The Louisville Catbirds played in the Continental Basketball Association (CBA) in from 1983 - 1985 and got their unique name by combining the University of Kentucky (“Cats”) and University of Louisville (“Birds”) to tap into both fan bases.
Unfortunately for them, the Louisville Catbirds brought on 2 talented stars who had way too many off the court issues. Dirk Minnifield was Kentucky’s “Mr. Basketball” as a high school senior in 1979 who had issues with drug use. They also brought on former Wildcat Tom Payne, UK’s first black player, who had just been released from 11 years in jail for rape and sexual assault. After a few years with the Catbirds, Payne would go back to prison in 1986 for more of the same.
The Catbirds found some success attendance wise downtown at Louisville Gardens and went 23-21 in 1983-84. They would move to Broadbent Arena, where attendance was disastrous. After a 19-29 season in 1984-85, the team was sold and relocated to Wisconsin where they became the highly successfulLa Crosse Catbirds.