If the NBA, the CBA and the USBL aren't enough, pro basketball fans can get ready for some new initials: the IBL.
The International Basketball League, founded by several former pro sports executives and agents, plans to begin playing in November 1997 in 10 North American cities. Teams will be located in non-NBA markets, and all arenas must hold at least 12,000.Unlike the NBA or the Continental Basketball Association, the IBL will operate under a single entity structure. All teams and players will be employees of a single corporation. Investors will buy into the league rather than individual franchises.
"The single entity structure allows for revenue sharing for all teams, therefore limiting the financial inequalities between large and small markets," league founder Paul Martha said. "This configuration also will maintain a competitive balance. The teams will have equal funding and talent."
Pittsburgh will likely be one of the 10 initial markets, which have not yet been named but are expected to be chosen by August.
"We've identified 23 non-NBA cities where the market is strong enough and arenas are big enough," Martha said.
The league already is eyeing future expansion to other continents, especially in the Mediterranean region, where recent surveys show basketball's popularity rivals or surpasses that of soccer.
"It will be an international league," said Martha, who began work on the league 21/2 years ago.
The IBL expects to sign not only former college players, but former high school players who do not enter college. Players who lack a college background will be encouraged to attend classes during the offseason under a league-funded scholarship program.
Martha said the IBL will not encourage players to skip college and turn pro but, under right-to-work laws, cannot bar players 18 and older from playing.
"If they're the best players, they deserve the chance to play," Martha said.
The league plans to announce a commissioner and its television plans soon.
"There's an opportunity in basketball right now, and the business of pro sports," Martha said. "We're seeing a reorganization in sports . . . and this is an opportunity to get in on ground zero."