Parade in downtown Pittsburgh to welcome Steel City Yellow Jackets into “The City Of Champions”

The Steel City Yellow Jackets with Owner/Head Coach Ace Pippens (with plaque) celebrate after winning the ABA Championship. Photo by Thomas Leturgey
by Thomas Leturgey 

With the Penguins eliminated in the NHL playoffs, Pittsburgh can now focus on celebrating the most recent addition to the City of Champions, the Steel City Yellow Jackets. The club, originated in 2014 and based in the Hilltop community of Allentown, earned its very first National Championship on April 23 by defeating Stockton, California’s Team Trouble in Baltimore. The Championship Parade is set for Thursday, May 19 in downtown Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey will be on hand with a proclamation for the team. The parade coincides with a “PGH Opens Block Party”. “We are excited to celebrate another championship here in the City of Champions,” Mayor Gainey said in a press release. “We are excited to be able to bring together this celebration of music, arts, food, and culture to Pittsburgh. This is Pittsburgh’s first championship for Mayor Gainey, who took office earlier this year.

It has taken a lot of hard work and determination and the Yellow Jackets are enjoying all of the attention.

The team began in November, 2014 as an expansion squad in the modern-day American Basketball Association (ABA) and played all of its home games at the Allegheny Campus of the Community College of Allegheny County on the North Shore. When it debuted, the Yellow Jackets were owned by hip-hop artist Antjuan “Tjuan Benafactor” Washington and Averill “Ace” Pippens, a long-time Pittsburgh athlete, coach and businessman. A success from the outset, the club went 12-5 and won the Northeast Division title in that first season, but lost to the Philadelphia Spirit in the first round of playoffs.

The Yellow Jackets were moved to the Chesapeake Division and went 15-9 in its second season, but lost in the Division Quarterfinals to Chicago’s Windy City Groove.

Better things were coming for the club, as in the 2016-2017 season, the Yellow Jackets won 18 games, against only 5 defeats. And while the team won more games than ever before that year, the Yellow Jackets lost the Division Semifinal to West Michigan Lake Hawks.

Ace Pippens’ club improved to 19-4 in the 2017-2018 schedule, but their rivalry with the Jacksonville Giants began. The Yellow Jackets fell in the Division Quarterfinal to the Giants, a team that formed a dynasty over the past decade.

Also in 2017, the Yellow Jackets were awarded the ABA All-Star Game. 

Now in the Mid-Atlantic Division, the team registered a 16-2 regular season record.

The following year, the club was moved to the North-Central Division where they posted a 16-3 record and won the North Central Region Championship. The team had moved to its current home, A Giving Heart Community Center.

In the 2020-21 season, the Yellow Jackets Number 4 in the land with a 15-3 record. They lost in the semi-final playoff game. Each season, the team inched closer and closer to championship gold; however, whether it be bad luck, bad play, or in last year’s case, injuries, the Yellow Jackets came up short.

Emotions ran high for the Yellow Jackets this season as Pippens, as well as Co-Captains Antonio Reddic, Sr. and Gilmore Cummings all felt the importance of this campaign. The captains began to really think about their legacies in the ABA and Pippens felt he had built a team that could face off against the Giants that make up Jacksonville. 

For much of the season, the Yellow Jackets were undefeated and “Catching the Buzz” they encourage their fans to feel. Two late-season losses left the team 15-2 as the playoffs were coming into focus.

As the team prepared for its latest attempt for respect, the team got more serious. Pippens, acknowledged hospital stays and lingering health issues should have kept him from coaching some of the team’s games. But he soldiered on, as did Cummings, who went through hot and cold spells down the stretch from beyond the three-point line. And Reddic, forced into rough play under the hoop because of a vacancy at big-man, crashed to the hardwood on a regular basis. 

But the team played hard against Las Vegas, overcame its own obstacles by defeating Jacksonville and keeping Team Trouble away from the lead in one of the most intense finals in recent ABA history.

The Yellow Jackets now maintain a remarkable 129-33 overall record since 2014. Pittsburgh has “Caught the Buzz”. The Championship Parade begins in front of the Allegheny County Courthouse on Thursday, May 19 at 6:00 p.m.

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