Updated: Oct 19, 2021
So much has happened in the world in 2020 that 2019 feels so much longer ago than a year. I do not think that there is an organization in The Basketball League that feels this same sentiment more than the Raleigh Firebirds. In their first season in The Basketball League, the Firebirds had the fifth-best record in the regular season and a 13-1 record at home. With fourth seed Kansas Tornadoes opting out of the playoffs, Raleigh was going to the playoffs in their debut season. Falling short in a loss to the eventual champions, the Albany Patroons, in a thrilling game three by only four points. Expectations for the Raleigh Firebirds to perform well in their sophomore season was higher, seeing how close they were to winning it all.
However, sudden success can sometimes come at a cost. Two of the Firebirds’ star players had gone to player higher-level basketball abroad. From what I have seen in this league, one star is usually the difference between winning and losing, making this a massive hurdle for them. I think that there is always going to be a question mark on the 2020 season in all leagues, in all sports. More so if the league, like The Basketball League, decided to call it a season. Teams that needed that bit of momentum to be gained before winning games had not gotten the chance because the season was so short. This could have been the case with the Raleigh Firebirds, but that is something we can never know.
The Firebirds played ten games in the 2020 season and finished with a 2-8 record. This, however, tells us nothing about the actual season that they have had. They (Raleigh) started the
season with a blowout loss away to the Indy Express. I think this started the habit of losing in the team. In the eight losses that this team had, five of those losses were by three or fewer points with the first game loss being the biggest of the lot. Looking at this, I do not think this team was particularly bad, but they just lacked a certain finesse to cross the finish line on top. Going back to what I said about star players, these star players bring either talent or experience to take teams across that finish line with a W and it seemed that the Firebirds were lacking that.
The upside of losing good players though is the probable growth of another player to fit into the role that was left by the players that have departed with the team. In this team, there was 6”2 Guard, Jonathan Milligan. The twenty-six-year-old Orlando native played all the games and averaged 16.9 points per game with a 55.3% field goal percentage. Coming into the 2021 season, I think if the Raleigh Firebirds could fill in another star player space with either someone already there or a new signing, they could go back to their 2019 form and possibly even better.
This piece was written by Enrique Ortiz, a common contributor for Globally Ballin. This piece is the ninth article of the "Who Are They" series. An article series that takes a look at all the teams in The Basketball League from a fresh set of eyes. Each piece in this series will be out and available on the website every Tuesday, enjoy!
Raleigh Firebirds. (2020). About Us. Retrieved September 3, 2020, from https://www.raleighfirebirds.net/about-us
Raleigh Firebirds. (2020). Stats. Retrieved September 03, 2020, from https://www.raleighfirebirds.net/player-stats