SACRAMENTO, Calif. - For the first time in professional sports history, a
team comprised solely of American Indians is set to take to the court this
The as-of-yet-unnamed team will play for the American Basketball
Association (ABA) and will be based in Albuquerque, N.M. It is temporarily
known as the Native America National Team.
Owner, CEO and President Spider Ledesma II said the team originated as an
American Indian national basketball team that he still hopes to take to the
Olympics in 2008. When a spot became open in the fledgling ABA he
immediately took it.
Though not a well-kept secret in Indian country, Ledesma wanted a national
showcase for the level of talent among American Indians when it comes to
"There is a lot of negativity and dysfunction [stereotypes] that people
associate with our people [American Indians], we wanted to show that we are
as can-do and professional as anyone in the world and we are sure that we
can compete, the talent is there."
One of the problems that Ledesma sees in Indian country is that often times
the most talented players do not go on to college. He believes the team can
become an inspiration to American Indians as a showcase for talent he
thinks is often disregarded.
Only American Indians will be selected to play on the team and Ledesma
insists that there are no future plans to draft anyone who is not of North
American Indian descent.
Currently, the team is operating on a very modest $600,000 budget. Ledesma
said that he is looking for investors and said he will look to tribal
casinos and other "good brand names" to help bankroll the team.
Ledesma, Mission Indian, and part Chicano had a brief career in the
National Basketball Association (NBA) in the late 1980s and led the Los
Angeles Clippers in rebounds during the preseason. He later played for
several seasons in Europe.
Only 40 years old, Ledesma will try to suit up for one final season with
the Native America team. This is contingent on him passing a medical exam
and checking league rules concerning owning interests playing on the court.
The closest precedent is in the NBA, where Michael Jordan suited up in his
final seasons for the Washington Wizards while he served as President of
Basketball Operations for that franchise, though he did not have an owning
The ABA takes its name from a defunct league that operated in the late
1960s and the first half of the 1970s. When that league folded in 1976,
four of its teams; the New York (now New Jersey) Nets, the Indiana Pacers,
the Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs; joined the NBA. The league was
famous for using a red, white and blue basketball as opposed to the orange
ball The possible logo for the new American Basketball Association team
currently named Native America National Team. The team will be based in
Albuquerque, N.M. familiar to NBA and college hoops fans.
The league was re-started four years ago with seven teams, complete with
its trademark ball, and suspended operations last season. According to
Ledesma, this was to create a more "modest business plan." The ABA will
play only a 40 game schedule, about half of what NBA teams play.
That more modest plan calls for a large scale expansion that includes not
only the Native America team but 24 other teams as well. Though there are a
few first-tier cities on the expansion list, such as Boston and Vancouver,
most of the teams are from second tier cities or suburban areas such as
Gwinnett County, Ga., a suburb of Atlanta.
One interesting note is that in addition to Canada, the league also
features teams in Mexico, a first for American professional sports with
teams in the border towns of Tijuana and Juarez, but also in Hermosillo in
the Mexican state of Sonora.
History has not been kind to start-up professional sports leagues that
compete with ones already established. The last fully successful start-up
league in American sports was the American League, which began operations
at the turn of the 20th century. In fact, Major League Baseball received an
anti-trust exemption from Congress in the 1950s which prevents a new
start-up league in that sport.
The NBA-absorbed ABA teams represent the only other success that a start-up
league has seen since then. Other leagues, including the World Football
League in the 1970s and the United States Football League in the 1980s both
proved dismal failures.
No players have been selected as of yet for the Native America team, but
Ledesma said that it will be coming together in the next couple of months
and he already has his eye on a few players. A complete league schedule
will be released later this summer.
For more information and updates on the Native America National Basketball
team go to: www.nativeamericacamps.com#mce_temp_url#.