Continental Basketball Association (1990-2001, 2002-2008)
Born: May 1990 – The Topeka Sizzlers relocate to Yakima, WA.
Died: April 2008 – The Sun Kings cease operations.
Arena: Yakima SunDome
- 1990-1992: Bob Wilson & Brooks Ellison
- 1992-1995: Brooks Ellison, et al.
- 1995-1998: Bob Hall, et al.
- 1999: Otis Harlan
- 1999-2001: Isaiah Thomas
- 2002-2005: John Uceny & Darren Uceny
- 2005-2008: Yakama Indian Nation
The Yakima Sun Kings were a resilient minor league basketball outfit that plodded along for nearly two decades in Central Washington state. The team won the championship of the Continental Basketball Association fives times: 1995, 2000, 2003, 2006 & 2007.
During the Sun Kings’ hey day in the mid-1990’s, the CBA was the Official Developmental League of the National Basketball Association and Yakima was a legitimate destination for former NBA draft picks and other fringe pros battling to make it back to the NBA, or to earn contracts in Europe or Asia.
Playing in a small, low-income market with a limited corporate support base, the Sun Kings had several near-death experiences over the years and actually went out of business not once, but twice. The first shut down was in February 2001 when NBA Hall-of-Famer Isaiah Thomas’ disastrous $9 million dollar buyout of the entire league ended in the league’s bankruptcy after 18 months of hubris and ineptitude.
After a season without pro basketball at the SunDome in the winter of 1991-92, local investors revived the Sun Kings in 2002. By this time, though, the Continental Basketball Association itself was in existential crisis. The NBA launched its own proprietary developmental league in 2001 – the NBA D-League. The CBA was no longer essential to the NBA and no longer the beneficiary of a seven-figure annual subsidy from the senior league.
In 2005 the Yakama Indian Nation purchased the Sun Kings from the Uceny family for the fire sale price of $140,000. During the final three years of the franchise’s existence, the Sun Kings were known as “Yakama” instead of “Yakima”, in tribute to the Indian Nation and its preferred spelling.
That figure was evidence of the CBA’s decrepitude and increasing irrelevance – fifteen years earlier, the original Sun Kings came to Washington from Topeka, Kansas in a $550,000 sale and in early 1992, minority investor and General Manager Brooks Ellison acquired an option to purchase the club from original owner Bob Wilson for $1 million. Nevertheless, even at $140K, the purchase of a minor league basketball team caused dissension and recriminations within the leadership of the Yakama Nation.
After three seasons of red ink, the Nation pulled the plug on the Sun Kings once and for all in April 2008.