Utah Stars

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Utah Stars
Conference None
Division Western Division
Founded 1970
History Anaheim Amigos
1967-1968
Los Angeles Stars
1968-1970
Utah Stars
1970-1976
Arena The Salt Palace
City Salt Lake City, Utah
Team colors Red, White & Blue
              
Owner(s) Bill Daniels
1970-1974
James A. Collier
1974-1975
Snellen M. Johnson and Lyle E. Johnson
1975
General manager Vince Boryla
1970-1972)
Arnie Ferrin
(1972-1975)
Bill Orwig
(1975-1976)
Head coach Bill Sharman
1970-1971
LaDell Andersen
1971-1973
Joe Mullaney
1973-1974
Bucky Buckwalter & Tom Nissalke
1974-1975
Tom Nissalke
1975-1976
Championships 1 (1971)
Division titles 2 (1971,1974)
This article is about the American Basketball Association (ABA) team. For the WNBA team, see Utah Starzz.

The Utah Stars was an American Basketball Association (ABA) team based in Salt Lake City, Utah, USA.

Under head coach Bill Sharman the Stars were the first major professional basketball team to use a pre-game shootaround.[1]

History[edit]

The team was founded as the Anaheim Amigos, a charter member of the ABA based in Anaheim, California. They played at the Anaheim Convention Center. The team's colors were orange and black.

The Anaheim Amigos became the Los Angeles Stars in 1968 and played at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in Los Angeles, until 1970, at which point the team moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, to become the Utah Stars.

The Utah Stars played at the Salt Palace from 1970 to December 1975 when the team folded during the 1975-1976 ABA season. They won the ABA championship in the 1970-1971 season over the Kentucky Colonels 4 games to 3 and reached the championship again in the 1973-1974 season, losing to the New York Nets 4 games to 1.

The Stars are widely considered one of the most successful teams in ABA history. They were also known for having some of the best fan support in the ABA, even up until the team folded in 1975. From 1970-1975 the Stars went an impressive 265-171 (.608), which was the best winning percentage of any team that played more than 1 season in the league.

1967-1968 season[edit]

The Anaheim Amigos were founded by Art Kim, a Hawaii native who had long been active in basketball as a player, Amateur Athletic Union administrator and owner. The Amigos lost the very first ABA game to Oakland, 132-129. They finished their first season with 25 wins and 53 losses, good for fifth place in the Western Division but not good enough to make the playoffs.

1968-1969 season[edit]

The Amigos lost $500,000 in their first season, largely due to poor attendance; they only averaged 1,500 fans per game in a 7,500-seat arena. Kim realized he didn't have the resources to keep going and sold the team to construction company owner Jim Kirst, who moved the team to Los Angeles as the Stars. The franchise made an attempt to sign legendary center Wilt Chamberlain. Chamberlain did not sign with the Stars (though he did coach the ABA's San Diego Conquistadors). With 33 wins and 45 losses, the Stars improved from their first season but again finished fifth in the Western Division and did not make the playoffs.

1969-1970 season[edit]

In October 1969 the Stars signed Zelmo Beaty away from the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, but Beaty had to sit out the season due to a one year option held by the Hawks, which the Stars would not buy out for $75,000. First year players Mack Calvin and Willie Wise signed with the Stars. The Stars finished fourth in the Western Division with a record of 43-41, earning the first winning season in franchise history and a playoff berth. The Stars defeated the Dallas Chaparrals 4 games to 2 in the Western Division semifinals and bested the Denver Rockets 4 games to 1 in the semifinals before losing the ABA championship series 4 games to 2 to the Indiana Pacers. Kirst hadn't anticipated the fast turnaround, and didn't book the Sports Arena for several dates. They had to play several first and second round games in their old home in Anaheim, as well as at the Long Beach Sports Arena in Long Beach.

1970-1971 season[edit]

Despite a promising young roster, the Stars were more or less an afterthought in a market whose first choices were the Los Angeles Lakers and UCLA Bruins; they only averaged 2,500 fans per game. In June 1970, Kirst sold the team to Colorado cable TV pioneer Bill Daniels, who moved the team to Salt Lake City as the Utah Stars. Zelmo Beaty suited up for the team and the Stars finished second in the Western Division with their best record yet, 57 wins and 27 losses. The Stars defeated the Texas Chaparrals 4 games to none in the first round of the playoffs, beat the Indiana Pacers 4 games to 3 in a fiercely contested semifinal series, and edged out the Kentucky Colonels 4 games to 3 in another fiercely contested series, this time for the ABA championship.

1971-1972 season[edit]

The Stars won their first division championship, winning the Western Division with a record of 60 wins and 24 losses. The Stars defeated the Dallas Chaparrals 4 games to none in the Western Division semifinals before falling to the Indiana Pacers in the Western Division finals, 4 games to 3.

1972-1973 season[edit]

The Stars hosted the ABA All Star Game and again won the Western Division with a record of 55 wins and 29 losses. The Stars defeated the San Diego Conquistadors 4 games to none in the Western Division semifinals but lost in the Western Division finals 4 games to 2 to the Indiana Pacers.

1973-1974 season[edit]

In 1973-74 the Stars finished with a record of 51-33 and won first place in the ABA's Western Division under new coach Joe Mullaney. It was the Stars' third straight Western Division title. In the playoffs the Stars again defeated the San Diego Conquistadors in the Western Division semifinals, this time 4 games to 2, and went on to defeat the Indiana Pacers 4 games to 3 in the Western Division finals. The Stars then lost the championship to the New York Nets 4 games to 1.

1974-1975 season[edit]

The Stars' final full ABA season was 1974-75. Daniels was almost broke due to a series of failed business ventures and an unsuccessful run for governor of Colorado. One of the casualties of the team's financial woes was Mullaney, who resigned after being told the team couldn't afford to meet his contract. Daniels sold the team to Salt Lake City businessman James A. Collier in August 1974, but Collier was forced to relinquish the team to Daniels two weeks later after missing a payment. The Stars made a high-profile personnel move that season by signing high school player Moses Malone to play for them. The Stars finished the season in fourth place in the Western Division and lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Denver Nuggets, 4 games to 1.

1975-1976 season[edit]

Despite averaging over 8,500 fans per game that season, the Stars entered the following year on shaky financial footing. During the preseason, the Stars (and the Virginia Squires) failed to make payments required as a guarantee for hosting the NBA's Chicago Bulls in one of the common ABA vs. NBA preseason exhibition games. Daniels sold the team again to Snellen and Lyle Johnson in May, but ownership reverted to Daniels just before the season when the Johnsons missed several payments.

However, Daniels was almost completely broke by this time. As a result, on December 2, 1975, the league canceled the Stars franchise for missing payroll. Four of their players (including Moses Malone) were sold to the Spirits of St. Louis, with Daniels getting a 10 percent minority stake in the Spirits as well. A fifth player was sold to the Virginia Squires. Daniels ultimately paid back all of the season ticket holders at eight percent interest.

Aftermath[edit]

Despite the Stars' demise, Salt Lake City had proven it could support big-time professional basketball. With this in mind, in 1976 the owners of the Spirits of St. Louis announced that they were moving the team to Utah for the 1976-1977 ABA season, to play as the Utah Rockies. However, the ABA-NBA merger took place in June 1976 and the Spirits and the Kentucky Colonels were the only two teams left out of the merged league. (The Virginia Squires were folded shortly after the conclusion of regular season play due to their inability to make good on a required league assessment, though it is unlikely they would have been included in any merger deal in any event.)

Professional basketball finally returned to Salt Lake City when the NBA's New Orleans Jazz relocated there in 1979. The Jazz have played in Salt Lake City ever since. The only other three ABA teams to complete the 1975-76 ABA season yet not move on to the NBA were the Kentucky Colonels, Spirits of St. Louis and Virginia Squires, all of whom played in cities that, unlike Salt Lake City, never had an NBA franchise afterward.

ABA Championship[edit]

In their first season in Salt Lake City, the Stars dominated their way to a 57-27 record and a 2nd place finish in the Western Division standings, a game behind the Indiana Pacers. In the Western Division Semifinals, the Stars would go on to sweep the Texas Chaparrals and then stunned the Pacers in game 7 of the Western Division Finals, earning a spot in the ABA Championship.

The Stars would face the Kentucky Colonels in the ABA Championship. In game one a near-capacity crowd filed into the Salt Palace to watch the Stars defeat Kentucky 136-117. The Stars set an ABA Playoff record by scoring 50 points in the 2nd quarter. In game 2, the series continued its high scoring with the Stars beating Kentucky 138-125. The series shifted to Louisville and Kentucky took games 3 and 4, tying the series up at 2-2. The series then returned to Salt Lake City, where the Stars beat Kentucky 137-127, taking a 3-2 series lead. The Stars looked to wrap up the ABA Championship with a game 6 victory in Louisville. However Kentucky clawed their way to a 7th game, barely beating the Stars 105-102, sending the series to a decisive 7th game back in Salt Lake City.

With the ABA Championship on the line, an ABA record crowd of 13,260 packed into the Salt Palace[2] to watch game 7 of the 1971 ABA Championship. The game remained close throughout, however the Stars pulled away late, winning the 1971 ABA Championship 131-121. [3] As the game ended, hundreds of Stars fans rushed the court, lifting players onto their shoulders in a jubilant celebration. The actions were a total surprise to Stars officials, as they had not anticipated such a reaction from the fans.

Utah Stars vs. NBA teams[edit]

The ABA teams frequently played exhibition games in the preseason vs. NBA teams. While the ABA overall had a winning record vs. the NBA in head to head competition, the Stars had an overall record of 7 wins and 9 losses against NBA teams.

The Stars' first game against the NBA was a 96-89 loss at home to the New York Knicks on September 28, 1971. The Stars lost their first four games against NBA teams, earning their first win against that league with a win against the Seattle SuperSonics in Honolulu, Hawaii on September 24, 1972.

Other Stars wins against the NBA include defeating the Boston Celtics at home on October 4, 1973 (part of a double header in which 12,431 Utah fans also saw the ABA's Denver Rockets defeat the NBA's Phoenix Suns 113-111 prior to the Stars' win); a home win against the Kansas City-Omaha Kings on October 8, 1974; a home win against the SuperSonics on October 7, 1975; a win against the Kings on October 11, 1975 in Denver as part of a double header in which 17,018 fans saw the Denver Nuggets lose to the NBA's Golden State Warriors 115-100); and a 118-108 road win against the SuperSonics in Seattle on October 15, 1975.

In the very last game ever played between ABA and NBA teams, the Stars defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 106 to 101 in Salt Lake City on October 21, 1975. (In the penultimate ABA vs. NBA matchup, the ABA's Kentucky Colonels defeated the Washington Bullets 121-111 two nights prior.)

Notable players[edit]

Season-by-season[edit]

Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, % = Win–Loss %

Season W L  % Playoffs Results
Anaheim Amigos
1967-68 25 53 .321
Los Angeles Stars
1968-69 33 45 .423
1969-70 43 41 .512 Won Division Semifinals
Won Semifinals
Lost ABA Finals
Los Angeles 4, Dallas 2
Los Angeles 4, Denver 1
Indiana 4, Los Angeles 2
Utah Stars
1970-71 57 27 .679 Won First Round
Won Semifinals
Won ABA Finals
Utah 4, Texas 0
Utah 4, Indiana 3
Utah 4, Kentucky 3
1971-72 60 24 .714 Won Division Semifinals
Lost Division Semifinals
Utah 4, Dallas 0
Indiana 4, Utah 3
1972-73 55 29 .655 Won Division Semifinals
Lost Division Semifinals
Utah 4, San Diego 0
Indiana 4, Utah 2
1973-74 51 33 .607 Won Division Semifinals
Won Division Finals
Lost ABA Finals
Utah 4, San Diego 2
Utah 4, Indiana 3
New York 4, Utah 1
1974-75 38 46 .452 Lost Division Semifinals Denver 4, Utah 1
1975-76 4 12 .250

By the numbers[edit]

  • 1 ABA Western Division regular season runner up (1970–71)
  • 3 ABA Western Division regular season championships (1971–72, 1972–93, 1973–74)
  • 2 ABA Western Division playoff runners up (1971–72, 1972–73)
  • 3 ABA Western Division playoff championships (1969–1970, 1970–71, 1973–74)
  • 1 ABA Championship (1970–71)
  • .321 winning percentage in ABA regular season games as the Anaheim Amigos
  • .469 winning percentage in ABA regular season games as the Los Angeles Stars
  • .571 winning percentage in ABA playoffs as the Utah Stars
  • .588 winning percentage in ABA playoffs as the Los Angeles Stars (only the Pittsburgh Condors and Oakland Oaks did better)
  • .608 winning percentage in ABA regular season games as the Utah Stars
  • 3 number of cities the franchise called home (Anaheim, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City)
  • 7 number of playoff games lost as the Los Angeles Stars
  • 10 number of playoff games won as the Los Angeles Stars
  • 25 number of regular season games won as the Anaheim Amigos
  • 27 number of playoff games lost as the Utah Stars
  • 36 number of playoff games won as the Utah Stars
  • 53 number of regular season games lost as the Anaheim Amigos
  • 76 number of regular season games won as the Los Angeles Stars
  • 86 number of regular season games lost as the Los Angeles Stars
  • 171 number of regular season games lost as the Utah Stars
  • 265 number of regular season games won as the Utah Stars
  • 12,166 capacity at the Salt Palace
  • 13,260 crowd at the Salt Palace for Game 7 of the 1971 ABA championship series
  • 30,000 dollar cost to enter the Amigos as an original ABA franchise in 1967
  • 262,342 attendance during their first season in Salt Lake City
  • 450,000 sale price of the Amigos franchise in 1968
  • 500,000 dollars lost in the Amigos' first season in Anaheim
  • 850,000 sale price of the Stars franchise in 1970
  • As the Utah Stars, the team's regular season winning percentage was .608, second only to the Minnesota Muskies; however, if the franchise's Anaheim and Los Angeles games are included, the Kentucky Colonels have a higher winning percentage, at .602.

References[edit]

  1. ^ ESPN.com - Page2 - NBA backstage
  2. ^ Utah Stars reflect on 1971 Finals win
  3. ^ "Deseret News article on the 1971 Championship Game". Deseret News. May 19, 1971. 

External links[edit]