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November 26, 1980 – Dallas Diamonds vs. Chicago Hustle

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Anne Donovan Old DominionDallas Diamonds vs. Chicago Hustle
Pre-season Exhibition Game
November 26th, 1980
Old Dominion Field House (Norfolk, VA)
Attendance:

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs
64 Pages

 

Here we have a terrific program that Fun While It Lasted recently acquired from the collection of women’s basketball historian John Molina.  This comes from a rare college/pro doubleheader hosted by the Old Dominion University Lady Monarchs in November 1980.  The front end of the double dip was a pre-season exhibition game between the Chicago Hustle and the Dallas Diamonds of the short-lived Women’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1981).

At the time, Old Dominion was the powerhouse team in women’s college basketball.  In 1980, the Lady Monarchs were two-time defending AIAW national champions.  And the Norfolk, Virginia school produced the top two draft picks in the 1980 Women’s Professional Basketball League draft.  Nancy Lieberman, widely considered the greatest female basketball player in the United States, went #1 overall to the Dallas Diamonds.  After a three-month holdout, Lieberman signed a record-breaking $100,000 contract with the financially shaky Diamonds, double the benchmark $50K deal inked by UCLA’s Ann Meyers a year earlier.  6′ 5″ Danish center Inge Nissen went #2 overall to the Hustle.  No less dominant than Lieberman, Nissen cut a much lower public (and financial) profile.

The University imported the Diamonds and the Hustle for this pre-season tune-up and then retired Lieberman and Nissen’s numbers at halftime of the ODU-James Madison contest that followed.  According to The Associated Press, it was the first time a university retired the jerseys of its alumni in the (relatively short) history of women’s college basketball.

Inge Nissen Old DominionTo the delight of the ODU faithful, Lieberman (20 pts. for Dallas) and Nissen (18 pts. for Chicago) led all scorers in Dallas’ 80-66 victory.

Despite losing two future Hall of Famers in Lieberman and Nissen in 1980, the cupboard was hardly bare at Old Dominion heading into the 1980-81 college basketball season.  For one thing, the Lady Monarchs still had the unstoppable 6′ 8″ sophomore center Anne Donovan.  Lieberman (appearing “short” at 5′ 10″), Donovan and Nissen are pictured on the cover of the evening’s game program (above right).   ESPNW writer Mechelle Voepel notes that the iconic photo of the three future Hall-of-Famers hung in the ODU Field House for years.

Donovan would lead the Lady Monarchs to a third consecutive Final Four appearance in 1981.  But unlike Lieberman and Nissen, she would never get the chance to play pro basketball in the United States.  The Women’s Professional Basketball League folded in 1981 at the conclusion of Lieberman and Nissen’s rookie seasons.  Donovan played overseas and gold medals with the U.S. Olympic team in 1984 and 1988.

Donovan and Lieberman were enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in the mid-1990’s.  Both went on to coach in the WNBA and Donovan coached the U.S. women to Olympic Gold in 2008.   Inge Nissen, as always, has remained in the background in comparison to her legendary ODU teammates.  Nissen was inducted into the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012, but still lacks that most basic credential of modern day notoriety – her own Wikipedia entry.

 

==Downloads==

November 26, 1980 Chicago Hustle Pre-season Roster

November 26, 1980 Dallas Diamonds Pre-season Roster

 

==Links==

Dallas Diamonds Home Page

Nissen gets her time in the spotlight“, Mechelle Voepel, ESPNW, June 8, 2012

 

 

Written by AC

November 23rd, 2014 at 5:59 pm

December 5, 1980 – Dallas Diamonds vs. New Jersey Gems

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Dallas Diamonds vs. New Jersey Gems
December 5, 1980
Moody Coliseum
Attendance: 2,217

 

This is a really awesome find that comes to FWIL courtesy of Tom Davis, a former assistant coach from the Houston Angels and Dallas Diamonds of the Women’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1981).  Tom has shared his files for the Diamonds 1980-81 season home opener against the New Jersey Gems.  Scroll to the bottom for the some fascinating downloads.

What’s special about this game is that it was the pro debut for two future members of the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame – Nancy Lieberman of the Diamonds and Carol Blazejowski of the Gems.  The struggling league was counting on the duo to breathe renewed life into the organization (after the similarly hyped Ann Meyers failed to do so the previous season).  Although they were both just rookies, Lieberman and Blazejowski were far and away the two highest paid players in the WPBL.

Only 2,217 fans showed up at Moody Coliseum on the campus of Southern Methodist University to see the pro debut of the Diamonds’ new superstar.  Perhaps they were justifiably skeptical.  Dallas finished in dead last place  at 7-28 the previous season without Lieberman.  As the season went on, Diamonds’ crowds grew and occasionally topped 6,000.

Carol Blazejowski was the game’s high scorer, netting 24 points on 8-22 shooting from the floor, plus a perfect 8-for-8 from the stripe.  Nancy Lieberman was nearly identical, pacing the Diamonds with 21 points.  She was 8-20 shooting and hit 5 out of 6 from the line.  Dallas took the night though, winning 102-87 thanks largely to a 34-16 run in the 2nd quarter.

The two teams would meet again in the WPBL playoff semi-finals the following spring, with Dallas coming out on top in the Best-of-3 series.  The Diamonds later lost to the Nebraska Wranglers in the league championship series in April 1981.  Those were the final games in the league’s short history.  It folded later in 1981.

The death of the WPBL ended Carol Blazejowski’s pro career after just one season.   She entered the Hall of Fame in 1994 on the strength of her legendary amateur career.  Nancy Lieberman continued to find places to play sporadically through the 1980’s and 1990’s, including a brief and ill-fated revival of the Dallas Diamonds in 1984, a stint in the men’s United States Basketball League in the mid-1980’s and finally a valedictory appearance in the first year of the WNBA in 1997 as the league’s oldest player at age 39.  By that time, “Lady Magic” was already a Hall-of-Famer, having joined Blazejowski there in the 1996 induction class.

Diamonds coach Tom Davis squirreled away the official scorer’s reports, line-up cards and press releases from this game some 30+ years ago.  You can view and download them all here…

 

==Downloads==

December 5, 1980 Dallas Diamonds Game Notes

December 5, 1980 Dallas Diamonds vs. New Jersey Gems Lineup Card

December 5, 1980 Dallas Diamonds vs. New Jersey Gems Official Scorer’s Report

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Written by AC

August 9th, 2013 at 3:25 pm

December 4, 1979 – Dallas Diamonds vs. Minnesota Fillies

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Dallas Diamonds vs. Minnesota Fillies
December 4, 1979
Dallas Convention Center Arena
Attendance:

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs
8 pages

 

This rare program – actually an eight-page fold-out pamphlet – is from the early pioneering days of women’s professional basketball in the late 1970’s.   The Dallas Diamonds were a 1979 expansion franchise during the sophomore season of the Women’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1981).  This program comes from the team’s third home game at the dimly-lit Dallas Convention Center, played on December 4th, 1979 against the Minnesota Fillies.

A slim historical record of this game exists in the Diamonds 1980-81 media guide, noting that the Diamonds lost this game 102-91, despite a 29-point effort from 6′ 3″ Dallas center Alfredda Abernathy, the team’s #1 draft pick out of Alabama State University.

The team’s former PR Director, Nancy Nichols, wrote a wonderful retrospective on the Diamonds for Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas in 2005.  You can read it here.  Nichols notes that attendance was poor that first season, averaging somewhere around 1,500 per night according the Nichols.   Team owner Judson Phillips, a 28-year old Dallas-area McDonald’s franchisee, expected to lose $100,000 on the team over its first three seasons.  He lost it in the first two months instead.

On January 18, 1980, less than halfway through the Diamond’s 36-game schedule, Phillips called a press conference and announced he was folding the team in mid-season.  (The WPBL already lost expansion franchises in Philadelphia and Washington to financial collapse the previous month).  The league managed to keep the team going for a few more days until an angel investor stepped in.

A 33-year old local real estate executive named Michael Staver saw the press coverage and came forward to save the Diamonds.  Staver kept the Diamonds going through 1981 and forged them into a model franchise by WBL standards, but the Diamonds vanished along with the rest of the league in the summer of 1981.

A revived version of the Diamonds came back in 1984 as part of the new Women’s American Basketball Association.

 

==Downloads==

December 4, 1979 Dallas Diamonds vs. Minnesota Fillies game program

December 4, 1979 Diamonds vs. Fillies article sources

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Written by AC

October 12th, 2012 at 6:51 pm

1979-1984 Dallas Diamonds

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Women’s Professional Basketball League (1979-1981)
Women’s American Basketball Association (1984)

Born: 1979 – WPBL expansion franchise.
Died: Postseason 1981 – The WPBL ceases operations.

Revived: 1984 – WABA founding franchise.
Dead Again: December 1984 – The WABA ceases operations.

Arenas:

Team Colors: Blue & Silver

Owners:

 

 

This is really a  page for two separate but closely linked teams called the Dallas Diamonds.  The original Diamonds were an expansion franchise during the second season of the pioneering Women’s Professional Basketball League (1978-1981).  Owner Judson Phillips, a Dallas-area McDonald’s franchisee, expected to lose $100,000 over three years of operations.  Instead he lost it in the first two months.  In January 1980, Phillips called a press conference to fold the team, but a local real estate executive named Michael Staver stepped in to save the franchise.

The Diamonds experienced their greatest success under Staver, moving from the obscure Dallas Convention Center to SMU’s Moody Coliseum and signing the biggest star of the women’s game in that era, Nancy Lieberman, as a rookie for the 1980-81 season.  With Lieberman on board, the Diamonds advanced to the 1981 WPBL Championship Series, where they lost to the Nebraska Wranglers.  However, the original WPBL never played another game.  The league shut down after Lieberman’s rookie season.

WPBL founder Bill Byrne came back with a new women’s league in 1984, hoping to get a boost from the anticipated strong performance of the U.S. women in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics.  The U.S. would compete against weak competition thanks to the Soviet bloc boycott.  The American women held up their end of the bargain winning Olympic gold.  But the Byrne’s Women’s American Basketball Association was badly under-capitalized and most of the Olympians chose to return to their far more stable overseas clubs rather than try their luck in a shaky looking domestic league.

The Diamonds were the only WPBL team to be revived three seasons later for the WABA.  Lieberman returned, as did Head Coach Greg Williams.  Moody Coliseum was the home arena again.  However, Staver was gone.  The new owner was Ed Dubaj, a Memphis-based NFL agent who managed the business affairs for a half dozen Dallas Cowboys players, including starting quarterback Danny White.  Unlike his rivals, Dubaj managed to sign the best players in the women’s game to join his team.  He started by re-signing Lieberman and then coaxed twin sisters Pam and Paula McGee from the University of Southern California to sign with the club.  Pam won Olympic gold with the U.S. women that summer and was one of the few Olympic team stars to actually join the WABA.

It’s strange to say that a league that lasted about eight weeks had a “best team”, but the Dallas Diamonds were clearly the class of the WABA, finishing the league’s abbreviated season with a 19-2 mark.

WABA cities began dropping out of the league even before the season began in October 1984.  By late November, it was all but over.  Bill Byrne was forced out by the disgruntled owners (as he had been in the WPBL) and Dubaj assumed leadership of the league.  The remainder of the season was cancelled and a hastily schedule championship game was played sometime in early December 1984, with the Diamonds defeating the Chicago Spirit.  Dubaj spoke of reorganizing for a second season in 1985, but the league was never heard from again.

 

==Diamonds Games on Fun While It Lasted==

Season Date Opponent Score Program Other
1979-80 12/4/1979 vs. Minnesota Fillies L 102-91 Program
1980-81 12/5/1980 vs. New Jersey Gems W 102-87 Game Notes Scorer's Report
1984 11/27/1984 vs. Chicago Spirit ?? Scorecard

 

==In Memoriam==

Former Diamonds owner Ed Dubaj passed away in November 2012 at the age of 72.

 

==YouTube==

In 2011, former WPBL and WABA star “Machine Gun” Molly Bolin posted this rare cable TV footage of a 1984 game between the Dallas Diamonds and her Columbus Minks on her Youtube page.

 

==Downloads==

1984 WABA Media Guide (complete .PDF)

1984 Dallas Diamonds Season Ticket Brochure

 

==Links==

Women’s Professional Basketball League Media Guides

Women’s Professional Basketball League Programs

Women’s American Basketball Association Programs

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