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CLEVELAND NETS

The CLEVELAND NETS was organized in 1974 when Clevelander Joe Zingale paid $50,000 for a tennis franchise from the World Team Tennis League. The league, founded by tennis star Billie Jean King, her husband, Larry, and sports entrepreneur Dennis Murphy fielded 16 teams to play a schedule of 44 contests each, but teams had to offer large salaries to obtain top tournament players.

The Nets began the 1974 campaign with player/coach Clark Graebner, Peaches Bartkowicz, South African Ray Moore, and the brother-sister duo of Cliff Richey and Nancy Gunter. Zingale, however, eventually signed some of the game's biggest stars to play for the team, including Marty Riessen (player/coach 1975-77), Martina Navratilova (1976), and Bjorn Borg (1977). Playing matches at Public Hall, the 1974 Nets won 21 of their 44 matches (.477) to finish in 4th place in the Central Section of the Eastern Division; that record was good enough to make the playoffs, where they lost to the Philadelphia Freedoms. With Riessen as their new player/coach in 1975, the Nets moved to the Richfield Coliseum, where attendance improved but the team finished last in its division with only 16 wins (.364). Although total attendance increased from 48,887 in 1974 to more than 73,108 in 1976, increased revenue was needed and Zingale scheduled half of the Nets' 1977 "home" matches in cities such as Pittsburgh, Nashville, Miami, and the New Orleans Superdome, with little improvement. After 4 years of poor performances both on the court and at the boxoffice, Zingale officially moved the Nets to New Orleans in Feb. 1978, where the team had drawn well during its match there. The league folded that year.