The Arrival and Departure of the NBA in Iowa
by Tim Harwood
Pub Date 01 Oct 2018
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Believe it or not, Waterloo, Iowa, had an NBA team during the league’s first season, 1949 to 1950. Broadcaster and independent sports historian Tim Harwood uncovers the fascinating story of the Waterloo Hawks and the Midwest’s influence on professional basketball. Beginning with the professional leagues that led up to the creation of the National Basketball Association, Harwood recounts big games and dramatic buzzer-beaters, and the players who made them.
The first season of the NBA was far from a success. Teams had a hard time attracting fans, with games often played in half-empty arenas. When Waterloo residents learned that the team was struggling financially, they rallied behind the Hawks and purchased shares of the team in a bid to keep it afloat. Unfortunately, that community-based effort was not enough; owners of teams in larger markets pressured the league to push Waterloo—and other smaller towns like Anderson, Indiana, and Sheboygan, Wisconsin—out of the league.
Though the Hawks disappeared after their lone NBA campaign, Waterloo and other midwestern teams were nonetheless integral to getting the NBA off the ground, and their legacy continues today through some of the current franchises that relocated to larger markets. Combining newspaper accounts and personal interviews with surviving players, Harwood weaves a fascinating story of the underdog team, in the unlikeliest of places, that helped make professional basketball the worldwide success it is today.
“Professional basketball has always been a huge part of my life. I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to compete as an NBA player, work in a front office, and now serve as a head coach. Growing up in Ames, Iowa, I’ve always been interested in the history of professional basketball. More of these stories are uncovered in Ball Hawks, which brings to life the forgotten history of our state’s link to pro hoops.”—Fred Hoiberg, coach, Chicago Bulls
“I really enjoyed Ball Hawks. It was interesting to read about the history of sports in my hometown of Waterloo, Iowa, and learn about both the formation of the NBA and about what it was like to play professional basketball when it was just beginning. A book both sports history fans and Iowans will enjoy.”—Dan Gable, legendary wrestler, Olympian, coach, author, A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable and A Wrestling Life 2: More Inspiring Stories of Dan Gable