February 16, 2015

Bellingham Slam suspending operations for 2015 season

Bellingham Slam benchThere will be a void in the local sports calendar this spring as the Bellingham Slam has announced that the basketball team is suspending operations for the 2015 season.

While the Slam has been incredibly successful on the court since being founded in 2005, ultimately it was the unstable nature of minor league basketball that beset the organization.

The International Basketball League, the league which the Slam has competed in for the last seven seasons, has opted to pursue a different model in 2015 which does not align with the Slam’s mission.

Facing a dwindling number of teams in its league over the past few years, the IBL has elected to abandon the traditional league model that features a number of teams based in different cities over a wide geographical footprint, and is instead opting to centralize operations in the citiy of Portland by managing a Summer Pro-Am league in that area.

Because the ownership of the Slam is committed to keeping the team in Bellingham, the organization has opted to not participate in this new format in 2015. The team also explored other options and leagues in order to keep the team on the court for the coming season, but none were deemed to be viable.

“This is undoubtedly a disappointing moment for the organization, but it isn’t entirely unexpected,” explained Slam General Manager Kip Leonetti. “Observing our league for the past several seasons I have had concerns about its sustainability, and those were realized this off-season. I certainly hope the IBL’s new model is successful, but at this point it just isn’t a good fit for us.”

Tyler Amaya “It is very frustrating to be put in this position through no fault of our own, but that’s the story of minor league basketball in this country – so much of your success depends on the teams you’re surrounded by,” Leonetti continued. “I have seen a lot of ups and downs over the years with this team, but ultimately I am incredibly proud of the opportunities we were able to give players and the memories we created for our fans.”

The Slam goes on hiatus as the most successful team in IBL history. Winners of the last three league championships and four overall, the team and its players earned countless accolades along the way. The team is currently the all-time winningest in league history with 115 victories, with 100 coming from longtime Head Coach Rob Ridnour, who stepped down following the 2013 season. Guard Jacob Stevenson, who has played for the Slam in every season of its existence, checks in as the IBL’s all-time leading scorer with 2,934 points. And perhaps most impressive, last season current Head Coach Tyler Amaya earned the distinction of being the only player in United States minor league basketball history to win three separate league championships with the same team as a player, assistant coach and head coach.

Despite not having a league to play in this season, the Slam will explore the possibility of hosting several exhibition games over the course of the spring and summer as an opportunity to continue to showcase the region’s basketball talent and provide a family-friendly entertainment option for the community, albeit on a limited basis.

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