10 NBA Basketball Teams That No Longer Exist.

One of defunct NBA basketball teams
Team photo of the defunct Wayne Fort-Zollner Pistons

The National Basketball Association (NBA) has seen many teams come and go since its inception some 76 years ago. From relocations to mergers and financial struggles, there have been many teams that have fallen by the wayside over the years.

In this article, we take a look at some of the NBA basketball teams that no longer exist in the league. These defunct teams helped shape the league into what it is today. Though they may be gone, they will always hold a special place in the hearts of sports historians and veterans.

But before touching the main topic, it will be fair to take a look at the current teams that play in the league.

There are 30 teams that currently play in the NBA. 29 of these teams are in the United States, while the remaining one is in Toronto, Canada. I am talking about the Toronto Raptors here, in case you are wondering. All these teams are put into two categories which are the Western and Eastern conferences.

Teams that fall under the Eastern Conference include; Atlanta Hawks, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Charlotte Hornets, and the Chicago Bulls. Others are Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers, Miami Heat, Milwaukee Bucks, New York Knicks, and Orlando Magic. Philadelphia 76ers, Toronto Raptors, and the Washington Wizards, are also part of the Eastern Conference.

Teams such as the current NBA champions, the Golden State Warriors, and Dallas Mavericks fall under the Western Conference. The others are Portland Trail Blazers, Denver Nuggets, Phoenix Suns, Utah Jazz, LA Lakers and LA Clippers. San Antonio Spurs, Oklahoma City Thunder, Minnesota Timberwolves, Houston Rockets, New Orleans Pelicans, Sacramento Kings, and Memphis Grizzlies, are the rest.

Now, let’s head to the main topic of this article where we talk about why NBA teams go defunct, and examples of such teams.

Why NBA teams go extinct

There are a few reasons NBA teams cease to operate. Some of these reasons include; relocation of the teams as well as merger. When a team relocates to a difference city, it changes its former name to a name that reflects its new host city. When this happens, the team, under its initial name, technically ceases to exist.

Also, a team can stop existing when it is merged with another team(s). Merging two or more teams gives birth to a new one, and as a result, the previous teams technically cease to exist.

Financial problems can also cause the total collapse of an NBA team. To effectively run an NBA franchise, hundreds of millions of dollars is needed. However, if the team is not a rich team, or it’s owners are not wealthy enough, the team will become cash-strapped and bound for collapse.

10 NBA Basketball teams that exist no more

1. Fort Wayne-Zollner Pistons

One of defunct NBA basketball teams
Team photo of the defunct Wayne Fort-Zollner Pistons

The Fort Wayne-Zollner Pistons were a professional basketball team based in Fort Wayne, Indiana. They played in the National Basketball League (NBL) from 1941 to 1948, and in the NBA from 1948 to 1957. The team relocated to Detroit, Michigan in 1957 and became the Detroit Pistons.

Fred Zollner was the founder and owner of the team from 1941 to 1974. The team played in the Basketball Association of America (BAA) from 1948 to 1949. They also played in the preceding league, the National Basketball League, from 1941 to 1948.

Reason for the extinction of this team is relocation.

2. The Syracuse Nationals

Syracuse Nationals were one of the extinct NBA basketball teams
Syracuse Nationals team posed for a picture with their 1955 NBA championship trophy

The Syracuse Nationals were a professional basketball team based in Syracuse, New York. They played in the NBL from 1946 to 1949 and in the NBA from 1949 to 1963.

However, the team relocated to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1963 and became the Philadelphia 76ers.

In 1955, the Syracuse Nationals won the NBA championship.

3. Rochester Royals

rochester royals
Some old boys of the defunct Rochester Royals.

The Rochester Royals were a professional basketball team based in Rochester, New York. It was founded in 1923. They team played in the NBL from 1945 to 1949, and then in the current NBA from 1949 to 1957.

In 1957, the franchise eventually moved to Cincinnati, Ohio and became the Cincinnati Royals. From Cincinnati, the team moved to Kansas City, Missouri and became the Kansas City-Omaha Kings in 1972.

Finally, the franchise landed in Sacramento, California and became known as the Sacramento Kings that we have today.

The team were one of those that underwent several name changes.

Meanwhile in 1951, the team won the NBA championship.

4. St. Louis Hawks

st louis hawks
A St. Louis Hawk’s player in action during a game

Established in 1946, the St Louis Hawks were a professional basketball team based in St. Louis, Missouri. They played in the NBL from 1946 to 1949. In 1958, the team won its first championship title under the NBA league.

However, in 1968, the team relocated to Atlanta, Georgia, and became the Atlanta Hawks. It was first established as Tri-Cities Blackhawks until 1951 when the name was changed to Milwaukee Hawks. In 1955, the name changed St. Louis Hawks. The team used this name till 1968.

St. Louis Hawks was co-founded and owned by Ben Kerner, a Polish-born American business executive.

5. Cleveland Rebels

The Rebels were part of NBA basketball teams that don’t exist today. They were a professional basketball team based in Cleveland, Ohio. The team played in the BAA during the 1946-1947 season.

The team had a record of 15 wins and 25 losses. The franchise collapsed after the BAA merged with the NBL to form the current NBA.

6. Baltimore Bullets

The Baltimore Bullets were a professional basketball team that played in the American Basketball League (ABL) from 1944 to 1947. This team was based in Baltimore, Maryland.

From 1947 to 1949, the team played in the BAA, and won the championship title in 1948. Also, the Bullets also had some stint in the NBA.

Unfortunately, in late 1954, the team folded after struggling in the prior seasons.

7. New Orleans Jazz

The New Orleans Jazz were a professional basketball team based in New Orleans, Louisiana. They played in the NBA from 1974 to 1979. The team then relocated to Salt Lake City, Utah and became the Utah Jazz.

8. Washington Capitols

The Washington Capitols were a professional basketball team based in Washington, D.C. They played in the BAA from 1946 to 1949, and in the NBA from 1949 to 1951.

However, the folded after the 1950-1951 NBA season.

9. Vancouver Grizzlies

First, the Vancouver Grizzlies were based in Vancouver, Canada. They played in the NBA from 1995-2001. The team relocated to Memphis, Tennessee in the US in 2001 and became the Memphis Grizzlies.

As Memphis Grizzlies joined the NBA, it became the 29th member of the league.

10. Chicago Stags 

This was a professional team based in Chicago, Illinois. They played in the NBA from 1946 to 1950. The team suddenly folded after just three years of its inception.

It was later sold to a businessman but all efforts to revitalize it proved futile.


The history of the NBA has seen numerous teams come and go over the years. From the Fort Wayne-Zollner Pistons, to the Chicago Stags, these 10 teams are a testament to the ever-evolving landscape of professional basketball.

While these teams may no longer exist, their legacy lives on through the memories of fans. It’s always interesting to look back and reflect on these franchises and remember the players, coaches, and moments that made them a part of NBA history.

We hope you have enjoyed reading the article, and have acquired some insights about dead NBA basketball teams.

Source: NBA Republic

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