WHEN PITTSBURGH HAD PRO HOOPS


No NBA? No problem! Watch this vintage footage of Pittsburgh Pipers/Condors basketball.

There isn’t much of it. Perhaps that’s mercifully so.

Things started out well. The Pipers were charter members of the American Basketball Association and won the first-ever league championship in 1967-68.

No, they didn’t play the Flint Tropics in the final.EVERYBODY LOVE EVERYBODY!

Those Pipers were led by future Basketball Hall-of-Famer Connie Hawkins, then barred from the NBA for his alleged involvement in a point-shaving scandal while playing college basketball at Iowa. (The case was badly flawed; Hawkins was a freshman and ineligible to play varsity games by the NCAA’s then-rules. How could he shave points?)

The Pipers averaged 3,200 per game at the Civic Arena that year, not bad by ABA standards.

So, inexplicably, they moved to Minneapolis.

The Pipers (sans Hawkins, who had gone to the NBA) returned to Pittsburgh for 1969-70, changing their name to the Condors for the two campaigns after. Those teams stunk regardless of their moniker, missing the playoffs all three years. The team folded after the 1971-72 season, drawing 689 fans to its last home game.

Some highlights for the Pipers/Condors after their return:

*John Brisker made the ABA All-Star Game twice, but was mostly known for brawling frequently and well. He allegedly died in 1979 fighting as a mercenary in Uganda.

*Charlie “Helicopter” Hentz shattered two backboards with dunks in the same game.

*Stew Johnson set the ABA’s single-game scoring record with 62 points at home against Miami on March 6, 1971. It held up almost a year. (I was part of a crowd that numbered 2,378, most of them gaining admission via free tickets.)

*An exhibition game at the Civic Arena vs. NBA champ Milwaukee and MVP Kareem Abdul-Jabbar was scheduled before the 1971-72 season. The Bucks got a $25,000 guarantee. But Abdul-Jabbar was hurt and did not play, shrinking the expected crowd dramatically.

*The Pipers/Condors did not wear black and gold. They wore blue and orange, then red and gold, making them easier to forget.

*A fan vote to rename the team in 1970 resulted in the election of "Pioneers." But that was Point Park College's nickname and the school threatened to sue, so "Condors" it was.

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