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1972-1985 Kansas City-Omaha Kings / Kansas City Kings

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Kansas City-Omaha KingsNational Basketball Association (1972-1985)

Born: 1972 – The Cincinnati Royals relocate to Kansas City & Omaha.
Moved: 1985 (Sacramento Kings)

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owners:

NBA Championships: None

 

The Kansas City Kings were a middling NBA franchise that had just four winning seasons during thirteen years in town. The club arrived in 1972 as the relocated Cincinnati Royals. Since Kansas City already had the Royals baseball team, the team re-branded itself as the Kings. At first, the franchise split its time between Kansas City’s Municipal Auditorium and the Omaha Civic Auditorium, 180 miles to the north in Nebraska. The team was formally known as the Kansas City-Omaha Kings from 1972 until 1975.

The Kings moved into the brand-new Kemper Arena in downtown Kansas City in 1974. For the 1975-76 season, the Kings abandoned their Omaha games and settled in at Kemper full-time.

The team’s best seasons came during the tenure of head coach Cotton Fitzsimmons during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. Fitzsimmons was named the NBA’s Coach-of-the-Year in 1979 as the Kings enjoyed their best season by record (48-34) and won their only division chamionships. The Kings made the playoffs four times in Fitzsimmons’ six seasons between 1978 and 1984. The franchise’s finest hour in Kansas City came during the 1981 playoffs. Despite entering the postseason as a 6th seed with a losing regular season record, the Kings knocked off the top-seeded Phoenix Suns and advanced to the Western Conference finals. They lost the semi-finals to the Houston Rockets in five games.

Off the court, the Kings continued to flounder as the 1970’s turned to the 1980’s.

Kansas City KingzIn June 1979, the roof at the five year-old Kemper Arena partially collapsed during a wind storm. Kemper was closed for 10 months and the Kings were forced to play most of the 1979-80 season back at tiny old Municipal Auditorium.

In the fall of 1981 the Kansas City Comets of the Major Indoor Soccer League set up shop at Kemper Arena. Playing a winter season that mirrored the NBA’s calendar, the Comets walloped the Kings at the box office. During the inaugural season in 1981-82, the Comets averaged 11,508 fans per game at Kemper. The Kings’ average was a paltry 6,644.  Year later, Kings’ coach Cotton Fitzsimmons was moved to comment on the Comets’ impact:

“Here’s something that’s not even a game,” said Fitzsimmons, quoted in The Houston Chronicle in April 1985. “They make up the rules as they go along.  But they’ve marketed aggressively and they’ve taken Kansas City by storm.”

Tragedy struck on the eve of the 1982-83 season. Forward Bill Robinzine, the Kings’ top draft pick in 1975 and a solid defender for Kansas City’s late ’70’s squads, committed suicide at age 29. Robinson last played for Kansas City in 1980. He was out of basketball at the time, hoping to land an overseas contract in Europe.

In June of 1983 a Sacramento-based group purchased the Kings from the team’s local ownership for a reported $10.5 million. The new group, fronted by Gregg Lukenbill, made little secret of their desire to relocate the Kings to California’s capital once the team’s Kemper Arena lease expired in 1985. The new owners made it official in January 1985, announcing the team would leave Kansas City at the end of the 1984-85 campaign. Barry Petchesky at Deadspin has an excellent account of the Kings’ final days as the team maneuvered itself out of town.

 

Kansas City Kings Memorabilia

 

Kings Video

 

In Memoriam

Power forward Bill Robinzine (Kings ’75-’80) committed suicide on September 16, 1982 at the age of 29.

Owner Leon Karosen (Kings ’73-’83) passed away on May 10, 1990 at age 73.

Head Coach Cotton Fitzsimmons (Kings ’78-’84) died of lung cancer on July 24, 2004. Fitzsimmons was 72. New York Times obituary.

Center Sam Lacey (Kings ’72-’81) died on March 14, 2014 at 66 years of age. New York Times obituary.

 

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1961-1962 Kansas City Steers

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1961-62 Kansas City Steers Media GuideAmerican Basketball League (1961-1963)

Born: 1961 – ABL founding franchise
Folded: December 31, 1962

Arenas:

Team Colors:

Owner: Kenneth A. Krueger

ABL Championships: 1963* (*Sort of…)

 

The Kansas City Steers were one of the best entries in Abe Saperstein’s short-lived American Basketball League. The Harlem Globetrotters impresario aimed to compete with the NBA in major markets around the country and succeeded in luring top talent to the circuit.

The Steers’ starting five of Bill Bridges (F), Maury King (G), Nick Mantis (G), Larry Staverman (F) and Bumper Tormohlen (C) all played in the NBA. Bridges, a rookie of the University of Kansas in 1961, finished fourth in the ABL in scoring with 21.4 points per game in 1961-62. He was leading the league with 29.2 per contest when the league folded midway through its sophomore campaign.

The Steers posted the best record in the ABL in each of the league’s two seasons.  In 1961-62, the Steers went 28-12. They met the Cleveland Pipers in the ABL championship series in April 1962. The Steers blew out the Pipers by 25 points and 36 points respectively in the first two games in Kansas City. But they could not close the deal on the road in Ohio. The series  was due to return to Kansas City for decisive Game 5 on April 8th, 1962. That’s when things when haywire.

The Steers primary home, Municipal Auditorium, booked the Ice Capades for April 8th. The Steers booked the 1,500-seat Mason-Halpin Fieldhouse on the campus of tiny Rockhurst College for the title contest. Pipers owner George Steinbrenner (yes, that one) was outraged, believing Saperstein promised the series finale to Cleveland. As the teams bickered with each other and the ABL office, the Pipers no-showed for Game 5 at Rockhurst College. Rather than forfeit the game to the Steers, Saperstein decreed the game would now be played the following night, April 9th, 1962, at Rockhurst. This time the Pipers showed and dealt the Steers a crushing 106-102 defeat.

The Steers came back for the ABL’s second season in the fall of 1962. By now the league was on shaky ground. Only three of the league’s eight founding clubs remained in their original cities of a year earlier. Steinbrenner folded the league champion Pipers after a failed attempt to run off and join the NBA.

The Steers were once again the class of the league, racing out to a 22-9 record in the fall and early winter of 1962. But the ABL’s woes proved insurmountable, and the Steers closed their doors along with the rest of the league on New Year’s Eve 1962. The ABL declared the Steers to be league champions for 1963 by virtue of having the league’s best record at the time of closing.

 

In Memoriam

Forward Larry Staverman died on July 12, 2007 at the age of 70. After playing for the Steers, Staverman went on to become the first head coach of the Indiana Pacers in 1967.

Steers forward Bill Bridges passed away on September 15, 2015 from cancer at age 76. Kansas City Star obituary

 

Links

American Basketball League Media Guides

American Basketball League Programs

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1991-2001 Kansas City Attack

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National Professional Soccer League (1991-2001)

Born: September 4, 1991 – The Atlanta Attack relocate to Kansas City, MO.
Re-Branded: 2001 (Kansas City Comets)

Arenas:

Team Colors:

  • 1998-99: Black, Green & Silver

Owners:

 

During the 1980’s Kansas City, Missouri was a hotspot for the growing sport of indoor soccer.  The local Major Indoor Soccer League franchise, the Kansas City Comets, was so popular in the early part of the decade that they helped to drive the NBA’s Kansas City Kings out of town in 1985.  The departure of the Kings and the lack of an NHL franchise made the Comets the only wintertime pro sports ticket in town starting in 1985, but the fortunes of the Major Indoor Soccer League started to fade by the late 1980’s.  The MISL nearly folded in 1988 and by 1991 Comets attendance had fallen more than 50% from its peak of nearly 16,000 fans per game in 1984.

The Comets went out of business in July of 1991.  Sensing an opportunity, a pair of novice sports investors from Rochester, New York, Chris Economides and Louis Gitsis, purchased the Atlanta Attack of the lower-budget National Professional Soccer League (NPSL) and quickly shifted the team to Kansas City in September 1991, two months after the collapse of the Comets.   They retained the Attack name in Kansas City, but signed popular for Comets stars Gino Schiraldi and Jim Schwab to try and lure back disheartened Comets fans.

The Kansas City Attack spent their first season in the winter of 1991-92 at the smaller, cheaper Municipal Auditorium.  The team was strong (26-14) and made it to the playoff semi-finals, but attendance languished at 3,050 fans per game, which was a far cry from the Comets days, and beneath the NPSL’s modest league-wide average of 3,600.

In 1992-93 the Attack returned to Kemper Arena and saw a 50% surge in attendance, but still nothing like the Comets’ days of the 80’s.  Nevertheless, the team was terrific and advanced to 1993 NPSL Championship Series against the Cleveland Crunch.  Fairweather Kansas City fans jumped on the bandwagon and a crowd of 12,134 turned out at Kemper Arena on April 30, 1993 to watch Kansas City claim its first indoor soccer title with a 19-7 victory over Cleveland in Game 5 of the 1993 NPSL Championship Series.

The Attack won a second championship following the 1996-97 NPSL season.

In the summer of 2001, the National Professional Soccer League disbanded and the surviving teams re-organized under the nostalgic Major Indoor Soccer League brand name.   Attack owner Don Kincaid chose to play the 1980’s nostalgia card as well, dropping the Attack identity in favor of a revived Kansas City Comets name.   The former Attack franchise played four more seasons under the Comets name before folding in September 2005.  Kincaid lost a reported $15 million on the franchise between 1993 and 2005 according to The Kansas City Star.

 

==Slideshow==

 

==Kansas City Attack Programs on Fun While It Lasted==

Date Opponent Score Program Other

1994-95

1994-95 11/27/1994 vs. Dayton Dynamo  W 19-5 Program
1994-95 1/22/1995 vs. St. Louis Ambush L 23-12 Program
1994-95 1/24/1995 vs. Buffalo Blizzard W 19-11 Program

1995-96

1995-96 2/24/1996 @ Cleveland Crunch W 24-18 Program

 

==Links==

National Professional Soccer League Media Guides

National Professional Soccer League Programs

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