American Basketball League (1996–98)

The American Basketball League, often abbreviated to the ABL of 1996 was the first independent professional basketball league for women in the United States. At the same time the ABL was being formed, the National Basketball Association (NBA) was creating the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). The ABL began league competition in the Fall of 1996, while the WNBA launched its first game in June 1997. Both organizations came into existence during a surge in popularity for women's basketball in the United States that followed the perfect 35–0 national championship season for the Connecticut Huskies in 1995[3] and the undefeated, gold medal-winning performance of the United States Women's basketball team at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

American Basketball League (ABL)
American Basketball League (1996–1998) (logo).png
Inaugural season1996–97
Owner(s)Steve Hams, Anne Cribbs and Gary Cavalli
CEOGary Cavalli
COOSteve Hams (1996-97), Jim Weyermann (1998)
DirectorTracey Williams
Motto"Real Basketball"
No. of teams9
CountryUnited States
Most titles2 (Columbus Quest)
TV partner(s)SportsChannel, BET. Fox Sports Net

The ABL lasted two full seasons: 1996–97 and 1997–98. The Atlanta Glory and Long Beach Stingrays folded prior to the start of the 1998–99 season, and were replaced by two expansion teams, the Chicago Condors and Nashville Noise. On December 22, 1998; with almost no warning, the ABL declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy and suspended operations. Each team had played between 12 and 15 games of the 1998–99 season.

The ABL got off the ground before the WNBA, and at least early on its quality of play was higher than the rival league. This was partly due to the league's signing of a majority of players from the 1996 USA women's national team. Although the WNBA was bankrolled by the NBA, the ABL offered higher salaries. The two leagues didn't compete directly; the ABL played during the winter while the WNBA played during the summer. Despite this, the ABL ultimately found the WNBA's stronger financial resources—augmented by the NBA's marketing muscle—to be too much to overcome.

Some of the ABL's problems were of its own making. The league operated as a single-entity structure, which was intended to control costs until it found its feet. However, it also meant that even the most basic decisions related to team operations had to go through the league office in Palo Alto, California. League officials were so fixated on national sponsorships that they hamstrung the teams' efforts to market themselves locally. The ABL was also underfinanced.[4]

Of all the ABL cities, Chicago, Seattle, and Atlanta now have WNBA teams.

1996–98 clubsEdit

Long Beach StingraysSeattle Reign (basketball)San Jose LasersPortland Power (basketball)Colorado XplosionNashville NoiseChicago CondorsPhiladelphia RageNew England BlizzardColumbus QuestAtlanta Glory 



The 1996–97 ABL All-Star Game was played on December 15, 1996, at the Hartford Civic Center. The Eastern Conference defeated the Western Conference, 81–65, and the game's MVP was Tari Phillips.

Semifinals Finals
E1 Columbus 2
W2 San Jose 0
E1 Columbus 3
E2 Richmond 2
E2 Richmond 2
W1 Colorado 0


The 1997–98 ABL All-Star Game was played on January 18, 1998, at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The Eastern Conference defeated the Western Conference, 102–73.

  First Round     Semifinals     Finals
        E1 Columbus 2  
  E2 New England 0     W4 San Jose 0    
  W4 San Jose 2         E1 Columbus 3
      W2 Long Beach 2
        W1 Portland 0    
  W2 Long Beach 2     W2 Long Beach 2  
  W3 Colorado 1  


The 1998–99 ABL All-Star Game was scheduled to be played on January 24, 1999, in San Jose, California, but was canceled when the league ceased operations in December 1998.[5]

Notable playersEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "History of the American Basketball League". Association for Professional Basketball Research. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
  2. ^ "American Basketball League Human Resources Manual". American Basketball League. 1997. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
  3. ^ "The 1995 Connecticut Huskies: The Team That Made Women's Basketball". The Big Lead. Retrieved 2016-04-17.
  4. ^ Former Team Official Recounts the A.B.L.'s Dizzying Descent
  5. ^ "SHOCK: EnShocklopedia – A". Women's National Basketball Association.

External linksEdit