The Big3 basketball league that began play in June is drawing rave reviews and buzz, with fans excited to see former NBA stars battle on the court. But plenty of new professional sports leagues have launched with high hopes and media attention, only to fizzle after a year or two. In their wake, these leagues left a mix of good and bad memories, unpaid bills, colorful characters … and some classic team logos. Here are some interesting team logos that live on long after their league folded, along with one from a team that continues today in the NHL.
10. San Diego Mariners
You have to love the grizzled sailor and the steering wheel on this World Hockey Association team’s logo. This nomadic franchise began play in New York City, then moved to New Jersey before relocating to San Diego, all in the span of four seasons (1974-78).
9. Shreveport Steamer
The Steamer lasted only one year in the World Football League, relocating from Houston in midseason in 1974. The league folded midway through the 1975 season, but one of the Steamer’s broadcasters, Larry King, would later find fame as a longtime host on CNN.
8. Cleveland Pipers
The Pipers won the only championship in the old American Basketball League (1961-62). The team’s owner, a young businessman named George Steinbrenner, would obviously have much greater achievements in the sports world. By the way, the Pipers hired the first black pro basketball coach, John McLendon. Those weird things sticking out of the basketball are plumbing pipes — the team’s original owner was in the plumbing business.
7. Oakland Invaders
The short-lived USFL (1983-85) provided some of the most entertaining team names and logos in sports history, including the Oakland Invaders. Note the alliteration of Invaders to Raiders, the popular NFL team that had fled Oakland for Los Angeles a couple of years earlier.
6. Kansas City Scouts
The New Jersey Devils’ franchise history actually began half a continent away, with the birth of the NHL-expansion team Kansas City Scouts in 1974. The team left for Denver a couple of years later before relocating as the Devils in 1982. About that bizarre-looking logo: it’s based on a famous statue, “The Scout,” located in a park overlooking downtown Kansas City.
5. Detroit Caesars
Detroit Tigers and Red Wings fans who’ve never heard of this 1970s softball franchise can probably figure out the origin of this logo in a few seconds. Little Caesars Pizza founder Mike Ilitch, longtime owner of both the Tigers and Red Wings, also owned this American Professional Slow Pitch Softball League franchise, bearing the unmistakable logo of his pizza company. Ilitch, who passed away in 2017 at age 87, showed the same competitive spirit in that league as he did in his other endeavors — with a roster full of former Detroit Tigers and softball stars, the team won the first two league championships.
4. Minnesota Fighting Saints
Two different World Hockey Association teams by this name played in St. Paul, Minnesota. The Fighting Saints were one of the league’s original teams in 1972. They folded midseason in 1976, but the Cleveland Barons relocated to St. Paul a few months later and were branded the “Fighting Saints.” Ownership made only a subtle change in the logo, switching the uniform color from blue to red — quite appropriate, given the new incarnation never got out of the red financially and folded in 1977.
3. San Diego Conquistadors
Better known as the Qs, the Conquistadors were the first, and only, expansion team in the American Basketball Association, that colorful 1970s pro basketball league that was so successful it forced a merger with the more established NBA in 1976. Bizarre claim to fame: The Conquistadors scored a major coup in signing legendary center Wilt Chamberlain as a player/coach, but a lawsuit by the Los Angeles Lakers prevented him from ever suiting up for the Qs.
2. San Francisco Demons
The ill-fated XFL that lasted only one season (2001) had some great team nicknames (Hitmen, Rage, Enforcers, Outlaws) but the San Francisco Demons left the most memorable logo. Don’t look at it too closely or you’ll start to hallucinate … or so we’ve been told.
1. San Antonio Gunslingers
Here’s another creative logo from the USFL. We imagine any team nickname using the word “gun” would be politically incorrect today.