World Basketball League (1988)
Born: 1987 – International Basketball Association founding franchise.
Died: December 8, 1988 – The Express relocate to Springfield, IL.
Arena: Rosemont Horizon (16,644)
Team Colors: Scarlet Red, Royal Blue & White
Owner: Barry Fox
Can you launch a minor league basketball in Chicago on the shoulders of Michael Jordan’s big brother Larry? Apparently not, as the Chicago Express of the World Basketball League lasted just one summer, playing to acres of empty seats at the suburban Rosemont Horizon in 1988.
Larry Jordan, out of North Carolina A&T, was likely the biggest “name” on the Express, but certainly not the team’s best player. That title went to Chicago product Alfredrick Hughes, a free shooting former star at Loyola of Chicago and former 1st round pick (1985) of the San Antonio Spurs. Hughes was a classic tweener – too short at 6′ 5″ to make it in the NBA as a power forward, but a dominant minor league, especially in the WBL, which was restricted to players 6′ 5″ and under. In the World Basketball League, Alfredrick Hughes was a literal and figurative giant.
Jim Les was another notable player, a guard out of Bradley University in Peoria. Les was named to the All-WBL team in 1988 and earned a spot with the Utah Jazz in the fall of 1988-89, where he appeared in 82 games. Les eventually played parts of seven season in the NBA from 1988 to 1995.
The Head Coach of the Express was former Northwestern University coach Rich Falk. Falk resigned late in the season and was replaced by Assistant Coach Walt Perrin.
The Express’ first game was on May 19, 1988 against the Youngstown Pride at the Rosemont Horizon. The game drew a decent announced crowd of 5,250 and the Express treated fans to a 115-102 victory, led by Hughes with a game high 25 points and 11 boards.
The crowds quickly evaporated though. By the end of June, team owner Barry Fox resorted to massive free ticket giveaways, which produced the Express’ two largest crowds of the season, but failed to generate much in the way of return customers. For the season, the Express averaged fewer than 2,000 fans in the 16,000-seat Horizon. Late in the year, the Express moved a game to the Prairie Capital Convention Center in Springfield, Illinois and drew over 4,000 fans, leading to speculation that the team would move there permanently for the 1989 season.
The Express finished the 1988 season at 27-27 and earned the WBL’s fourth and final playoff spot. After defeating the Calgary 88’s in a semi-final game, the Express played the Las Vegas Silver Streaks in the World Basketball League championship game on September 9, 1988. The Silver Streaks won 102-95.
In December 1988, Express owner Barry Fox made the rumors official and moved the team to Springfield, Illinois. The club competed there for two more seasons as the Illinois Express before folding at the end of the 1990 season. The WBL folded in 1992 midway through its fifth season.
==Express Games on Fun While It Lasted==
|1988||5/19/1988||vs. Youngstown Pride||W 115-102||Program||Rosters|