Lively Tales About Dead Teams

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1991-92 Louisville Shooters

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Global Basketball Association (1991-1992)

Born: 1991 – GBA founding franchise
Folded: November 1992

Arena: Louisville Gardens

Team Colors:


GBA Championships: None


The Louisville Shooters were an ill-fated pro basketball outfit in the forgotten Global Basketball Association. The GBA began play in November 1991 with eleven franchises. Most were clustered in small cities in the Southeastern United States, but the league’s borders stretched as far west as Wichita, Kansas and north to Saginaw, Michigan.

Team founder Jim Tilton was a realtor and University of Louisville grad without the personal resources to fund a pro basketball team. But Tilton secured some financial backing from former Cleveland Cavaliers owner Ted Stepien to get the Shooters off the ground in 1991.

The Shooters signed some decent talent, including  ex-Louisville stars Jerome Harmon and Milt Wagner, former Boston Celtic Kelvin Upshaw, minor league war horse Alfrederick Hughes, and guard Eldridge Recasner, a recent grad from the University of Washington. Former Ole Miss and American Basketball Association star Johnny Neumann signed on as head coach.

The team hit financial headwinds pretty much immediately. Less than two months into the Shooters first season, Jim Tilton announced the team was in search of new capital. The Shooters finished the 1991-92 GBA season with a 35-29 record, good for second place in the league’s Western Division. The team was due to play the league’s best team, the Mid-Michigan Great Lakers, in the first round of the 1992 playoffs. But the Shooters declined to participate in the postseason for financial reasons and forfeited the series.

New owner David Gleason took over the team in July 1992. Improbably, the Shooters returned and attempted to stage a second season in November 1992. But the club folded after playing just three games. The rest of the Global Basketball Association followed the Shooters into the dustbin of history a month later. The league went out of business on December 19, 1992.

Jerome Harmon and Eldridge Recasner both went on to play in the NBA. While Harmon’s career lasted just 10 games with the Philadelphia 76ers in 1994-95, Recasner played for the better part of eight seasons in the NBA from 1994 until 2002.




Written by Drew Crossley

February 14th, 2018 at 4:25 am

1983-1985 Louisville Catbirds

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Louisville Catbirds ProgramContinental Basketball Association (1983-1985)

Born: June 27, 1983 – CBA expansion franchise.
Moved: July 11, 1985 (La Crosse Catbirds)


Team Colors:

Owners: J. Bruce Miller, Nolen Allen, et al.


The Louisville Catbirds were a minor league basketball outfit that played for two seasons in the Continental Basketball Association. The Catbirds identity was selected to try to appeal to both University of Kentucky fans (“Cats”) and University of Louisville (“Birds”) hoops fans.

The Catbirds signed a pair of troubled but talented ex-stars from the University of Kentucky. Dirk Minnifield was Kentucky’s “Mr. Basketball” as a high school senior in 1979. The 6′ 3″ point guard fathered three children by the time he arrived at UK. Minnifield later acknowledged heavy drug use during his Wildcats career. Minnifield began his pro career with the Catbirds in 1983. He would make it to the NBA in 1985 and hung around the league in a journeyman capacity. After cleaning up in the 1990’s, Minniefield became an NBA drug counselor.

More troublesome was the Catbirds’ late 1983 signing of paroled serial rapist Tom Payne. In 1969 Payne integrated the UK basketball program as the first black player on Adolph Rupp’s team. Payne played one season at UK before entering the NBA in 1971, where the Atlanta Hawks signed the 7′ 1″ center to a 5-year, $750,000 contract.  Payne was arrested in Georgia at the end of his rookie season on multiple rape charges. Soon after, he was indicted by Kentucky prosecutors for a separate series of sexual assaults. Payne would spend the next 11 years in Georgia and Kentucky prisons, all the while maintaining his innocence. Paroled in November 1983, the Catbirds quickly signed the 33-year old.  The CBA initially prohibited Payne from playing road games, but basketball writer John Feinstein reported that he received a warm reception in Louisville. Payne received a standing ovation at Louisville Gardens during his Catbirds debut.

In February 1986, his basketball career now over, Payne and stalked and raped a woman returning from an Valentine’s Day date in Los Angeles. Police arrested Payne during the commission of the assault in the victim’s parking garage. He was convicted in November 1986 and has spent the past 30 years in prison.

In Louisville, the Catbirds left Louisville Gardens downtown and moved to Broadbent Arena at the state fairgrounds for their second season in the winter of 1984-85. Attendance plummeted by more than 50% at Broadbent and the team was sold during the summer of 1985. The new owners moved the club to La Crosse, Wisconsin, where the team was known as the La Crosse Catbirds from 1985 to 1994.

Attorney J. Bruce Miller, who was often the public face of the Catbirds’ ownership group, has subsequently spent years trying to attract an NBA franchise to Louisville.



“A Journey of Payne: From Jailbird’s Life To a Catbirds’ Seat“, John Feinstein, The Los Angeles Times, January 25, 1984

Continental Basketball Association Media Guides

Continental Basketball Association Programs




1984-1987 Louisville Thunder

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American Indoor Soccer Association (1984-1987)

Born: 1984 – AISA founding franchise.
Died: 1987 – The Thunder cease operations.

Arena: Broadbent Arena (6,800)

Team Colors:



The Louisville Thunder were a pro indoor soccer club that played three seasons at Broadbent Arena in the mid-1980’s.  The Thunder were one of six founding clubs in the Midwest-based American Indoor Soccer Association when the league formed in early 1984.

The Thunder had a rivalry with the AISA’s Canton Invaders franchise, whom they faced in the AISA championship series in all three years of their existence.  Canton got the better of the matchup in the 1985 finals and again in 1986.  In the 1987 AISA championship series, the Thunder finally broke through, defeating the Invaders 3 games to 2.  These would prove to be the final matches the Thunder ever played, as the club went out of business after the conclusion of the 1986-87 season.

Keith Tozer was the player-coach of the Thunder for most of their existence.  It was the first coaching gig for Tozer, who would go on to win more games than any other coach in the history of American indoor soccer.  Tozer, however, did not take part in the Thunder’s 1987 championship victory.  He was hired away from the Thunder two months earlier by the Los Angeles Lazers of the large budget/large market Major Indoor Soccer League, who had a midseason coaching vacancy.



==Thunder Matches on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1985-86 12/17/1985 @ Chicago Shoccers ?? Program Roster
1986-87 12/5/1986 @ Canton Invaders ?? Video
1986-87 4/26/1987 @ Canton Invaders W 6-4 Video



April 26, 1987.  The last match of the Thunder franchise.  Louisville defeats Canton 6-4 in the deciding Game 5 of the 1987 AISA Championship Series.




American Indoor Soccer Association Media Guides

American Indoor Soccer Association Programs




Written by AC

August 18th, 2013 at 2:28 pm


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