Western Basketball Association (1978-1979)
Born: August 1978 – WBA founding franchise
Folded: Summer 1979
Team Colors: Columbia Blue & Pine Green
Owner: Columbia Pacific Resources, Inc. / Michael McDermott
The Western Basketball Association was a one-year effort to create a Western counterpart & competitor to the country’s top minor basketball league, the Pennsylvania-based Continental Basketball Association (CBA). The WBA began play in the fall of 1978 with seven teams in Arizona, California, Montana, Nevada, Utah and Washington. A wealth of talent was available to support the creation of a new “Triple-A” caliber league thanks to the end of the ABA-NBA war two years earlier, which ended with the demise of the American Basketball Association and the loss of dozens of jobs at the Major League level of the sport.
The Washington Lumberjacks were based in the Tri-Cities region (Kennewick, Pasco & Richland) of Washington state. The team could boast of a handful of former NBA regulars, including former University of Washington guard Louie Nelson and ABA/NBA journeyman Bird Averitt.
Kevin Veleke – Lumberjacks Business Manager
Marketing the club was not easy. We had to create interest in professional basketball in light of the fact high school basketball back in the ’70’s was king. Local high school games were sell outs and we could only get so-called off days for our games – holidays, Sundays, midweek and my favorite: Super Bowl Sunday 1979.
The WBA was more professional than the Continental Basketball Association … due to having good coaches and good facilities except for a team or two that played in high school gyms like the Lumberjacks. Because the league was so spread out, teams had to travel by air. This was very expensive and probably was the undoing of some of the franchises.
The Lumberjacks averaged a little over a 1,000 fans playing in high school gyms in Richland and Pasco. In January 1979, the team re-scheduled six home games for the more professional Spokane Coliseum, located 150 miles to the north. Spokane was under consideration for a future WBA franchise (presumably a relocated Lumberjacks teams). But attendance at the Spokane games was poor, hovering around 500 per game.
The Lumberjacks finished the 1978-79 season in second place with a 29-19 record, but lost in the opening round of the playoffs. Washington center Jeff Cook was named the league’s Most Valuable Player. Cook and forward Walter Jordan were named First Team All League.
After the season, the Western Basketall Association and the CBA announced plans for a merger to form a nationwide United Basketball Association. But then all of the WBA franchises folded during the summer of 1979, rendering the plan moot.