Opinion Corner: Wizards, like Thunder, soon to disappearMost are aware that Bismarck is losing its minor league basketball team — the Dakota Wizards. The Bismarck Tribune has done a really good job chronically how the successful 17-year-old franchise will soon be relocated to northern California near the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. Both teams are owned by the same group.
By: Dave Selvig, The Jamestown Sun
Most are aware that Bismarck is losing its minor league basketball team — the Dakota Wizards.
The Bismarck Tribune has done a really good job chronically how the successful 17-year-old franchise will soon be relocated to northern California near the NBA’s Golden State Warriors. Both teams are owned by the same group.
The Wizards are one of the most successful minor league basketball teams ever. They won championships in four different leagues and were a success by every applicable metric.
It got me thinking back to 2003 and the brief, albeit entertaining — often times for the wrong reasons — and the Buffalo City Thunder.
The Thunder, and the Xtreme Basketball Association, then changed to the Midwestern Basketball Association, had nothing in common with the Wizards.
The XBA/MBA lasted about as long as a bad cold, but it provided more than a decade’s worth of memories — I still tell stories about the circus that was the Wizards today.
Among the highlights:
r On the same night the Thunder were making their home debut against the Magic City/Minot Snowbears, XBA commissioner John Jordan was threatening to torpedo the league by not paying players and coaches. I remember getting him on the phone that night where he complained that the Jamestown team was not making enough money. I reminded him that while we were talking that same Jamestown team was playing its first home game.
r The same phone conversation ended with Jordan blaming The Sun (us) for reporting on the economic problems of the league. “It’s bad press,” he scolded. “Pay your employees then,” I thought, but did not say.
r The league ended up lasting about five weeks, lured marginal players, but one of them was former Louisville star DeJaun Wheat. A former second-round pick of the L.A. Lakers, he also played for the Minnesota Timberwolves and Memphis Grizzlies. Nice enough guy, I remember him saying after one of the final games here, “Never thought I’d play basketball in North Dakota. Guess I can cross that one off the list.”
r The games were interesting. Thunder coach Otis “My Man” Hailey could often be seen talking to fans while the game was going on. Otis knew his basketball, though, and tried hard to make it work here. “This is basketball, not work. It beats working anytime,” he said often. Sadly, Otis died in January 2010 of kidney failure.
r From the “You know youre league’s in trouble when,” department. The last two games I covered the referees were wearing jeans, and one of them had a baseball cap on.
There are many other stories, like after the last game when three players were heard talking excitedly about playing in a league where their checks actually did cash, meaning there were leagues in tougher shape than the XBA/MBA, evidently.
Players with the Dakota Wizards certainly never had to worry about their checks bouncing like the balls they dribbled. But for a brief time in Jamestown in the winter of 2003, the Thunder brought some excitement to town, if only for about a month.
Sun sports editor Dave Selvig can be reached at (701) 952-8460 or by e-mail at email@example.com