D-League Digest

Dishing info and insight on the NBA Development League

D-League 101: D-League Franchise History

As it stands today, the D-League has 17 franchises (16 active for the 2010-11 season plus the Los Angeles D-Fenders, who are on a one-year hiatus). Read on for a quick history lesson that explains the lineage of every D-League franchise, past and present.

When the league began in 2001-02, there were just eight teams. The league’s teams were exclusively located in the southeastern U.S. Today, none of those franchises exist in the same location and only three current D-League teams have lineage back to the original eight.

(* denotes D-League Champion)

D-League Teams for 2001-02 season:
Ashville Altitude
Columbus Riverdragons
Fayetteville Patriots
Greenville Groove*
Huntsville Flight
Mobile Revelers
North Charleston Lowgators
Roanoke Dazzle

The league maintained the same eight teams for the 2002-03 season, but those first two years were the only years the league has looked the same in consecutive seasons.

D-League Teams for 2002-03 season:
Ashville Altitude
Columbus Riverdragons
Fayetteville Patriots
Greenville Groove
Huntsville Flight
Mobile Revelers*
North Charleston Lowgators
Roanoke Dazzle

Year three (2003-04) commenced with just six teams. Ironically, the two teams that were contracted were the two teams who had won the D-League championship: the Greenville Groove, who won the D-League’s inaugural championship, and the Mobile Revelers, who won the 2003 title. Additionally, the North Charleston Lowgators became the Charleston Lowgators.

D-League Teams for 2003-04 season:
Ashville Altitude*
Charleston Lowgators
Columbus Riverdragons
Fayetteville Patriots
Huntsville Flight
Roanoke Dazzle

For the 2004-05, the league remained at six teams with one change. The Charleston Lowgators relocated and were renamed the Florida Flame.

D-League Teams for the 2004-05 season:
Ashville Altitude*
Columbus Riverdragons
Fayetteville Patriots
Florida Flame
Huntsville Flight
Roanoke Dazzle

The league underwent a major overhaul for the 2005-06 season with teams starting to shift out of the Southeast. The Ashville Altitude moved to Tulsa and became the Tulsa 66ers. The Columbus Riverdragons moved to Austin and became the Austin Toros. The Huntsville Flight relocated to Albuquerque and became the Albuquerque Thunderbirds. Two expansion franchises were added: the Fort Worth Flyers and Arkansas RimRockers. Only the Fayetteville Patriots, Florida Flame, and Roanoke Dazzle remained unchanged from the previous season.

D-League Teams for the 2005-06 season:
Albuquerque Thunderbirds*
Arkansas RimRockers
Austin Toros
Fayetteville Patriots
Florida Flame
Fort Worth Flyers
Roanoke Dazzle
Tulsa 66ers

More changes were made for the 2006-07 season. The league expanded to 12 teams and separated the teams into two divisions for the first time in the league’s history. Five teams returned from the previous season: the Albuquerque Thunderbirds, Arkansas RimRockers, Austin Toros, Fort Worth Flyers, and Tulsa 66ers. Three teams folded: the Fayetteville Patriots, Florida Flame, and Roanoke Dazzle. And seven new franchises joined the league: the Dakota Wizards, Sioux Falls Skyforce, Idaho Stampede, Colorado 14ers, Los Angeles D-Fenders, Anaheim Arsenal, and Bakersfield Jam.

D-League Teams for the 2006-07 season:
Eastern Division
Arkansas RimRockers
Austin Toros
Dakota Wizards*
Fort Worth Flyers
Sioux Falls Skyforce
Tulsa 66ers

Western Division
Albuquerque Thunderbirds
Anaheim Arsenal
Bakersfield Jam
Colorado 14ers
Idaho Stampede
Los Angeles D-Fenders

In 2007-08, the league expanded to 14 teams and split into three divisions. The Arkansas RimRockers and Fort Worth Flyers both folded, but the league added four new teams: the Iowa Energy, Fort Wayne Mad Ants, Rio Grande Valley Vipers, and Utah Flash.

D-League Teams for the 2007-08 season:
Central Division
Dakota Wizards
Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Iowa Energy
Sioux Falls Skyforce

Southwest Division
Albuquerque Thunderbirds
Austin Toros
Colorado 14ers
Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Tulsa 66ers

Western Division
Anaheim Arsenal
Bakersfield Jam
Idaho Stampede*
Los Angeles D-Fenders
Utah Flash

For the 2008-09 season, the D-League maintained its three division format. All 14 franchises returned from the previous season. and the league expanded further to 16 teams with the addition of two new expansion franchises, the Erie BayHawks and Reno Bighorns.

D-League Teams for the 2008-09 season:
Central Division
Dakota Wizards
Erie BayHawks
Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Iowa Energy
Sioux Falls Skyforce

Southwest Division
Albuquerque Thunderbirds
Austin Toros
Colorado 14ers*
Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Tulsa 66ers

Western Division
Anaheim Arsenal
Bakersfield Jam
Idaho Stampede
Los Angeles D-Fenders
Reno Bighorns
Utah Flash

In 2009-10, the D-League aligned its teams into two conferences. The Anaheim Arsenal relocated and became the Springfield Armor. The Colorado 14ers took the year off and announced they would be relocating to Frisco, Texas (as the Texas Legends) for the 2010-11 season. The Maine Red Claws were added as an expansion team to keep the active league total at 16.

D-League Teams for the 2009-10 season:
Eastern Conference
Dakota Wizards
Erie BayHawks
Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Iowa Energy
Maine Red Claws
Sioux Falls Skyforce
Springfield Armor

Western Conference
Albuquerque Thunderbirds
Austin Toros
Bakersfield Jam
Idaho Stampede
Los Angeles D-Fenders
Reno Bighorns
Rio Grande Valley Vipers*
Tulsa 66ers
Utah Flash

The 2010-11 D-League season will again feature 16 teams in two conferences. The Los Angeles D-Fenders are currently on a one year hiatus, set to return to play in the 2011-12 season. The Texas Legends will replace them this season in the Western Conference while the league’s other 15 franchises are all set to return.

D-League Teams for the 2010-11 season:
Eastern Conference
Dakota Wizards
Erie BayHawks
Fort Wayne Mad Ants
Iowa Energy
Maine Red Claws
Sioux Falls Skyforce
Springfield Armor

Western Conference
Austin Toros
Bakersfield Jam
Idaho Stampede
New Mexico Thunderbirds
Reno Bighorns
Rio Grande Valley Vipers
Texas Legends
Tulsa 66ers
Utah Flash

D-League 101 is a series of posts providing general information about the NBA Development League to better educate the casual basketball/NBA fan. Click to read past D-League 101 posts or email me your questions about the D-League, and I’ll try to address them in a future D-League 101 post.

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  1. For the last two seasons, switch the Texas Legends and the LA D-Fends, as LA did play in 09-10, and Texas will play in 10-11.

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