American Basketball Association: Stranger Than Fiction

Founded in 1999, the American Basketball Association is stranger than fiction.

No relation to the original American Basketball Association (1967-1975) which featured Julius “Dr. J” Erving, the three-point shot and red, white and blue basketball, this reincarnation has seen more than 350 teams either folded, never get off the ground or simply leave the ABA.

That’s right more than 350 teams!

Toss in there the fact that the league had a one-year hiatus in 2002-2003 and that is 29 teams a year saying goodbye!

ABA LeagueAmong the departed were Canadian franchises which included the ABA Canada Revolution, Calgary Drillers, Halifax Rainmen, Hamilton Rockstars, Quebec Kebs, Montreal Matrix Niagara Daredevils, Ontario Red Wolves and the Vancouver Dragons.

Talks were also underway for a Toronto franchise.

Canada now has three ABA teams with the Calgary Crush, Grande Prairie Cowboys and Vancouver Balloholics.

The Crush joined in 2012-2013, the Balloholics debut in 2014-2015 and the Cowboys.


Once again…stranger than fiction.

It was June 21, 2013 that a press release from the ABA office informed Alberta hoops fans that the Oakland County Cowboys, who played the 2012-2013 season in the Detroit metro area, were moving to Grande Prairie, Alberta joining the Crush as the second ABA team in the province.

ABA CEO Joe Newmann stated: “This is a great move. The Calgary Crush have been doing a tremendous job as our only Canadian team and went undefeated during their regular season this past year. The support they’ve received is outstanding, so Giovanni Rogers, the owner of the Grande Prairie Cowboys, certainly has a tough act to follow. Knowing Giovanni he is definitely up to the challenge.”

Rogers, who according to sources was said to have played a semester of collegiate basketball a few years ago in Grande Prairie for the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves of the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference, said the relocation from Michigan to Alberta “came down” to two Northern Alberta choices.

“It came down to Fort McMurray and Grande Prairie. Grande Prairie had everything for what I wanted to do. You have the facilities, a very good basketball fan base and excellent college league…we are looking for a crowd of people that enjoy the sport of basketball. Most ABA owners try being somewhere where we can plant a seed and Grande Prairie seemed like the best place to be to do that and be successful.”

Well the Cowboys did compete this past year in the ABA, one of six teams playing under the category “At Large Teams” . According to various statistics they were 0-8 (ABA website), 0-12 or 0-13.

This is the nature of the ABA which has, depending on what day of the week, up to 70 teams spread out across North America.

Some of the teams, the Jacksonville Giants and Shreveport-Bossier Mavericks, play a whack of games, 31-1 and 28-0 respectively while 20 other ABA team played only six games or less this past season.

Research has shown that in past years the ABA may play only 35% of their scheduled regular season games.

What makes the Grande Prairie Cowboys games unique is that all of the games were on the road.

grand prairieTo be honest, it is not known if any of the Grande Prairie Cowboys, aside from Rogers, have ever been in Grande Prairie let alone know where it is?

Cowboys’ home games this year were played at Livonia Churchill High School in Livonia, Michigan a municipality located 24 kilometres from downtown Detroit.

Forget about home court advantage though as they lost one contest to the Chicago Fury 153-103 November 2, 2013.

Believe it or not that 50-point massacre failed in comparison to the 68-point differential in a 152-84 Dec 1, 2013 loss to the Western Michigan Lake Hawks.

The Cowboys original home court for 2013-2014 was to be inisde Grande Prairie Regional College.

Of this statement, Grande Prairie Regional College athletic director Francois Fournier replied: “We were contacted by them but nothing was ever confirmed in that they would be using our facilty, so it was a surprise when we heard this.”

Of the fact that the team has been using the Grande Prairie Cowboys name across the border: “Anybody can use a name but they have no affiliation whatsoever with Grande Prairie. I don’t know how they can claim such.”

Of the Cowboys playing the 2014-2015 ABA season in Grande Prairie, Fournier responded:  “When I see it. I will believe it. Right now they have no credibility at all.”

Dave Waknuk, head coach of the Grande Prairie Regional College Wolves women’s basketball team is straight to the point on his opinion in regards to the Cowboys.

“At first it was a bit of a surprise as the news came literally out of nowhere? The excitement was there as anytime you hear the word professional basketball and Northern Alberta together it is rare. There definitely was a buzz and a lot of questions. But like I said it came out of nowhere.

“Every few months you would hear they are coming to town or having a tryout. Tryouts were booked four or five times but never happened. If they do ever decide to come to town…no one here will be able to accept it as it has been a total circus. We were in. We were out. No one knew anything.

““Calling themselves the Grande Prairie Cowboys and having no association with the city what so ever is a shame. We have had no connection with the team at all. It confuses me and everyone else.

“People have stopped caring and any interest it had, has now turned into a punchline.”

Rogers in an e-mail communication said that the Cowboys will be coming to Grande Prairie for the 2014-2015 season.

“We will have the location confirmed by mid-June. We are trying for the college, that’s our top priority. We played last season as the Grande Prairie Cowboys because all of our games were considered away as we still had hoped we would play a couple games in Grande Prairie.

“All details are worked out now and we will be in Grande Prairie.”

Of their posted winless record this season, Rogers commented, “This season we won 10 and lost 10 and lost in the first round of the playoffs.”

Only in the ABA.

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