Remembering... the Cleveland Pipers




After nearly two months, countless starts and stops, and endless admiration and frustration, I finally finished the Sports Guy's The Book of Basketball. Tons of great nuggets in there, and, on the whole, a fun read. There's plenty of reviews and criticisms out there if you're into that stuff (just read the book instead, then discuss it if you want), so I'm not going to go into that here.

Instead, I wanted to relay one nugget of Clevo basketball info that I previously didn't know.

Ever hear of the Cleveland Pipers? Did you know George Steinbrenner actually owned a pro franchise in Cleveland? Did you know the Forest City has one more championship than you were aware of?

Check out the glorious, if brief, history of the Cleveland Pipers thanks to Cool History of Cleveland:


The team won the league title in its only year in the ABL which was the 1961-62 season. The team was coached by the legendary John McLendon, the first African-American head coach of a professional team and who started a massive lineage of other African-American coaches. The very humble, but visionary, Coach McLendon and Mr. Steinbrenner never saw eye to eye (although this is not surprising from Steinbrenner). The team was one of the first racially integrated professional teams and employed a fast-break offense well before those famous Laker’s teams of the early 1980’s.

In 1962, the Cleveland Pipers petitioned to be a part of the National Basketball Association (“NBA”) and the move was approved by the owners of the NBA who wanted the $400,000 expansion fee Cleveland and the Steinbrenner’s would pay. But the ABL sued to keep Cleveland and won and Steinbrenner in his typical fit of rage simply closed the team. But it is important to note the key role the Cleveland Pipers played in integrating professional basketball and that the team was, in fact, the first professional basketball team in Cleveland.

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