Six years too late for me.

It’s 2006, and I’m freelancing for a couple of online minor league sports publications – and  Neither of them were skilled in the art of paying their freelancers – it took two years for to send me payment for a photo of mine, and I’m still waiting for money from six years later.  Yeah, I can pretty much write that off as a wash.

Anyway, at the time I was working on a story about a first-year minor league basketball franchise in the American Basketball Association.  They were the Rochester Razorsharks, they played their games at the spacious Blue Cross Arena in downtown Rochester, and they were drawing 6,000 fans a night and winning most of their games.  At the time, I interviewed some of their players – Keith Friel, James “Mook” Reaves, Sammy Monroe – and also their head coach, Rod Baker, and their general manager, Orest Hrynwak.  At the time, I made an off-the-cuff comment about how great it would be if the Sharks and the Albany Patroons were in the same league.  What a rivalry that would be.

“Won’t happen,” said Orest Hrynwak.  “We can’t afford to play in the Continental Basketball Association just yet.”

I still kept an eye on things.  I still wanted to see how the Sharks would do if they actually faced some legitimate competition, not just facing a litany of ragtag ABA teams with talent that was on the level of a YMCA pickup game.

Eventually the Razorsharks and several other ex-ABA teams formed the Premier Basketball League, and played for five seasons in that circuit.  I freelanced for the PBL for those five seasons, working as a photographer and league statistician.  I still held out hope that the PBL could merge with the CBA, and that the top teams in both leagues would have a “champion versus champion” interleague battle.

It never happened.  The CBA folded midway through the 2008-09 season, and never recovered.  The PBL survived.

Then, several PBL teams left to form the National Basketball League of Canada.  I left with them, but I still kept my eye on what was happening with the PBL.

This year, I finally got my wish.  Sort of.  Maybe.

A few days ago, the Premier Basketball League announced they would play an interlocking series with the Independent Basketball Association, a spring-summer league that contains the Albany Legends basketball team.  Not the Patroons, but the Legends.

You know, maybe I got what I wished for.  Rochester versus Albany.  If I take my glasses off and squint really tightly, it almost looks like a battle between the RazorSharks and the Patroons.  Jamario Moon against Mook Reaves.  TJ Thompson against Keith Friel.  Rod Baker versus Micheal Ray Richardson.

No.  I can’t get that.  And squinting that much makes my eyes hurt.

Here’s the problem.  This should have taken place six years ago.  The Sharks were the crown jewel in a rockpile that was the ABA.  They had talent and they had fans.  Unfortunately, the ABA existed as a league of promises that were never kept – owners buying $10,000 “market reservations” and getting nothing but a glowing press release about that team joining the league.

When the Sharks and several of the stronger ABA teams moved to form the PBL, I had hoped that this interlocking idea might have worked with the CBA.  Strong teams in strong markets, and rivalries against teams I could actually drive to without requiring a hotel reservation along the way.   Heck, at the time the PBL had teams in Rochester, Buffalo, Montreal, Quebec City, Manchester NH, Vermont, Maryland…

It could have worked.  It should have worked.  But too many egos kept the project from reaching fruition.

In the final year of the CBA’s existence, they did play an interlocking series with the ABA.  The games were sparsely attended – heck, one CBA team beat an ABA team 172-70.  Beat them by over 100 points.  It was an example of the CBA beating the equivalent of the local Saturday night men’s “call your own foul” league at the rec center.  But it was too little, too late, and the CBA died in February of 2009 – just at the same time that the PBL was thriving.

Look, I’m the first one in the area to stand up for Albany professional sports.  That being said, the talent in the IBA – where the Legends currently reside – is barely above a pickup game.   The Legends don’t even play at the Washington Avenue Armory any more – they’re playing their home games at a high school gymnasium.  Listen, I wanted Albany in the CBA, but I meant Continental Basketball Association, NOT Christian Brothers Academy.

I know.  Gone are the days when 4,000 people packed into the Washington Avenue Armory to watch the Patroons win championships.  Heck, gone are the days when 1,500 people packed into the Washington Avenue Armory to watch Jamario Moon dunk on everybody in the CBA.

And any chance we might have had to bring back top-level minor league basketball went out the door when the CBA folded.  The D-League’s not coming to Albany.  The National Basketball League of Canada isn’t expanding south of the border.  And while we still have college and high school ball here, the prospect of true high-quality professional independent basketball is gone.

Six years too late.

Will it ever happen?  Will we ever get top-flight professional hoops in this area?

Probably around the same time that sends me the money they owe me.