the profits for the CBA. Thomas chose not to sell the league to the NBA. "The NBA made an offer that wasn't what Isiah expected," said Brendan Suhr, a former coach and co-owner of the CBA's Grand Rapids Hoops, "so he decided not to sell the league at that time."
  • May 2000 - a CBA All-Star team travels to China for a three-game series.
  • June 28, 2000 - Isiah Thomas is offered the head coaching job of the NBA's Indiana Pacers. Since the NBA rules forbid a coach from owning his own league, as it would be a conflict of interest (he could sign the minor league's best players to his NBA team, for example), Thomas has to sell the CBA. On this day, Thomas signs a letter of intent to sell the CBA to the NBA Players' Union.
  • In the summer of 2000, after twenty years of using the CBA as its developmental league, the NBA announces it will form its own minor league feeder system, creating the National Basketball Development League (later the NBA Development League). The CBA will no longer be the NBA's official developmental league after the 2001 season.
  • On October 2, 2000, Isiah Thomas, unable to sell his ownership in the CBA, places the league into a blind trust, and accepts the head coaching job of the Pacers. With the league in a blind trust, there are no funds available to pay players, to buy plane tickets for away games, or to handle day-to-day operations.
  • February 8, 2001 - the CBA suspends play and folds. The blind trust that was to find a new owner for the league gives up. The league has over $2 million in debts. The teams are offered back to their original owners for $1.00, simple consideration. A few owners take the offer. Many more refuse and their clubs are shuttered.
  • February 24, 2001 - 18 months after Thomas purchased the CBA, the league declared bankruptcy. Five of the former CBA team owners repurchased their franchises and joined the rival International Basketball League (IBL) to finish out the season. Other team owners chose to let their franchises fold completely, rather than reincur debts that were not theirs originally.
  • Summer 2001 - The IBL folds.
  • November 2001 - The CBA reorganizes for the 2001-02 season, as CBA franchises in Rockford, Gary, Grand Rapids and Sioux Falls merge with the smaller International Basketball Association (IBA), with franchises in Bismarck (Dakota Wizards), Fargo (Fargo-Moorhead Beez) and Saskatoon (Saskatchewan Hawks). The Flint (Mich.) Fuze joining as an expansion team.

Rebirth of the CBA[]

In the fall of 2001, CBA and IBL teams merged with the International Basketball Association and purchased the assets of the defunct CBA, including its name, logo and records from the bankruptcy court and re-started operations, calling itself the CBA.

The CBA obtained eight new franchises for a confirmed total of 10 for the 2006 season. The Atlanta Krunk Wolverines and Vancouver Dragons deferred their participation to the 2007-2008 season, and the Utah Eagles folded as of January 25, 2007.

The CBA's 2007-08 season began with ten franchises, the greatest number of teams to start a CBA season since the 2000-01 campaign. In addition to six returning franchises, the CBA added three new expansion teams - the Oklahoma Cavalry, the Rio Grande Valley Silverados and East Kentucky Miners, while the Atlanta Krunk joined the league after sitting out the 2006-07 season.

The 2008-2009 CBA season started with just four teams instead of the expected five: the Pittsburgh Xplosion folded under unclear circumstances and the league scheduled games against American Basketball Association (ABA) teams for the first month of the season just to stay afloat. [1] The maneuver was not enough, and on February 2, the league announced a halt to operations, turning a scheduled series between the Albany Patroons and Lawton-Fort Sill Cavalry into the league championship series.[2]

Jim Coyne, league commissioner, said in June 2009 that only two of the league's teams committed to playing basketball the following year, that the league would not play in 2010, so the league went out of business.[3]

Teams[]

Team City Arena Founded
Albany Patroons Albany, NY Washington Avenue Armory 1982

Teams Year by Year[]

Year Teams Expansion Defunct Suspended Return from Hiatus Relocated/Name Change Never Played
2001-02 8 Dakota Wizards
Fargo Beez
Flint Fuze
Gary Steelheads
Grand Rapids Hoops
Rockford Lightning
Sioux Falls Skyforce
Saskatchewan Hawks
2002-03 8 Dakota Wizards
Gary Steelheads
Great Lakes Storm
Idaho Stampede
Grand Rapids Hoops
Rockford Lightning
Sioux Falls Skyforce
Yakima Sun Kings
Fargo Beez
Saskatchewan Hawks
Flint Fuze---->Great Lakes Storm
2003-04 7 Dakota Wizards
Gary Steelheads
Great Lakes Storm
Idaho Stampede
Rockford Lightning
Sioux Falls Skyforce
Yakima Sun Kings

Grand Rapids Hoops
2004-05 6 Dakota Wizards
Gary Steelheads
Great Lakes Storm
Idaho Stampede
Michigan Mayhem
Rockford Lightning
Sioux Falls Skyforce
Yakima Sun Kings
2005-06 7 Albany Patroons
Dakota Wizards
Gary Steelheads
Idaho Stampede
Michigan Mayhem
Rockford Lightning
Sioux Falls Skyforce
Yakima Sun Kings
Great Lakes Storm
2006-07 8 Albany Patroons
Butte Daredevils
Great Falls Explorers
Indiana Alley Cats
Minot SkyRockets
Pittsburgh Xplosion
Utah Eagles
Yakama Sun Kings
Utah Eagles
Gary Steelheads
Michigan Mayhem
Rockford Lightning
Dakota Wizards---->NBA Development League
Sioux Falls Skyforce---->NBA Development League
Idaho Stampede---->NBA Development League
2007-08 11 Albany Patroons
Atlanta Krunk
Butte Daredevils
Great Falls Explorers
East Kentucky Miners
Minot SkyRockets
Oklahoma Cavalry
Rio Grande Valley Silverados
Rockford Lightning
Pittsburgh Xplosion
Yakama Sun Kings
Indiana Alley Cats Vancouver Dragons
Miami Majesty
SoCal Legends
2008-09 5 Albany Patroons
East Kentucky Miners
Lawton-Fort Sill Cavalry
Minot SkyRockets
Rockford Lightning
Butte Daredevils
Great Falls Explorers
Pittsburgh Xplosion
Yakama Sun Kings
Rio Grande Valley Silverados Atlanta Krunk---->Premier Basketball League
Oklahoma Cavalry---->Lawton-Fort Sill Cavalry
2009-10 1 Albany Patroons Minot SkyRockets
Rockford Lightning
East Kentucky Miners---->American Basketball Association
Lawton-Fort Sill Cavalry---->Premier Basketball League

Complete team list[]

See: Continental Basketball Association franchise history

CBA champions[]

See: List of Continental Basketball Association Champions

All-Star Games[]

See: List of Continental Basketball Association All-Star Games

Notable people[]

See: List of Continental Basketball Association MVP's and Notable Alumni

CBA/NBA relationship[]

During the early years of the CBA, when it was the EPBL, the league's relationship with the NBA was frosty at best. The NBA would send several players to the Eastern League for extra playing time, and for several seasons two Eastern League teams would play the opening game of a New Year's Eve doubleheader at Madison Square Garden, with the NBA playing the nightcap contest.

Although the NBA did play some exhibition contests with the Eastern League in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the exhibition games ceased in 1954, when the Eastern League signed several college basketball stars who were involved in point-shaving gambling scandals during their college years, including such players as Jack Molinas, Sherman White, Floyd Layne and Ed Roth. The Eastern League also signed 7-foot center Bill Spivey, the former Kentucky standout who was accused of pointshaving (although Spivey was acquitted of all charges, the NBA still banned him from the league for life).

After a few seasons, however, the NBA and EPBL resumed exhibition games in the 1950s, including a 1956 matchup in which the NBA's Syracuse Nationals lost to the EPBL's Wilkes-Barre Barons at Wilkes-Barre's home court. Other EPBL-NBA exhibition matchups include an October 1959 contest in which the New York Knicks defeated the Allentown Jets, 131-102, in a game in Allentown; and a contest in April 1961, in which the Boston Celtics also played an exhibition contest against Allentown, defeating the Eastern Leaguers soundly.

The Eastern League became a haven for players who wanted to play professionally, but were barred from the NBA because of age restrictions. Even though Ray Scott had left the University of Portland two months after his matriculation, the NBA could not sign Scott to a contract until Scott's class graduated. The EPBL, however, could sign him, and Scott played 77 games for the Allentown Jets before later joining the NBA's Detroit Pistons.

By the 1967-68 season, the Eastern League lost many of its players when the upstart American Basketball Association formed. Players such as Lavern "Jelly" Tart, Willie Somerset, Art Heyman and Walt Simon, all of whom were all-stars in the Eastern League just a year prior, were now in ABA uniforms. The ABA continued to siphon both NBA and Eastern League players, leaving the Eastern League with only six teams in 1972; and four teams in 1975. Only the ABA-NBA merger in June 1976 kept the Eastern League alive, as an influx of players from defunct ABA teams joined the Eastern League.

In 1979, the NBA signed four players from the newly-renamed CBA. The CBA, receiving no compensation from the NBA for these signings, filed a lawsuit against the NBA. The suit was settled and in exchange for the right to sign any player at any time, the NBA paid the CBA $115,000 and also paid the CBA $80,000 to help develop NBA referees at CBA games.

NBA/CBA relationships grew tense again in 1982, when the CBA added the Detroit Spirits franchise to their league roster. Since the Spirits played in the same city as the NBA's Pistons, the NBA did not renew its year-to-year agreement with the CBA. The CBA then began individual NBA teams to a form contract permitting those individual teams to sign CBA players to ten-day contracts. The CBA player could sign a second 10-day contract, but after the completion of the second 10-day contract, the NBA team would have to sign the player for the rest of the season, or return him to the CBA. The CBA teams, in turn, would receive compensation for each 10-day contract. After one year, the NBA and CBA negotiated a leaguewide agreement.

During the 1980s and 1990s, the NBA's relationship with the CBA grew, to the point where dozens of former CBA stars found their way onto NBA rosters, including Tim Legler (Omaha Racers), and Mario Elie (Albany Patroons). The CBA also sent qualified coaches to the NBA, including Phil Jackson (Albany Patroons), Bill Musselman (Tampa Bay Thrillers), Eric Musselman (Rapid City Thrillers), Flip Saunders (LaCrosse Catbirds) and George Karl (Montana Golden Nuggets).

In 2002, the NBA formed its own minor league, the National Basketball Development League (the NBDL or "D-League"). At the end of the 2005-2006 season, three current and one expansion CBA franchise jumped to the NBDL. During the 2006-07 season, not one player was called up from the CBA to the NBA, ending a streak of over 30 seasons of at least one call-up per year.

Rules[]

The CBA follows the same basketball rules as does the NBA and most other professional leagues. However, from 1978 through 1986, CBA commissioner Jim Drucker created several new rules to raise fan interest which were adopted by the league.

  • Season standings were changed from win-loss percentage, to the "7 Point System". During each game, seven points are awarded—three for winning the game, and one point for each quarter in which a team outscored their opponent. Teams standings are determined by number of standings points rather than win-loss percentage.
  • A player cannot foul out of the game - after a player's sixth personal foul, the opposing team receives an automatic free throw.
  • During the 1982-83 and 1983-84 seasons, overtime games were decided by the team who scored the first three points in overtime. During the 1984-85 season, that rule was modified so that victory went to the first team to lead by three points in overtime. By the 1987-88 season, that rule was superseded by a standard five-minute overtime period to determine the winner.
  • During the 1981-82 season, the CBA created a six-foot by five-foot "no call box", an area in front of the baskets in which any contact in the box between offensive and defensive players was to be an automatic defensive foul. This rule, which was designed to encourage drives to the hoop, caused more confusion than scoring, and the rule was quickly abandoned. However, a variant of this rule would be adopted by the NBA in 2002.
  • For a few years in the early 1980s, the CBA offered a money-back guarantee, returning a patron's money if before the start of the second quarter, the fan left the game. There was also a "national season ticket," allowing fans to attend any CBA games within a 100-mile radius of his hometown.
  • Drucker also created a series of high-profile, big-money promotions that attracted increased attendance and league sponsorhips and substantial media interest. From 1984-86, "The 1 Million Dollar CBA Supershot" offered a $1,000,000 annuity prize for a fan selected at random at halftime who made a 3/4 court shot. Although no fan won that one, in 1986 one fan did win a $1,000,000 zero coupon bond. The winner, Don Mattingly (no relation to the New York Yankee player with the same name), won the bond in the "CBA Easy Street Shootout" at the 1986 CBA All-Star Game in Tampa, Florida. Other promotions included the "Ton of Money Free Throw" which consisted of 2,000 pounds of pennies ($5,000) for making one foul shot, and "The Fly-In, Drive-Away" Contest where each fan received a paper airplane with a distinct serial number. At halftime, a new car, with the sun roof opened, was driven to mid-court and the fan who threw his airplane into the sun roof won the car. A new Ford Thunderbird was won by a fan at the CBA All-Star Game in Casper, Wyoming in 1984.

See also[]

  • List of developmental and minor sports leagues

References[]

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External links[]

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