Continental Basketball Association (1989-2001)
International Basketball League (2001)
Continental Basketball Association (2001-2003)
- 1989-1990: Purple, Green, Orange & Black
- 1994-1996: Maroon & Gold
CBA Championships: None
The Grand Rapids Hoops were a durable minor league basketball operation that played 14 seasons in various buildings in and around the Western Michigan city. The team was known as the Grand Rapids Mackers for a brief interlude (1994-1996) after ownership briefly passed into the hands of Scott and Mitch McNeal, founders of the Gus Macker 3-on-3 basketball tournament empire. When the McNeals unloaded the team in 1996, new owner Bob Prsybysz quickly restored the “Hoops” identity.
The Hoops/Mackers played their first seven seasons in Welsh Auditorium, one of the smallest buildings in the Continental Basketball Association with seating for fewer than 4,000. After moving into the brand new Van Andel Arena in 1996, the Hoops established themselves as one of the top draws in the CBA during the late 1990’s. Neverthless, the team still lost considerable money each year, despite consistently ranking at or near the top of the CBA attendance leaderboard.
The Hoops’ fortune soured further in 1999 when former Detroit Pistons superstar Isiah Thomas worked a deal to purchase the Continental Basketball Association and its member franchises for $10 million. Despite Thomas’ lofty talk of massive expansion and new business development, the future Hall-of-Famer destroyed the 55-year old league in a matter of months.
Thomas rebuffed an offer from the National Basketball Association to purchased the CBA at a profit, believing he could extract a better deal. The CBA had longed served as the Official Developmental League of the NBA. But Thomas had badly misread the situation and the NBA severed its developmental deal with the CBA and moved ahead with development of the National Basketball Development League.
Thomas soon grew bored with his failing investment and accepted an NBA head coaching job with the Indiana Pacers. Thomas was forced to give up his CBA ownership due to conflict of interest rules and placed the CBA into a blind trust on the eve of the 2000-01 season. The move choked off crucial funding to the league-owned franchises. By February 2001, the league was broke. The league folded in mid-season on February 8, 2001. Local investors purchased the Hoops back from the CBA for a token consideration and immediately entered the Hoops into the International Basketball League to finish out the 2000-01 winter season. The IBL folded after the season as well, marking twice in sixth months that the Hoops league had now collapsed around the team.
A group of former CBA team owners who had sold out to Thomas in 1999 re-claimed their old teams following the implosion of the league in early 2001. The group re-booted a new version of the CBA to launch in the winter of 2001-02. The Hoops re-joined the CBA from the defunct IBL. At this time, the team also moved out of the modern-but-expensive Van Andel Arena and out to the cheaper DeltaPlax in suburban Walker, Michigan. New owners Joel and Bruce Langlois also owned the DeltaPlex itself.
The re-booted CBA was a flop, having lost much of its identity and legitimacy with the loss of its NBA partnership. The Hoops lasted two more seasons in the CBA before folding in 2003. The CBA itself closed its doors for good in 2009.
During their 14-year history the Hoops never won a pro championship. The team did make two Finals appearances, losing the CBA crown to the Omaha Racers in 1993 and to the Yakima Sun Kings in 2003.
Former Hoops coach Bruce Stewart (’91-’94) died of cancer of May 23, 2011 at age 57.
Continental Basketball Associations Media Guides
Continental Basketball Associations Programs