1967–68 ABA season
The 1967–68 ABA season was the first season for the American Basketball Association. The ABA was challenging the National Basketball Association. The ABA introduced a red, white and blue basketball. They also used a 30 second shot clock as opposed to the NBA's 24 second shot clock. The ABA also used the three-point shot. There were 11 teams playing in the first season of the league, with each team playing a 78-game schedule.
The American Basketball Association (ABA) was founded in 1967 by Dennis Murphy, former mayor of Buena Park, Calif. and Gary Davidson, an Orange County, Calif. attorney.George Mikan, a former National Basketball Association star best known for his career with the Minneapolis Lakers, was named as the league's first commissioner, saying that the ABA would avoid raiding the players from the NBA as the upstart league as it wanted to avoid legal issues relating to the reserve clause and hoped to avoid creating a bidding war for talent that would make player salaries unaffordable. Despite that, The New York Times reported that tentative offers had been made to Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain, who was offered a contract that would pay him $50,000 (half of what he was making with the Philadelphia 76ers) along with a 20% share of the team that started play as the New Jersey Americans.
By April 1967, the league announced that they would begin play for the 1967–68 season with 11 teams in two divisions. The Eastern Division would include teams representing Indianapolis, Indiana, Louisville, Kentucky, New York City, Minneapolis and Pittsburgh, while the Western division would be made up of Anaheim, California, Dallas, Denver, Houston, New Orleans and Oakland. Each team owner made a commitment that they would have the resources to run for at least three years on annual budgets of $500,000 and would be able to absorb any financial losses during that period.
With the first pick in the league's inaugural draft in April 1967, Indianapolis chose Jimmy Walker, who had been a collegiate All-American at Providence College, where his 30.4 points per game led all major college players. Walker was also the first pick in the 1967 NBA Draft by the Detroit Pistons and ended up playing his entire career in the NBA. Among its picks, New Orleans selected pole vaulter Bob Seagren "because he is a great athlete and we think he can play pro basketball", despite the fact that he had never played basketball at the college level. The 11 teams selected a total of 130 players.
In June 1967, Rick Barry left the San Francisco Warriors where he had been the league's leading scorer to sign with Oakland, making him the seventh player and the first superstar to defect from the NBA to the upstart league. The three-year contract offer from Pat Boone, the singer and team owner, was estimated to be worth $500,000, with Barry saying "the offer Oakland made me was one I simply couldn't turn down" and that it would make him one of basketball's highest-paid players. However, in August a superior court judge upheld the reserve clause in Barry's contract and ruled that Barry was obligated to play for the Warriors or else he would have to sit out for the entire season. Barry ultimately chose to sit out for the year, rather than play for San Francisco.
Mikan unveiled the league's distinctive red, white and blue official ball in August, calling it "a patriotic ball" and saying that it would be more appealing visually on television.
The Oakland Oaks defeated the Anaheim Amigos by a score of 134–129 in the league's inaugural game in front of 4,828 fans at the Oakland Arena on October 13, 1967. Oakland's Andy Anderson was high scorer with 33 points and Les Selvage hit four three-point field goals.
The league's first all-star game was played in Indianapolis on January 9, 1968 at Hinkle Fieldhouse. Coach Jim Pollard of the Minnesota Muskies led the East to a 126–120 win over the West team coached by Babe McCarthy of the New Orleans Buccaneers. Larry Brown of the Buccaneers was chosen as the game's Most Valuable Player. The nationally televised game was played in front of 10,872 fans, the largest attendance for any ABA game in Indianapolis as of that date.
At the end of the regular season, the New Jersey Americans and the Kentucky Colonels finished the season tied for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Division, with identical 36–42 records. The teams were supposed to play a one-game playoff to determine who would advance to the postseason, which was supposed to be played at the Teaneck Armory in Teaneck, New Jersey, home court of the Americans, but could not be played there as the circus was in town and had the space booked. The team tried to relocate the game to the Long Island Arena in Commack, New York, but when the teams arrived, the playing surface was in such poor condition that the Colonels refused to play. Mikan ruled that the Americans had failed to provide acceptable playing facilities and forfeited the game to the Colonels, with Kentucky advancing to the divisional semifinals.
The top seeds in each division during the regular season were the Eastern Division Pittsburgh Pipers and the New Orleans Buccaneers of the Western Division, and each won their respective division titles and won both divisional playoff rounds to advance to the league championship. In the seventh and deciding game, the Pipers defeated the Buccaneers by a score of 122–113 to take the first league championship, with Charlie Williams scoring a gime high 35 points to lead the hometown Pipers in front of 11,475 fans.
C – ABA Champions
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- Staff. "PIPERS VANQUISH BUCS, WIN TITLE; Fight Off Rally in 122–113 A.B.A. Playoff Victory", The New York Times, May 5, 1968. Accessed September 1, 2010.