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The Fort Worth Flyers: Two Successful, but Short Seasons

Fort Worth Flyers

Credit: FW Weekly

The Fort Worth Flyers joined the National Development League (now known as the G-League) in the 2005-06 season. The Flyers were owned by David Kahn, the owner of Southwest Basketball LLC. If Khan's name sounds familiar, that's because he was the former president of basketball operations for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Kahn wasn't only the owner of the Fort Worth Flyers, but for THREE other D-League teams!

  • Albuquerque Thunderbirds

  • Austin Toros

  • Tulsa 66ers

Out of the four teams, the Fort Worth Flyers were the only expansion team. The rest of the teams were purchase from existing franchises that were rebranded and relocated.

The Fort Worth Flyers' logo is supposed to represent a bi-plane flying over a basketball. I assume that's why the Flyers were named the 'Flyers.'

Unfortunately, the team would only last two seasons as the Fort Worth Flyers weren't profitable for Southwest Basketball LLC, so the team disbanded in 2007.

Although the team only lasted two seasons in the D-League, they were successful in both seasons and even had a player still playing to this day... Obviously, not for the Flyers.

2005-06: The Fort Worth Flyers' Best Season

In the 2005-06 D-Leauge season, the Forth Worth Flyers went 28-20 (58.3 W/L%) and finished first. In their first season in the D-League, and they were already the best team. Although the team had the third-worst offensive rating (105.9), the team had the best defensive rating (103.2).

Out of the 25 PLAYERS that the Flyers had, only ONE of them played all 48 regular-season games, Anthony Terrell. Besides Terrell, only FOUR other players played more than 40 regular-season games:

  • Ime Udoka

  • Kelenna Azubuike

  • Keith Langford

  • Jeleel Akindele

It makes sense that most of the players didn't even play 50% of the D-League season since the league is to develop players.

Of the 25 players, here are some that you might recognize:

  • Martell Webster: 10 Seasons in the NBA

  • Ime Udoka: 7 Seasons in the NBA

  • Josh Powell: 7 Seasons in the NBA

  • Von Wafer: 6 Seasons in the NBA

  • Jamario Moon: 5 Seasons in the NBA

  • Kelenna Azubuike: 5 Seasons in the NBA

For the two seasons that the Fort Worth Flyers were in the D-League, they were coached by Hall of Famer, 5x All-Star, All-Defensive, All-NBA, and 2x DPOY, Sidney Moncrief. Before becoming the head coach of the Flyers, Moncrief coached the University of Arkansas at Little Rock's basketball team!

Moncrief would only coach the Little Rock Trojans for one season (1999-200). I'm not surprised that he was only there for a season because for the season that he was a coach, the team went 4-24.

Back to the Fort Worth Flyers. Their top three players were Ime Udoka, Kelenna Azubuike, and Keith Langford. Technically, their three best players were Josh Powell, Rawie Marshall, and Ime Udoka, but since Powell and Marshall didn't even play 50% of the regular season, it didn't seem fair.

Here are the stats for Udoka, Azubuike, and Langford:

Ime Udoka:

17.1 Points, 6.2 Rebounds, 3.4 Assists, 1.8 Steals, and 0.4 Blocks

43.2 FG%, 30.6 3P%, 72.9 FT%

34.3 Minutes

Kelenna Azubuike:

12.6 Points, 4.0 Rebounds, 1.5 Assists, 0.7 Steals, and 0.3 Blocks

50.8 FG%, 36.7 3P%, 78.3 FT%

25.6 Minutes

Keith Langford:

11.5 Points, 3.0 Rebounds, 2.4 Assists, 0.9 Steals, and 0.3 Blocks

48.9 FG%, 40.0 3P%, 66.2 FT%

24.1 Minutes

Every player that was a part of the 'Big 3' made it into the NBA. However, Langford unfortunately only got to play two games with the San Antonio Spurs. At least he played two more games than most people have.

As for the other two, for D-League players, they had pretty successful NBA careers. Although Udoka played in the NBA for longer (2003, 2005-11), Azubuike was better. In the 2008-09 NBA season, as the starting SF/SG, Azubuike averaged:

14.4 Points, 5.0 Rebounds, 1.6 Assists, 0.8 Steals, and 0.7 Blocks

46.4 FG%, 44.8 3P%, 80.8 FT%

32.1 Minutes

This is honestly an extremely impressive stat-line. I expected Azubuike to have horrible shooting percentages, but 46/45/81 shooting splits are above the average shooting splits during the 2008-09 NBA season, 46/37/77.

Azubuike's best game in the NBA was on April 5th, 2009, against the Sacramento Kings. He put up:

30 Points, 15 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 1 Steal

8/22 FG, 2/4 3P, 12/14 FT

48 Minutes

As for the playoffs, the Fort Worth Flyers did pretty well! In the first round, the Flyers went against the Roanoke Dazzles and won 87-78. In the D-League, playoff series are only one game long, and in the 2005-06 season, only four teams were the playoffs. That means that after beating the Dazzles, the Flyers were already in the D-League Finals!

Unfortunately, the Finals didn't go well for the Flyers. They went against the Albuquerque Thunderbirds and lost 119-108. For the Flyers, this was disappointing, but for David Khan and Southwest Basketball LLC, this was a win. As said earlier, Khan was also the owner of the Thunderbirds, so regardless of who won this series, he was still a winner!

The best player for the Fort Worth Flyers during the playoffs was Keith Langford. Langford averaged:

25.0 Points, 6.0 Rebounds, 4.5 Assists

48.5 FG%, 72.0 FT%

39 Minutes

Although the Fort Worth Flyers didn't win the Finals, two players were a part of the All-NBA G League Team. Udoka was a part of the First Team, and Luke Schenscher was a part of the Second Team.

Congrats to Schenscher, but I don't understand how he was selected to the Second Team when tons of players were better than him. Schenscher averaged:

8.2 Points, 6.1 Rebounds, 1.3 Assists, 0.8 Steals, and 1.4 Blocks

53.0 FG%, 60.7 FT%

24.6 Minutes

It also wasn't because Schenscher played a lot of games either. He only played 33 games, which was less than Azbuike and Langford, and they had better stats!

Besides that, Ime Udoka was also the winner of the Sportsmanship Award, so good for him!

2006-07: The Fort Worth Flyers' Last Season

In the 2006-07 D-League season, the Fort Worth Flyers went 29-21 (58.0 W/L%) and finished as the third seed in the Eastern Conference. The team had the third-best offensive rating (108.9) but were the fifth-worst defensive rating (108.7). This was the complete opposite of last season when they were the best defensive team and one of the worst offensive teams.

Out of the 24 PLAYERS that played for the Fort Worth Flyers, the two players that played all fifty regular-season games were Kevin Burleson and Corey Santee. THREE other players played more than 40 regular-season games:

  • Anthony Terrell

  • Jeleel Akindele

  • Terrance Thomas

What sucks is that Fort Worth Flyers had three NBA-caliber players, but none of them played that long for the Flyers. Combined, the three players only played 16 games. If they played at least 50% of the regular season and the playoffs, I'm 100% sure they would have been the first seed and (*spoilers*) possibly even win the Championship. These three players were:

  • Lou Williams: 16+ Seasons (and still active) + 3x Sixth Man of the Year

  • J.J. Barea: 14 Seasons in the NBA + NBA Champion

  • Ryan Hollins: 10 Seasons in the NBA

Lou Williams alone could have probably brought the Flyers a Championship. In the THREE games that Williams played, he averaged:

26.0 Points, 4.7 Rebounds, 8.0 Assists, 1.7 Steals, and 0.7 Blocks

71.1 FG%, 62.5 3P%, 70.4 FT%

36.0 Minutes

Even J.J. Barea could have single-handedly brought the Flyers a Championship. In the EIGHT games that Barea played, he averaged:

27.3 Points, 5.0 Rebounds, 7.8 Assists, 1.3 Steals

52.3 FG%, 43.8 3P, 78.0 FT%

36.6 Minutes

J.J. Barea is only 6'0," and he was averaging five rebounds a game. Also, how the hell is Williams' field-goal percentage better than his free-throw percentage.

Although the Fort Worth Flyers didn't have Williams, Barea, or Hollins for that long, they still had a decent 'Big 3' that they could rely on. The three players were Jeremy Richardson, Pops Mensah-Bonsu, and Kevin Burleson. They averaged:

Jeremy Richardson:

17.4 Points, 3.0 Rebounds, 1.7 Assists, 0.8 Steals, and 0.3 Blocks

45.2 FG%, 36.8 3P%, 81.7 FT%

30.9 Minutes

Pops Mensah-Bonsu:

15.8 Points, 10.4 Rebounds, 0.6 Assists, 0.8 Steals, and 1.3 Blocks

56.0 FG%, 60.1 FT%

30.7 Minutes

Kevin Burleson:

12.2 Points, 3.5 Rebounds, 4.1 Assists, 1.0 Steals, and 0.2 Blocks

39.3 FG%, 41.6 3P%, 82.5 FT%

29.2 Minutes

I've never seen a player have a higher three-point percentage than field-goal percentage until now. I would say he would be perfect in today's modern NBA, but in the one season he played in the NBA, he shot 18.5% from the three-point line.

As for the other two, they both played in the NBA as well. Richardson played three seasons while Mensah-Bonsu played four. Neither were that good, but Mensah-Bonsu definitely had the better NBA career. Mensah-Bonsu's best game in the NBA was on March 25th, 2009, against the Indiana Pacers. He put up:

21 Points, 8 Rebounds

5/10 FG, 11/13 FT

22 Minutes

This time, the playoffs didn't go as well. In the first round, against the Sioux Falls Skyforce, the Fort Worth Flyers lost, 105-128. The upside is that since playoff series are only one game, I can see how well each player did in the game. There isn't a game log for D/G League players.

The big reason why the Flyers lost in the first round was that they didn't have their best player, Pops Mensah Bonsu. Another huge reason they lost is that one of the players who were a part of the Big 3, Kevin Burleson, played horribly. He put up:

3 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 2 Steals

0/5 FG, 0/3 3P

15 Minutes

The only player a part of the Big 3 that played and played well was Jeremy Richardson. He put up:

18 Points, 2 Rebounds, 2 Assists, 6 Steals, and 3 Blocks

6/14 FG, 2/4 3P, 4/4 FT

38 Minutes

The best Forth Worth Flyers player in this series was Curtis Stinton. In the regular season, he only played 16 games, so I don't know why Stinton decided to come back for the playoffs. In the game, he put up:

23 Points, 5 Rebounds, 5 Assists, 3 Steals, and 5 Blocks

10/18 FG, 0/1 3P, 3/4 FT

36 Minutes

To end it off, let's bring it back to Pops Mensah-Bonsu. Somehow, Mensah-Bonsu didn't make either All-NBA D-League Team, but Richardson did. Regardless, Mensah-Bonsu was selected to be an All-Star and was even the All-Star MVP. That was the first time the D-League had an All-Star game, so that means Mensah-Bonsu was the first D-League All-Star MVP!



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