Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Akron Wingfoots

The Akron Wingfoots are one of the oldest and most famous men's basketball teams in the United States in the 20th Century. They were founded in 1918 by the workers at the Goodyear Tire Company in Akron, Ohio. These workers, many of whom had just returned from World War I, were looking for organized athletic activities and the company responded by starting a volleyball, baseball, soccer, and a basketball team. The teams, while giving workers recreation, also helped to promote one of the first canvas/rubber based shoes made specifically for athletics, the wingfoot.

In the 1920's the basketball team evolved into a regional, and then a national powerhouse. The soccer team won the Ohio Cup in 1922. By now the Wingfoots were also fielding a renowned baseball team as well. In the 1930's the team was instrumental in the evolvement of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) and played many NAIA colleges. In the late 1930's, Goodyear, Firestone, General Electric, and other companies with similar Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) Elite teams decided to form the National Basketball League (NBL) to showcase their teams as the premier teams in the USA. The Wingfoots won the first NBL title in 1938.

When the USA entered World War II, Goodyear suspended the team and lost its position in the NBL. After WWII, other NBL teams that are now the Los Angeles Lakers, Atlanta Hawks, Detroit Pistons, Philadelphia 76ers, and Sacramento Kings gave up their AAU status and merged with the floundering Basketball Association of America (BAA), which had started with 16 teams but soon dropped to three— that are now the New York Knicks, Golden State Warriors, and Boston Celtics. The Wingfoots were not included in this new league, called the National Basketball Association (NBA). Instead, they reconstituted those NBL teams left over into the National Industrial Basketball League (NIBL). The Wingfoots regained national power in the NIBL, which in 1960 was changed to the National Alliance of Basketball Leagues (NABL).

The Wingfoots were perennial national contenders who played an NIBL schedule as well as NAIA and National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams. They were the AAU National Champions in 1964 and 1967. The team usually consisted of recent college players from medium-sized schools who wished to continue their careers and hoped to be on an Olympic Team. Several Wingfoots, including Larry Brown, Calvin Fowler, Jim King, Richard Davies, and Pete McCaffery were Olympians. Always a stepping stone for new leagues such as the National Basketball Association (NBA), the American Basketball League (ABL), and the American Basketball Association (ABA), the Wingfoots stopped playing a national schedule in the 1970's, and after the NABL was dropped in favor of touring teams, Goodyear Tire stopped sponsoring the team.

In the 1980's team sponsorship was picked up by Reach Entertainment, and the team today plays year-round all over the world. The Wingfoots are the only AAU Elite team that still plays a full college schedule. Although the team has not yet returned to its previous glory, it has again started playing in the historic AAU National Tournament.