Tram 482's place in NBA history

18 June, 2012

SonicsAs Melbourne's heritage W Class fleet began to be replaced by newer vehicles in the mid 1970's, trams originally operated by the Melbourne and Metropolitan Tramways Board started to find their way to other parts of the world.

From Sydney to Perth, rural Australia, New Zealand and across the world many of the vehicles built at the still operational Preston Workshops found a second life once they were no longer required here.

US cities such as Dallas, Memphis and San Jose put our trams to work on their streetcar systems, while others were converted into cafes. Melbourne tram 520 even ended up at Elton John's country estate after the singer decided to celebrate the top ten success of his 1983 Too Low For Zero album by treating himself to a garden ornament which had travelled more than 2.5 million kilometres over 55 years before a well deserved retirement.

When Seattle, Washington launched the Waterfront Streetcar system in May 1982 three retired Melbourne trams - numbers 482, 512 and 518 - made up the entire fleet. To celebrate the launch of the streetcar, and of that year's NBA season, the Seattle Supersonics used tram 482 in their pre-season team photo.

This picture, currently being used by sports writer Bill Simmons as the display picure accompanying tweets to his 1.7 million Twitter followers, captures the moment tram 482 took its place in US sporting history.

Tram 482 first entered service on Saturday 28 January, 1928 and remained a part of Melbourne's network until September 1979 when it was retired and transported to America.

The introduction of a tram network must have been a good luck charm for the Supersonics as they qualified for the NBA playoffs that year.

Much like tram 482 Seattle's basketball team eventually ended up on the move, in their case to Oklahoma City where they are currently playing in the NBA Finals series under their new name.

Tram 482 was still in service when the Seattle streetcar system was suspended in 2005 and it is now stored in the city while the future of the network is debated.

For more about the story of Melbourne's trams visit our history section.

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