Lively Tales About Dead Teams

Archive for the ‘American Basketball League 1996’ Category

1996-1998 Atlanta Glory

leave a comment

Theresa Edwards Atlanta GloryAmerican Basketball League (1996-1998)

Born: 1995 – ABL founding franchise.
Folded: 1998 – The Glory ceases operations.

Arenas:

Team Colors: Blue, Red & Nugget Gold

Owner: American Basketball League

 

The Atlanta Glory was a short-lived women’s basketball team that competed in the American Basketball League for two seasons in the mid-1990’s.  The team split its home games between two downtown Atlanta college campuses, playing most dates at the brand new 5,700-seat arena at Morehouse College, built for the 1996 Olympic Games.

Teresa Edwards, a Cairo, Georgia native, former UGA Bulldog, and four-time U.S. Olympic basketball medalist, was the Glory’s featured attraction.  But despite Edwards’ presence, the Glory struggled to find a following in Atlanta.  During the ABL’s 1996-97 inaugural season, the Glory’s average attendance of 2,780 fans was 2nd lowest in the league.  The team also missed the playoffs with an 18-22 record.

Edwards took on double duty as the Glory’s player-coach for the second ABL season in the winter of 1997-98.  The team went backwards to 15-29, missing the playoffs again.  Announced attendance picked up 40% to 3,898 per game, but that wasn’t enough to save the Glory from the axe.  All teams in the single-entity ABL were centrally owned by the league itself.  With the league bleeding cash at an alarming pace, the ABL contracted the Atlanta franchise shortly after the 1997-98 season concluded.

The ABL launched a 3rd season in November 1998, but ran out of money one month later and folded on December 22, 1998.

Women’s pro hoops returned to Atlanta in 2008 with the formation of the Atlanta Dream of the WNBA.

 

==Links==

American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs

###

 

 

1996-1998 Colorado Xplosion

2 comments

Colorado XplosionAmerican Basketball League (1996-1998)

Born: February 7, 1996 – ABL founding franchise.
Folded: December 22, 1998

Arenas:

Team Colors: Black, Blue & Yellow

Owner: American Basketball League

ABL Championships: None

 

The Colorado Xplosion were the Denver franchise in the women’s American Basketball League, which lasted for two-and-a-half seasons from 1996 to 1998.  After the 1996 Olympics, two rival women’s leagues sprung up.  The bootstrap ABL launched first, played in the winter time, offered the best pay, and initially signed many of the best Olympic-caliber women’s players.  The NBA-backed Women’s National Basketball Association had David Stern’s marketing machine behind it, richer owners and better television and media deals.  In less than three years, the WNBA and the generally challenging marketplace for women’s pro sports drove the ABL to bankruptcy in December 1998.

But it was fun while it lasted.  The Xplosion were a pretty strong club.  In the ABL’s inaugural season, they had the second best record in the regular season at 25-15. But the Richmond Rage bounced Colorado in the first round of the playoffs.  During their second season, the Xplosion regressed a bit, barely making the playoffs at 21-23.  Once again, they lost in the first round, this time to the Long Beach Stingrays.  Season three saw the Xplosion off to slow start and in last place in their division at 5-8 when the ABL abruptly shut down on December 22, 1998, having run out of money to continue operations.

Top players included two-time ABL All-Stars Debbie Black and Crystal Robinson.  Black was the shortest player in the league at 5′ 3″. Nevertheless, she tenacious on the boards and ranked among the league’s top 15 total rebounders during the ABL’s first two seasons.  She also was the ABL’s all-time steals leader and ranked third in assists for the two full seasons the league completed. Robinson led the Xplosion in scoring both seasons was among the league’s top three-point threats.

Sylvia Crawley drew the most national media attention for the team. The 6′ 5″forward executed a blindfolded dunk at the 1998 ABL All-Star Game and won what was billed as the first ever slam dunk contest for women.

The Xplosion split their home games between McNichols Arena and the smaller Denver Coliseum in each of their season.  Attendance was pretty consistent through the team’s brief run, holding a steady average of just under 4,000 per game.  A February 1st, 1998 game at McNichols against the New England Blizzard set the club’s all-time mark with 13,489 fans on hand.

 

Colorado Xplosion Memorabilia

 

Links

American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs

###

Written by AC

February 9th, 2014 at 3:57 pm

1996-1998 New England Blizzard

leave a comment

American Basketball League (1996-1998)

Born: February 1996 – ABL founding franchise.
Folded: December 22, 1998

Arenas:

Team Colors: Columbia Blue, Black & White

Owner:

  • 1996-1998: American Basketball League

Investor-Operator:

  • November-December 1998: Phoenix Home Life Insurance

 

The New England Blizzard were a very popular women’s basketball franchise in the short-lived American Basketball League (1996-1998).  The Blizzard finished in last place for two of their three seasons of play, but this didn’t seem to diminish the team’s appeal.  New England led the ABL in attendance every season, including a peak of 8,857 per game in 1997-98, which was more than double the league-wide average.

Notable players included guard Carolyn Jones, who led the ABL in scoring (21.2 ppg) in 1996-97, and former UCONN stars Jennifer Rizzotti and Kara Wolters.  Players like Rizzotti  and Wolters were emblematic of the ABL’s noble – some would say indulgent – attitude towards player salaries and benefits.  Rizzotti inked a 3-year, $450,000 deal on the eve of the ABL’s final season.  Wolters got 3 years at $200,000 per season as a rookie out of UCONN in 1997.  Across the league, ABL salaries averaged $80,000 per year in 1997-98, which was more than double the average pay in the rival Women’s National Basketball Association, which debuted in the summer of 1997.  As a result, the ABL attracted better players overall, but the NBA-backed WNBA spent much more on marketing and earned better television deals and far larger crowds.

During their debut season, the Blizzard played the majority of their games (12) at the Springfield (MA) Civic Center.  In Springfield, the Blizzard were a typical ABL club, averaging 3,406 fans for a dozen home dates, right on par with the league-wide average.  But in Hartford, the team was tremendously popular, drafting off the popularity and traditions of the celebrated UCONN college program and pulling an average of 7,412 fans for eight home games.  This included a league-record crowd of 11,873 for a January 25, 1997 game against the San Jose Lasers at the Hartford Civic Center.  Heading into the 1997-98 season, the Blizzard flipped the script, scheduling sixteen home dates in Hartford and only six in Springfield.

Hartford was also home to one’s of the ABL’s most emotionally and financially engaged boosters: Robert Fiondella, chairman of Hartford-based Phoenix Home Life Insurance and also of the Greater Hartford Chamber of Commerce.  The ABL found the sponsorship market for women’s pro basketball to be especially challenging, but Phoenix Home Life was an exception, signing on as one of the league’s first national corporate partners in October 1996.

In April 1997, Fiondella and Phoenix Home Life  invested an additional $3 million to acquire a 20% equity interest in the ABL, as well as an option to purchase operating rights to the Blizzard franchise.  Under the ABL’s single entity structure, all franchises and player contracts were owned by the league, but the sale of operating rights allowed local investors to manage a team’s front office operations and retain all local revenue.  Combined with a simultaneous $3 million infusion from Silicon Valley venture capitalist Joe Lacob for league equity and operating rights to the San Jose Lasers franchise, the ABL was able to offset most if not all of it’s reported $4M – $6M operating loss on the league’s inaugural season.

For the 1997-98 season, the Blizzard hired Basketball Hall-of-Famer and former Boston Celtics head coach K.C. Jones to coach the team.  Under Jones, the team improved from the last place finish of 1997 to earn the ABL’s fourth and final playoff spot in 1998 with a 24-20 record.  The San Jose Lasers swept the Blizzard in a best-of-three series in the first round of the 1998 ABL playoffs.

In November of 1998, Phoenix Home Life Insurance finally exercised its 18-month old option to buy the operating rights to the New England Blizzard.  The Sports Business Journal reported that the undisclosed option price was believed to be north of $1.5 million.  The timing proved unfortunate for Phoenix, as the league ran out of money barely a month later.  On December 21, the league’s board of directors voted to shut down the league immediately – barely one-third of the way through the league’s third season – and file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

At the time the ABL folded, the Blizzard had a 3-10 last place record in their third season and a league-high 4,800 season ticket holders.  Of the ABL’s more than 1,000 bankruptcy creditors, Phoenix Home Life Insurance was the largest, owed more than $6 million as the guarantor of a league bank loan.

Professional women’s basketball returned to Connecticut in 2003 with the transfer of the WNBA’s Orlando Miracle franchise to the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville.  The franchise was re-branded the Connecticut Sun.  Former Blizzard sales executive and General Manager Chris Sienko has been the Sun’s Vice President and General Manager for the past eleven seasons.

 

==Slideshow==

 

==Downloads==

1996-97 New England Blizzard Roster – as of October 1996

1997-98 New England Blizzard Roster – as of October 1997

1998-99 New England Blizzard Roster – as of October 1998

 

 

==Links==

American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs

 

==Additional Sources==

Phoenix Mutual Banking on ABL“, Bruce Berlet, The Hartford Courant, February 26, 1997

Wolters Signing A New High Point“, Bruce Berlet, The Hartford Courant, April 23, 1997

End of the Blizzard“, Bruce Berlet, The Hartford Courant, December 23, 1998

Phoenix Tops List of ABL Creditors“, Matthew Kauffman and Stacy Wong, The Hartford Courant, January 13, 1999

###

January 18, 1998 – American Basketball League All-Star Game

leave a comment

1998 ABL All-Star GameAmerican Basketball League All-Star Game
January 18, 1998
Disney Wide World of Sports Complex
Attendance: 4,189

American Basketball League Programs
40 pages

 

Rare program from the second – and, as it turned out, final – All-Star game for the short-lived American Basketball League (1996-1998), played at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex in Orlando in January 1998.

Atlanta Glory player-coach Teresa Edwards and San Jose Lasers star Jennifer Azzi are pictured in the eye-catching cover illustration.

The game itself was something of a dud.  The West All-Stars led 54-27 at the half and ran away with the game in a 102-73 laugher.  Shalonda Enis (15 pts.) of the Seattle Reign earned MVP honors, but the real star of the weekend was 6′ 5″ forward Sylvia Crawley of the Colorado Xplosion.   Crawley won what was billed as the first ever women’s slam dunk contest during the halftime festivities, besting 6′ 7″ Kara Wolters of the New England Blizzard with a successful blindfolded, one-handed dunk on her first try.  Crawley had been dunking in practice since her freshman year at the University of North Carolina, but had never dunked in a professional game.

Dawn Staley of the Philadelphia Rage won the 3-point contest.

Before the game, American Basketball League CEO Gary Cavalli told the media of his hope that the ABL’s next All-Star Game would be an inter-league exhibition against the stars of its bigger and richer rival, the Women’s National Basketball Association.  But there would be no more ABL All-Star Games.  The troubled league ran out of money 11 months later and folded on December 22, 1998.

 

==Downloads==

1998 American Basketball League Eastern Conference All-Star Roster

1998 American Basketball League Western Conference All-Star Roster

###

 

1996-1998 Seattle Reign

leave a comment

American Basketball League (1996-1998)

Born: 1996 – ABL founding franchise
Folded: December 22, 1998

Arena: Mercer Arena (4,509)

Team Colors: Black, Goldenrod, Crimson & Forest Green

Owner: American Basketball League

ABL Championships: None

 

The Seattle Reign were a cleverly named women’s professional basketball team that competed for two-and-a-half seasons in the American Basketball League (1996-1998).  The Reign had a modest but dedicated fan base that consistently filled the 4,500-seat Mercer Arena to three quarters of capacity, creating a better atmosphere than many ABL clubs that played in oversized buildings.  The Reign also played occasional home dates at KeyArena, home of the NBA’s Seattle Sonics.

The ABL was founded in late 1995 with the aim of capitalizing on the expected strong performance of the United States women’s basketball team at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.  The NBA was backing a rival start-up – the WNBA – which would fill dates at NBA arenas during the slow summer months and wouldn’t start until 1997.   As expected, the Americans won Gold in Atlanta.  Thanks to an earlier start in October 1996 and more generous salaries and benefits, the ABL initially lured the majority of the Olympic champions to their league.

The Reign used their 1st round draft pick in 1996 to select 29-year old Venus Lacy, a 6′ 4″ center on the U.S. Olympic team.  Lacy signed with the ABL and was expected to be the Reign’s dominant presence.  Instead, she had a cursed campaign that included an arthroscopic knee surgery in midseason, followed less than two months later by a serious car accident which ended her season.  Lacy was shipped to the ABL’s Long Beach Stingrays expansion franchise after the season and was never a major factor for the Reign.  Seattle finished the ABL’s inaugural season 17-23 and out of the playoffs.

Prior to the ABL’s second season in 1997-98, the Reign added two outstanding rookies to the roster.  Kate Starbird came out of Stanford University as the all-time leading scorer for that powerhouse program and as the Naismith Award winner as the nation’s College Player-of-the-Year.  Starbird also had Washington state ties as a graduate of Lakes High School in Lakewood.  The 22-year old’s three-year ABL deal came with a base salary of $150,000 plus perhaps another $100,000 in endorsements, which The Seattle Times speculated was the richest contract in the women’s game at the time.

6′ 1″ forward Shalonda Enis out of the University of Alabama was less heralded than Starbird, but ended up more impactful, finishing 5th in the ABL in scoring (18.0 ppg) and winning league Rookie-of-the-Year honors.

Despite the arrival of Enis and Starbird, the Reign finished last in the Western Conference at 15-29.

The Reign returned for a third season in October 1998, but by this time the ABL was financially hobbled by extravagant salaries, lack of sponsor & television interest, and competition from the far wealthier (but lower paying) WNBA.  The Reign played only 15 games of the 1997-98 season before the ABL ran out of money and closed its doors on December 22, 1998.

The Reign played 49 regular season home dates during their two-and-a-half year history and averaged 3,374 fans per game over that time.  During the Reign’s debut season in 1996-97 they sold 1,155 season tickets according to The Seattle Times.

Professional women’s basketball returned to Seattle in 2000 with the arrival of the Seattle Storm expansion team in the WNBA.  The Storm have since won two WNBA championships in 2004 and 2010.

In 2013, Seattle’s new entry in the National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) gave new life to the “Reign” nickname, adopting the identity of Seattle Reign FC.  Reign FC owner Bill Predmore acknowledged that the name was in part a tribute to the original Reign basketball team.

 

Links

American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs

###

Follow

Get every new post on this blog delivered to your Inbox.

Join other followers: