Baltimore in on IBL's ground floor New men's league expected to begin in 1999

August 12, 1998|By Christian Ewell | Christian Ewell,SUN STAFF

Larry Smith's title was reported incorrectly in an article in Wednesday's sports section about the Baltimore team in the new International Basketball League. Smith, who is part of a group that will own the team, is president and chief executive officer of the Council for Economic and Business Opportunity Inc.

The Sun regrets the errors.

Baltimore will field one of at least eight teams that is expected to begin play next fall in the inaugural season of the International Basketball League and will serve as the men's league's headquarters.

At a news conference yesterday at the World Trade Center, league CEO Art Cipriani named Albuquerque, N.M., Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Fla., Las Vegas, Richmond, Va., San Diego and Tampa Bay as the other cities in the league, which is expected to offer an alternative to the NBA. Cipriani said there may be as many as four additional teams by the time the league starts in November 1999.


While he said that "compared to the NBA, all basketball leagues are minor," Cipriani shied away from any designation of the IBL as a minor league, instead referring to it as a cheaper alternative to the NBA. The average ticket price for IBL games will be from $12 to $15.

"The IBL is simply a new professional league," Cipriani said. "There is still a demand for affordable entertainment and for players looking for an opportunity to showcase their talent and develop their skills."

All male players 18 and older will be eligible for the league, founded by Cipriani along with Paul Martha, former general counsel to the Pittsburgh Penguins and San Francisco 49ers, Thaxter Trafton and Paul Garofolo. The concept is to offer opportunities to aspiring players not good enough to play in the NBA, but who are not interested in college.

Currently, the Continental Basketball Association is the closest thing to a professional minor league in relation to the NBA, which is in the midst of a player lockout. However, the IBL's organizers believe they can woo would-be pros with a more lucrative package, with starters earning salaries in the low six figures compared with the $30,000 average of players in the CBA.

The league also would offer players a chance to play in major markets, plus an educational program that would include college scholarships.

The league would seem to be most intriguing for high school graduates who would normally enter the NBA draft. While Kevin Garnett and Kobe Bryant were two players who became lottery picks out of high school in recent years, the trend stopped this year, as none of the four high school entries was a lottery selection, and only one was picked in the first round.

"There are a lot of players who can't make it through the NCAA system, or who need to go work or get a job," Cipriani said. "We're providing an alternative for players who want to go to work and at the same time pursue educational opportunities."

The Baltimore team, not yet named, will play in the Baltimore Arena and will be led by an ownership group headed by Larry Smith, senior vice president of the Baltimore Development Corporation.

Though Smith wouldn't say how much the group paid for the franchise, the IBL franchise fees range from $350,000 to $800,000, depending upon if the owners buy equity in the league.

"We're proud to be part of an idea whose time has come," Smith said. "We will not be competing with the other league, but we will offer a diversity, an alternative."

IBL at a glance

What: The International Basketball League is a product of a three-year effort by CEO Art Cipriani, along with former Pittsburgh Penguins general counsel Paul Martha. Based at the eighth floor of Baltimore's World Trade Center, the league hopes to offer inexpensive family entertainment for fans and an opportunity for college-age players not ready for college.

When: Expects to begin November 1999.

Teams: There are eight cities with teams -- Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cincinnati, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Richmond, San Diego and Tampa Bay -- with plans to add as many as four more teams.

Pub Date: 8/12/98

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