Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Western Basketball Association (1978-1979)

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Formed: 1978
Disbanded: Summer 1979

First Game: November 10, 1978
Last Game: April 2, 1979

Seasons: 1
Franchises: 7
States & Provinces: 7 (Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, Utah, Washington)


The Western Basketball Association was a minor league basketball circuit with franchises in Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Washington. The league made national headlines at its very first game on November 10, 1979. But not in a way it could have hoped or expected. New York Yankees manager Billy Martin made a promotional appearance at the league opener between the Reno Bighorns and the Las Vegas Dealers. By halftime, an intoxicated Martin had retreated to a bar inside Reno’s Centennial Coliseum. He was approached there by Ray Hagar, a 25-year old cub reporter with the Reno Evening Gazette. After initially cooperating with Hagar’s interview attempts, Martin flew into a rage and assaulted Hagar, leaving the young man with a black eye and three chipped teeth. Photos of Hagar’s swollen face went out on the wire services to papers all across the country the following morning. Months later, Bighorns’ owners later paid a $7,500 settlement to Hagar.

The Tucson Gunners defeated the Reno Bighorns to win the league’s only championship series in April 1979.

In May 1979 the WBA announced plans to merge with the rival Continental Basketball Association (CBA) to form a new loop called the United Basketball Association. However, all of the WBA clubs during the summer of 1979 so the CBA simply continued on under its original name.


Western Basketball Association Franchise List

Franchise Years Active WBA Champions
Fresno Stars 1978-1979 None
Great Falls Sky 1978-1979 None
Las Vegas Dealers 1978-1979 None
Reno Bighorns 1978-1979 None
Tucson Gunners 1978-1979 1979
Utah Prospectors 1978-1979 None
Washington Lumberjacks 1978-79 None


Western Basketball Association Links

“Taking a Gamble on the Future“, Curry Kirkpatrick, Sports Illustrated, February 12, 1979


Written by AC

November 14th, 2012 at 2:24 pm

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