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Ball Hawks: Iowa's NBA team in the league's first season

Talk of Iowa, hosted by Charity Nebbe

One of the great secrets of Iowa sports history is that the Hawkeye State had a professional basketball team.

It didn't last long (just one season) and the new NBA had a hard time attracting fans, but Iowa fans were thrilled to have the Waterloo Hawks as part of the league.

Cedar Falls broadcaster Tim Harwood, the voice of the Waterloo Black Hawks hockey team since 2005, has written about Waterloo's NBA team, whose sole season was from 1949 to 1950, in the book: Ball Hawks: The Arrival and Departure of the NBA in Iowa. (University of Iowa Press). It took a while, but Iowa fans rallied behind their Hawks and even purchased shares of the team to keep it afloat. But Harwood told us that owners of teams in larger markets convinced the new league to eliminate some teams in smaller markets, such as Waterloo, Anderson (Indiana) and Sheboygan (Wisconsin).

Harwood writes: "Major league basketball did not survive long in northeast Iowa. From a purely statistical standpoint, the Waterloo Hawks' record is not impressive. The team never stepped onto the court for a post-season game. Yet the Hawks did play, and to date Waterloo's postwar basketball club is the only team to represent the state in a contemporary major league."

It's too bad the Hawks aren't still around to challenge the likes of the Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets and Golden State Warriors!

This episode was originally produced 1-2-2019.


  • Tim Harwood, author of Ball Hawks: The Arrival and Departure of the NBA in Iowa
Charity Nebbe is the host of IPR's Talk of Iowa
Dennis Reese was the mid-day host for Iowa Public Radio