Teams That Folded Before They Took the Field

August 6, 2018

Sports fans are used to their favorite team having ups and downs over the years. In a way, these teams never let their supporters down…because they fell apart before playing a single game.

Basketball in Buffalo

In 1949 the two most promising pro basketball leagues in America merged to become today’s NBA: the National Basketball League, and the Basketball Association of America. Some BAA teams made the move, including the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks. Others didn’t, such as the St. Louis Bombers and the Providence Steamrollers. And then there is the odd case of the team mysteriously listed in sports history books as “BAA Buffalo.” League officials announced in June 1946 that the BAA would expand to Buffalo, but team leaders never got their act together. With no progress made after two years, the BAA revoked the franchise in 1948. (Buffalo would finally get an NBA team in 1970, with the expansion Buffalo Braves…who became the San Diego Clippers just eight years later.)

The first pro basketball team in Indianapolis

Amazingly, there was a Basketball Association of America team that was somehow even more short-lived than the Buffalo franchise. A planned team in the basketball-mad city of Indianapolis was supposed to take the court for the BAA’s first season in 1946, but folded before the season began, meaning that it was born and died before any BAA team played. (The BAA fielded the Indianapolis Jets in 1948, and today the Indiana Pacers play in the NBA.)

Chicago’s USFL team

Beginning play in 1983, the USFL was a professional football league that competed with the NFL, offering a similarly high level of play, and featuring teams primarily based in cities that didn’t have NFL teams at the time, such as Birmingham, Phoenix, and San Antonio. The league struggled financially over its first three seasons as a spring/summer league, but tackled itself when it tried to move to fall—to go head-to-head against the dominant NFL. The league folded before that fated 1986 season could even begin. Eight teams had to cancel their games, including a new, unnamed team in Chicago to replace the Chicago Blitz, which folded in 1984. At the time of the league’s dissolving, the Chicago squad hadn’t yet secured access to a home stadium, having been denied the right to play at both Solider Field (home of the NFL’s Chicago Bears) and Comiskey Park (home of baseball’s Chicago White Sox).