Born: 1985 – USBL founding franchise.
Folded: Postseason 1986
Arena: Springfield Civic Center
Owner: Harry Gilligan
The Springfield Fame was a minor league basketball outfit that played two summer seasons in Western Massachusetts in the mid-1980’s. Springfield is the host city of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, which inspired the team’s name.
Though they lasted just two seasons, the Fame were noteworthy for two players that spent time on the roster. Michael Adams, an under-sized three-point specialist, played for the Fame in 1985 and 1986. (That’s him pictured on the team’s 1986 pocket schedule, above right). Adams kicked around the minor leagues in the USBL and the CBA for two years after graduating Boston College in 1985. He latched on for good in the NBA in the fall of 1986 and later became an All-Star for the Denver Nuggets. Adams retired in 1996 as one of the NBA’s all-time 3-point shooting threats.
In 1986, the Fame made national headlines by signing 27 year old women’s basketball legend Nancy Lieberman. Lieberman thus became the first female basketball player to play regular season minutes in a men’s pro league. Her contract reportedly paid the USBL’s league maximum salary in 1986 – $10,000 for the summer. Lieberman would play limited minutes throughout the first half of the USBL schedule before a thumb injury led to a premature ending to her historic season. Lieberman earned election to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996.
The Fame won the USBL’s inaugural championship in 1985 by virtue of having the league’s best regular season record at 19-6. Playoffs were planned, but ultimately scrapped as the new league worked out the bugs. Guard Tracy Jackson was named co-Player of the Year for 1985 and head coach Gerald Oliver earned the USBL’s Coach-of-the-Year honor.
Springfield was outstanding again in 1986 with a 23-10 record under new coach Henry Bibby. Despite their winning ways, the Fame folded quietly following the 1986 season.
“Lieberman Closes On a Dream“, Peter Alfano, The New York Times, June 10, 1986