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YouTube Gold: The Carolina Cougars

A short-lived dream, the Cougars were a lot of fun

Doug Moe Action Portrait
 NORTH CAROLINA - 1970: Doug Moe #34 of the Carolina Cougars of the ABA shoots a jumpshot circa 1970 in North Carolina.
Photo by NBA Photos/NBAE via Getty Images

A lot of people thought that pro sports didn’t arrive in the Carolinas until the Charlotte Hornets arrived as an NBA expansion team in 1988.

That wasn’t the case though because the Houston Mavericks moved to the state after a two-year run in the Lone Star state and became the Carolina Cougars.

It was a very different North Carolina then. The cities were much smaller and the Cougars were conceived of as a regional team that would play in Greensboro, Charlotte and, occasionally, Raleigh.

The team only lasted here for five years, but it had a decent impact. First there were a lot of former ACC stars like Billy Cunningham, Randy Mahaffey and Duke’s Mike Lewis. Larry Brown got his coaching start there.

The team was sold to a group headed by Ozzie and Daniel Silna in 1974, moved to St. Louis and renamed the Spirits. The most impressive thing about the Spirits was the deal the team negotiated with the NBA when the ABA-NBA merger game about: the Spirits were not one of the four teams that joined the NBA. The Silnas arranged a deal that got them a share of NBA TV revenue for perpetuity. It ultimately netted them about $300 million and has caused great frustration to the league. Wikipedia reports that in an attempt to get out or restructure the deal, the brothers got another $500 million.

It’s legendary for a reason.