PROFESSIONAL basketball has some legendary rivalries: the New
York Knicks and the Chicago Bulls, the Los Angeles Lakers and the
Golden State Warriors, the Sioux Falls Sky Force versus the Rapid
How's that again?
Well, if the rivalry between Sioux Falls, S.D. (population
100,000) and Rapid City (population 54,000) isn't quite the stuff
of legends, it certainly is big news in South Dakota. The two
largest cities in the state boast thriving franchises in the
Continental Basketball Association (CBA), a developmental league
for the National Basketball Association.
Founded 45 years ago as the Eastern Basketball Association, the
16-team CBA actually is as old as the NBA. The league changed its
name in 1978 and signed a contract to develop NBA referees. Since
then the two leagues have expanded their relationship, especially
in player development. In 1978, there were two veterans of the CBA
playing in the National Basketball Association. Last year, there
were 75. In 1990-1991 alone, 30 CBA players were called up to the
Some of the CBA vets are well-known. There's Michael Adams of
the Washington Bullets, Michael Williams of the Minnesota
Timberwolves, and Anthony Mason and John Starks of the New York
For many players, the road between the CBA and the NBA is a
two-way street. Players may be called up and sent down several
times during their careers, depending not so much on their talent
as on the needs of the NBA teams. It's all a matter of being in the
right place at the right time.
What matters to the NBA
"You don't have to be a high- scoring player in the CBA to be
called up by an NBA team. What's most important is if you're what
they need," says Russ Schoene, a 6 ft. 10 in. forward who has
played for three NBA teams and recently left the Thrillers to play
for a team in Italy.
Greg Grant, the Thriller's 5 ft., 7 in., 140 lbs. point guard,
started 30 games for the Philadelphia 76ers last year. Grant says,
"It's your reputation that counts. They don't call you up for what
you do in the CBA. It's because of what you've done in the NBA.
But some things do set the leagues apart. In addition to a
proving ground for players, the CBA serves as a test bed for new
rules and equipment.
Currently, there are three rules in the CBA that could find
their way into the NBA. The most notable is the 7-point scoring
system for the league championship in which the winning team
receives three points for a victory and an additional point is
awarded to the winner of each quarter.
Another difference in the CBA is that a player who is fouled in
the act of shooting a three-point field goal receives three free
throws if the shot is missed, not two as in the NBA. …