Continental Basketball Association

Last updated
Continental Basketball Association (CBA)
Continental Basketball Association Vectorized Image.svg
Sport Basketball
FoundedApril 23, 1946
CeasedJune 1, 2009
CountryFlag of the United States.svg  United States
Continent FIBA Americas (Americas)
Lawton-Fort Sill Cavalry (3rd title)
Most titles Allentown Jets
Wilkes-Barre Barons (8 titles each)
Official website

The Continental Basketball Association (CBA) was a professional men's basketball minor league in the United States. For most of its existence the CBA was the second-tier of men's professional basketball in the United States behind the National Basketball Association (NBA). The NBA formed a working agreement to develop players and referees in the CBA during the 1980s. Until the NBA formed the National Basketball Development League (now known as the NBA G League) in 2001, the CBA served as the official minor league to the NBA.

Basketball team sport played on a court with baskets on either end

Basketball is a team sport in which two teams, most commonly of five players each, opposing one another on a rectangular court, compete with the primary objective of shooting a basketball through the defender's hoop while preventing the opposing team from shooting through their own hoop. A field goal is worth two points, unless made from behind the three-point line, when it is worth three. After a foul, timed play stops and the player fouled or designated to shoot a technical foul is given one or more one-point free throws. The team with the most points at the end of the game wins, but if regulation play expires with the score tied, an additional period of play (overtime) is mandated.

Minor leagues are professional sports leagues which are not regarded as the premier leagues in those sports. Minor league teams tend to play in smaller, less elaborate venues, often competing in smaller cities/markets. This term is used in North America with regard to several organizations competing in various sports. They generally have lesser fan bases and smaller budgets.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.



The Continental Basketball Association was a professional basketball minor league from 1946 to 2009. It billed itself as the "World's Oldest Professional Basketball League", since its founding on April 23, 1946 pre-dated the founding of the National Basketball Association by two months. The league's original name was the Eastern Pennsylvania Basketball League; 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, Pennsylvania). 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 teams in New Jersey (Trenton, Camden, Asbury Park), Connecticut (New Haven, Hartford, Bridgeport), Delaware (Wilmington) and Massachusetts (Springfield).

The National Basketball Association (NBA) is a men's professional basketball league in North America; composed of 30 teams. It is widely considered to be the premier men's professional basketball league in the world. The NBA is an active member of USA Basketball (USAB), which is recognized by FIBA as the national governing body for basketball in the United States. The NBA is one of the four major professional sports leagues in the United States and Canada. NBA players are the world's best paid athletes by average annual salary per player.

Pennsylvania State of the United States of America

Pennsylvania, officially the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, is a state located in the northeastern, Great Lakes and Mid-Atlantic regions of the United States. The Appalachian Mountains run through its middle. The Commonwealth is bordered by Delaware to the southeast, Maryland to the south, West Virginia to the southwest, Ohio to the west, Lake Erie and the Canadian province of Ontario to the northwest, New York to the north, and New Jersey to the east.

Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania City and County seat in Pennsylvania, United States

Wilkes-Barre is a city in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the county seat of Luzerne County. It is one of the principal cities in the Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area. Located at the center of the Wyoming Valley, it is second in size to the nearby city of Scranton. The Scranton–Wilkes-Barre–Hazleton, PA Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 563,631 as of the 2010 Census, making it the fourth-largest metro/statistical area in the state of Pennsylvania. Wilkes-Barre and the surrounding Wyoming Valley are framed by the Pocono Mountains to the east, the Endless Mountains to the west, and the Lehigh Valley to the south. The Susquehanna River flows through the center of the valley and defines the northwestern border of the city.

For the 1970-71 season the league rebranded itself the Eastern Basketball Association, operating both as a professional northeastern regional league and as an unofficial feeder system to the NBA and ABA. The CBA's first commissioner was Harry Rudolph (father of NBA referee Mendy Rudolph). Steve A. Kauffman, currently a prominent basketball agent, succeeded Rudolph as Commissioner in 1975. Kauffman executed a plan to bring the Anchorage Northern Knights into the league beginning with the 1977-78 season. Kauffman kept the league name because he felt having a team in the Eastern league from Alaska might get the league additional notice and recognition. The establishment of the Anchorage franchise garnered national media attention, including a feature story in Sports Illustrated. [1] The league was renamed the Continental Basketball Association the following season, eventually leading to expansion across the country. Kauffman served as Commissioner until 1978, when his Deputy Commissioner, Jim Drucker, took the reins. Kauffman remained the League's legal counsel for two years. Drucker (son of Norm Drucker, another top NBA referee) continued his 12-year association with the CBA until 1986 as Commissioner and general counsel. From 1986 to 1989 he supervised the production of CBA telecasts on ESPN as President of CBA Properties.

American Basketball Association defunct professional basketball league in the United States, merged with the National Basketball Association in 1976

The original American Basketball Association (ABA) was a men's professional basketball league, from 1967 to 1976. The ABA ceased to exist with the American Basketball Association–National Basketball Association merger in 1976, leading to several teams joining the National Basketball Association and to the introduction of the 3-point shot in the NBA in 1979.

Mendy Rudolph American Athlete and coach

Marvin "Mendy" Rudolph was an American professional basketball referee in the National Basketball Association (NBA) for 22 years, from 1953 to 1975. Regarded as one of the greatest officials in NBA history, Rudolph officiated 2,112 NBA games and was the first league referee to work 2,000 games. He was also selected to referee eight NBA All-Star Games and made 22 consecutive NBA Finals appearances.

Steve A. Kauffman is an American professional sports agent who currently represents many prominent National Basketball Association (NBA) and collegiate coaches.

During Drucker's term the league expanded from 8 to 14 teams, landed its first national TV contract 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 a change in the way league standings were determined. Under the "7-Point System", seven points were awarded each game: three points for winning a game and one point for every quarter a team won. As a result, a winning team would wind up with four to seven points in the standings, while a losing team could collect from zero to three points. This made for at least some fan interest even in the late stages of games that were otherwise blowouts; the trailing team could still get a standings point by winning the final quarter, especially if the team that was leading chose to rest some or all of its starters. The league used this method to calculate division standings from its implementation in 1983 until the league's end in 2009.

In May 1984 Drucker announced plans for a CBA development league to be known as "CBA East". Although the league never became a reality there were plans for teams in Columbia, Maryland; Trenton, New Jersey; Springfield, Massachusetts; Syracuse, New York; Scranton, Pennsylvania; Allentown, Pennsylvania; Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; Wilmington, Delaware; and Long Island, New York. [2]

Columbia, Maryland Place in Maryland, United States

Columbia is a census-designated place in Howard County, Maryland, United States, and is one of the principal cities of the Baltimore metropolitan area and the Washington metropolitan area. It is a planned community consisting of 10 self-contained villages. It began with the idea that a city could enhance its residents' quality of life. Creator and developer James W. Rouse saw the new community in terms of human values, rather than merely economics and engineering. Opened in 1967, Columbia was intended to not only eliminate the inconveniences of then-current subdivision design, but also eliminate racial, religious and class segregation.

Trenton, New Jersey Capital of New Jersey

Trenton is the capital city of the U.S. state of New Jersey and the county seat of Mercer County. it briefly served as the capital of the United States in 1784. The city's metropolitan area, consisting of Mercer County, is grouped with the New York Combined Statistical Area by the United States Census Bureau, but it directly borders the Philadelphia metropolitan area and was from 1990 until 2000 part of the Philadelphia Combined Statistical Area. As of the 2010 United States Census, Trenton had a population of 84,913, making it the state's tenth most populous municipality. The Census Bureau estimated that the city's population was 84,034 in 2014.

Springfield, Massachusetts City in Massachusetts

Springfield is a city in the state of Massachusetts, United States, and the seat of Hampden County. Springfield sits on the eastern bank of the Connecticut River near its confluence with three rivers: the western Westfield River, the eastern Chicopee River, and the eastern Mill River. As of the 2010 Census, the city's population was 153,060. As of 2017, the estimated population was 154,758, making it the third-largest city in Massachusetts, the fourth-most populous city in New England after Boston, Worcester, and Providence, and the 12th-most populous in the Northeastern United States. Metropolitan Springfield, as one of two metropolitan areas in Massachusetts, had a population of 692,942 as of 2010.

Before the 1984–85 season Ducker announced that the CBA had signed a cable television contract with Black Entertainment Television (BET). [3]

Cable television Television content transmitted via signals on coaxial cable

Cable television is a system of delivering television programming to consumers via radio frequency (RF) signals transmitted through coaxial cables, or in more recent systems, light pulses through fiber-optic cables. This contrasts with broadcast television, in which the television signal is transmitted over the air by radio waves and received by a television antenna attached to the television; or satellite television, in which the television signal is transmitted by a communications satellite orbiting the Earth and received by a satellite dish on the roof. FM radio programming, high-speed Internet, telephone services, and similar non-television services may also be provided through these cables. Analog television was standard in the 20th century, but since the 2000s, cable systems have been upgraded to digital cable operation.

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, even in NCAA Division I and the NBA, would feature a winning prize worth less than $100, the CBA's Supershot (created in 1983) offered a grand prize of $1 million if a randomly selected fan could hit one shot from the far foul line, 69.75 feet (21.26 m). No one won the (insured) prize, but the shot attracted national media coverage for the league in Sports Illustrated , The New York Times and The Sporting News . In 1985, the CBA followed with the "Ton-of-Money Free Throw", which featured a prize of 2,000 pounds (910 kg) of pennies ($5,000) if a randomly selected fan could make one free throw. Two of fourteen contestants were successful. The next year, the league featured the "Easy Street Shootout". In that contest, 14 contestants were selected (one from each city), and the person making 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), representing the Evansville (Indiana) Thunder. After the league's 1985 All-Star Game in Casper, Wyoming, the CBA invited fans to make a paper airplane from the centerfold of their game program (each identified with a unique serial number) and attempt to throw the paper airplane through the moon roof of a new Ford Thunderbird parked mid-court. Four fans were successful and a tie-breaker determined the winner, who drove home with the new $17,000 personal luxury car.

NCAA Division I highest level of intercollegiate athletics sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association

NCAA Division I (D-I) is the highest level of intercollegiate athletics sanctioned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in the United States. D-I schools include the major collegiate athletic powers, with larger budgets, more elaborate facilities and more athletic scholarships than Divisions II and III as well as many smaller schools committed to the highest level of intercollegiate competition.

<i>Sports Illustrated</i> American sports magazine

Sports Illustrated (SI) is an American sports magazine owned by Meredith Corporation. First published in August 1954, it has over 3 million subscribers and is read by 23 million people each week, including over 18 million men.

<i>The New York Times</i> Daily broadsheet newspaper based in New York City

The New York Times is an American newspaper based in New York City with worldwide influence and readership. Founded in 1851, the paper has won 127 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other newspaper. The Times is ranked 17th in the world by circulation and 2nd in the U.S.

In 1984, the league created the "CBA Sportscaster Contest" to select a color commentator for its weekly game of the week televised on BET. With tryouts in cities nationwide, the promotion gained the league national attention on the NBC Nightly News , Entertainment Tonight , in Sports Illustrated and other media. The contest was won by a NJ high school basketball coach, Bill Lange, who won the Philadelphia regional contest and then went on to win the national tryout. In an interesting twist, Lange went on to coach the Philadelphia Spirit in the USBL.



During 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. During the 1955-56 season, the Hazleton Hawks Eastern League team was the first integrated professional league franchise with an all-black starting lineup: Tom Hemans, Jesse Arnelle, Fletcher Johnson, Sherman White and Floyd Lane. The all-black Dayton Rens competed in the 1948-49 National Basketball League.

Three-point line

Because the 1961-63 American Basketball League used a three-point scoring line, the Eastern League added a three-point line for its 1964-65 season. That year, Brendan McCann of the Allentown Jets led the league with 31 three-pointers. Although three-point plays during the 1960s were few and far between, the Eastern League developed several scorers who used the three-point shot to their advantage.

Collapsible rims

After Darryl Dawkins shattered two basketball backboards during his 1979–80 NBA season, the CBA implemented a collapsible hinged rim. The design was chosen from 10 prototypes that were set up in a New York City high school gymnasium in the summer of 1980. Unidentified college basketball players were asked to try to break the rims and the three strongest designs were chosen for a trial run in the CBA. All three rims broke away from the backboard and snapped back in place. [4] The NBA announced they would adopt a similar model before the 1981–82 season. [5]

10-day contract

During the early 1980s, the CBA and NBA entered into an agreement whereby CBA players could be signed to 10-day NBA contracts,mostly to replace an injured player or to test a CBA prospect. Under the 10-day-contract rule, a player was signed at the pro rata league minimum salary (as stipulated in the NBA's collective bargaining agreement) for 10 days. If the NBA team liked the player, the team could re-sign him to a second 10-day contract. After the second 10-day contract expired, the team had to either return the player to his CBA team or sign him for the balance of the NBA regular season. The rule still exists for current NBA G League players.


In August 1999, the CBA's teams were purchased by an investment group led by former NBA star Isiah Thomas. The group bought all of the individually owned franchises of the CBA, in a $10 million acquisition. Over the course of the next 18 months, Thomas was faced with a plethora of business troubles, losing the league’s partnership with the NBA and ultimately abandoning the league into a blind trust that left teams unable to meet payroll or pay bills. The combined-ownership plan was unsuccessful and by 2001, the CBA had declared bankruptcy and ceased operations (folded on February 8, 2001 without managing to complete the 2000–01 season).

Before the 2000–01 season the CBA signed a television contract with BET to broadcast up to 18 games, including the CBA All-Star Game, although the CBA folded midway through the season. [6]

Several of its teams briefly joined the now-defunct International Basketball League.

Below is a timeline of Thomas' ownership of the CBA:


In fall 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 trustee and resumed operations as the CBA, assuming the former league's identity and history. The league obtained eight new franchises (for a total of ten) for the 2006 season. The Atlanta Krunk Wolverines and Vancouver Dragons deferred their participation until the 20072008 season and the Utah Eagles folded on January 25, 2007. The CBA's 200708 season began with 10 franchises, the greatest number of teams to start a CBA season since the 200001 season. In addition to six returning franchises the CBA added three expansion teams the Oklahoma Cavalry, the Rio Grande Valley Silverados and East Kentucky Miners; the Atlanta Krunk joined the league after sitting out the 200607 season.

The 20082009 season began with only 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 in an attempt to stay solvent. [7] 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. [8] Jim Coyne, league commissioner, said in June 2009 that only two of the league's teams had committed to playing basketball the following year; thus the league would not play in 2010, instead going out of business. [9]

Teams timeline

Italics denote a team that was re-located or re-branded; Bold denotes a team that played in the last full CBA season

CBA champions

See: List of Continental Basketball Association champions

All-star games

See: List of Continental Basketball Association All-Star Games

Notable figures

See: List of Continental Basketball Association award winners and successful alumni


Source [12]




Statistical leaders

See: Continental Basketball Association statistical leaders

CBA–NBA relationship

During the early years of the CBA (when it was known as 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 game). Although the NBA played exhibition games with the Eastern League during the late 1940s and early 1950s the exhibition games ceased in 1954, when the Eastern League signed several college basketball players involved in point-shaving gambling scandals during their college years (including Jack Molinas, Sherman White, Floyd Layne and Al Roth). The Eastern League also signed 7-foot center Bill Spivey, the former University of Kentucky standout who was accused of point-shaving (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 at 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 academic 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 a year before) were now in ABA uniforms. The ABA continued to siphon off 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 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; it also paid the CBA $80,000 to help develop NBA referees at CBA games. NBA/CBA relations 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 binding individual NBA teams to a form contract, permitting those teams to sign CBA players to 10-day contracts. The CBA player could sign a second 10-day contract; 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 league-wide 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), Mario Elie (Albany Patroons), and John Starks (Cedar Rapids Silver Bullets). 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 no players were called up from the CBA to the NBA, ending a streak of over 30 seasons of at least one call-up per year. That would soon lead to the beginning of the end for the CBA.

In 1987 the CBA announced that they would allow teams to sign players banned for drug use by the NBA. Mitchell Wiggins, who was suspended by the NBA for cocaine use, was one of the first players signed in the CBA under the new rule that was implemented in conjunction with the NBA and NBA Players Association. [16]

Rules and Innovations

The CBA followed largely the same basketball rules as does the NBA and most other professional leagues. Sometimes rules adopted by the CBA on an experimental basis later became permanent in that league and were adopted by other levels of basketball as well; others remained unique to the CBA. From 1978 through 1986, CBA commissioner Jim Drucker created several new rules to raise fan interest, which were then adopted by the league:

See also

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