|City of Bellingham professional basketball history, season-by-season|
|Season||League||Team Name||Record||Playoff Result|
|1946-47||PCPBL||Bellingham Fircrests||35-15||Won PCPBL Championship|
|1947-48||PCPBL||Bellingham Fircrests||35-17||Withdrew from playoffs|
|2005-06||ABA||Bellingham Slam||20-15||Lost in quarter-finals|
|2006-07||ABA||Bellingham Slam||23-11||Lost in quarter-finals|
|2008||IBL||Bellingham Slam||19-4||Won IBL Championship|
|2009||IBL||Bellingham Slam||17-5||Lost in semi-finals|
|2010||IBL||Bellingham Slam||15-8||Lost in championship game|
|2011||IBL||Bellingham Slam||14-6||Lost in semi-finals|
|2012||IBL||Bellingham Slam||17-3||Won IBL Championship|
|2013||IBL||Bellingham Slam||18-2||Won IBL Championship|
|2014||IBL||Bellingham Slam||15-3||Won IBL Championship|
Long before the Slam arrived on the Bellingham sports scene, there was another pro basketball team in town. The Bellingham Fircrests played two seasons in the Pacific Coast Professional Basketball League from 1946 to 1948. The Fircrests played their games at the old Bellingham High School and were led by a local legend by the name of Gale Bishop. The Fircrests were one of the PCPBL's top teams, attracting to Bellingham such marquee teams as the Harlem Globetrotters and the NBA's Baltimore Bullets for exhibition games. Led by Bishop's prolific scoring ability, the Fircrests won the 1946-47 league championship, and in two seasons compiled a 70-32 record before the PCPBL folded during the summer of 1948.
For 57 years, Bellingham was without a professional basketball team. Then, in the summer of 2005 the Bellingham Slam announced that they were bringing pro hoops back to town in the form of an American Basketball Association franchise. Despite stumbling to an 0-3 start in their first season, the Slam quickly found the stride. Led by guard Caleb Gervin, nephew of basketball legend George "Iceman" Gervin, the Slam got hot in the playoffs and advanced all the way to the quarterfinals of the ABA Championship. The 2005-06 season, in which the Slam finished with a 20-15 record, saw basketball icons Dennis Rodman and Tim Hardaway visit the Slam's home court of Whatcom Pavilion as members of visiting teams. Despite falling three wins short of the championship, the Slam exceeded all expectations with their performance during their rookie ABA season. With their first year as a team under their belt, the Slam were ready to take 2006-07 by storm.
The 2006-07 season for the Slam proved to be just as successful as their first. The team finished with a 23-11 record and at one point won 12 of 13 games. This time the team was led by a quartet of returning players from the 2005-06 season: Forward Michael Parker, guard Jacob Stevenson, guard Brandon Hartley, and center Brian Dennis. The Slam finished the regular season with the best record in their conference, but found themselves in a difficult playoff bracket. After receiving a first round bye and breezing through a second round game against Hollywood, the Slam matched up with the #1 seed in the playoffs, the Vermont Frost Heaves. This match-up required the Slam to make their second cross-country road trip to Vermont in a month, and despite fighting to the finish, the Slam fell to the Frost Heaves in the quarterfinals. The Frost Heaves eventually won the 2007 ABA Championship a week later.
After two successful seasons in the ABA, the Slam announced in the summer of 2007 that the team would be changing its league affiliation. The Slam will now compete in the International Basketball League, a similar minor professional league to the ABA, but whose playing seasons falls in the springtime, from April to July. The move to the IBL has allowed the Slam to develop regional rivalries as there are a number of nearby teams in the Pacific Northwest.
The Slam’s transition from the ABA to IBL proved, for the most part, to be seamless. After starting out the 2008 season 2-2, the team went on to win twelve straight and fourteen of its next fifteen games. Aided by the arrival of former Western Washington Viking Tyler Amaya and led by fellow Viking Ryan Diggs, the Slam rocketed to the top of the IBL’s Western Conference standings. The team finished the regular season with an 18-4 record and breezed through the Western Conference playoff tournament with a pair of double-digit victories against Edmonton and Vancouver. Two weeks later, the Slam hosted the top-raked Elkhart Express at Whatcom Pavilion in the 2009 IBL Championship game. After a rough start that saw Bellingham trail 22-8 in the first quarter, the Slam stormed back with the help of eventual game co-MVP’s Amaya and Paul Hafford. Amaya and Hafford combined for 50 points and 13 rebounds as the Slam defeated the two-time defending champion Express, 118-111. The championship ended a 61-year professional basketball title drought for the city of Bellingham, after the Fircrests won the PCPBL title back in 1947.
The Slam were eager to repeat as champions in 2009, but unfortunately it was not to be. After getting upset by the Seattle Mountaineers in their home opener, Bellingham rattled off wins in 14 of their next 16 games and finished with a 17-5 regular season record and the number two seed in the conference playoffs. The Slam had a much more difficult time in this postseason however, as they needed a come-from-behind victory to knock off Tacoma in the second round, and ultimately fell to the Los Angeles Lightning, a team with a number of ex-NBA players on their roster, in the semi-finals. The 2009 season was not without its highlights however – Tyler Amaya took over the reigns as team leader and averaged almost 24 points per game, and Jacob Stevenson continued his strong play by upping his scoring average to 21 points per game. The 2009 campaign also featured the pro debut of former WWU star Ira Graham, who enjoyed a fine season with averages of 19 points and six assists per game.
After a disappointing finish to the 2009 season, the Slam returned to the Whatcom Pavilion hardwood for their fifth anniversary season in 2010. A re-tooled roster featured former WWU standouts Morris Anderson and Derrick Webb, and also a new face down low in the form of Ike Ohanson. In the season opener, Ohanson quickly impressed the home fans with 34 points and nine rebounds in a 124-103 victory over Tacoma. But with an uptick in the IBL's league-wide talent level, the Slam were frequently challenged in 2010. Bellingham endured seven regular season losses, the most during the team's short history in the IBL, but remarkably all but one of those losses were by three points or fewer. Despite a 13-7 record and a six seed heading into the playoffs, the Slam put together a pair of dominant victories, including a second-round upset over Los Angeles, the defending league champions and the team that ousted Bellingham from the playoffs in 2009. The two wins punched the Slam's ticket back to the IBL Championship game where they would face the top-ranked Albany Legends. In July, the Slam headed back East to take on the Legends on their home court, the historic Washington Avenue Armory in Albany. The Slam kept things competitive for much of the game, even holding a lead with two minutes remaining in the third quarter, before the Legends pulled away for a 126-111 title-clinching win. 2010 saw Jacob Stevenson, who has been with the club since their inaugural season, emerge as the team's veteran leader. He finished the season first on the team and fourth in the IBL in scoring with 25.4 points per game and was Bellingham's leading scorer for 14 straight games between April and June. At the conclusion of the season, Stevenson was named an IBL All-Star, along with Anderson, Ohanson, and Ryan Diggs.
Following the Slam’s championship loss in Albany in 2010, the team re-tooled for the 2011 season. Starting in the post all season was rookie Blake Poole form Saint Martin’s University, and his presence down low, combined with strong guard play from Mo Anderson in his second year, helped the Slam finish the regular season with the IBL’s best record at 14-6. The team featured a balanced attack, with ten players averaging double figures in scoring, led by veteran Jacob Stevenson’s 19.5 points per game. In the post-season, the Slam had the misfortune of matching up against the Vancouver Volcanoes, the tournament hosts, in the semi-finals, and lost in a hard-fought game. It marked the first season in team history in which the Slam did not win a playoff game. Despite the disappointing finish, three Slam players were named IBL All-Stars: Blake Poole, Morris Anderson and Jacob Stevenson.
In 2012, the Slam had a renewed sense of excitement heading into the season. Not only was the team eager to hit the court and redeem themselves following their early playoff exit to Vancouver in 2011, but after Western Washington University’s men’s basketball team captured a national championship in March, the Slam’s former Vikings made it clear they wanted to earn a title of their own. The players’ focus on a title was obvious, with the team winning 11 games in a row and 12 of their first 13. Led by veterans Paul Hafford and Morris Anderson, who both averaged over 20 points per game, and Blake Poole, who averaged well over a double-double and once again dominated the post, the Slam finished the regular season with the IBL’s best record for the second straight season. To the Slam’s benefit, Bellingham was selected to host the league’s playoff tournament in July and took full advantage – routing Vancouver in the semi-finals to advance to the IBL championship game for the third time in team history. Facing Portland, a team they had lost two just a week earlier, the Slam broke open a close game in the third quarter to easily win their second league title. Anderson was named the championship game MVP and also picked up the IBL’s Defensive Player of the Year honors, while Hafford was named Most Improved Player and coach Rob Ridnour was the league’s Coach of the Year.
2013 marked another successful season for the Bellingham Slam as the team repeated as champions of the IBL and became the league’s first team to win three titles. The Slam opened the season by splitting a pair of games against their rivals, the Vancouver Volcanoes. After the loss to Vancouver the Slam flipped the switch and won their next ten games by an average of 30 points. However, not all the games during the streak were blowouts. Bellingham was trailing the Portland Chinooks by two points in the final seconds of their game on May 27 until Evan Matteson buried a three-pointer with time running out. The Slam ended the regular season in first place with a record of 16-2, and after a semi-final win over Salem, matched up against Vancouver in the final. Despite 21 points and 6 three-pointers from former Slam all-star Paul Hafford, the Slam held off a late comeback to win 117-114 and capture their second straight IBL title. Blake Poole finished with 21 points and had 12 rebounds, earning him the MVP award while Rico Wilkins capped an excellent rookie season with the Slam, leading all scorers with 27 points. Jacob Stevenson, the only Slam player to be a part of all three championships, finished with 26. Poole, Mo Anderson, and Stevenson were all included as IBL All-Stars in 2013, and head coach Rob Ridnour picked up Coach of the Year honors for the second straight season.