American Basketball Association
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|No. of teams||11|
|Country||United States of America|
|Continent||FIBA Americas (Americas)|
|New York Nets (2nd title)|
|Most titles||Indiana Pacers (3 titles)|
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The ABA was conceived at a time stretching from 1960 through the mid-1970s when numerous upstart leagues were challenging, with varying degrees of success, the established major professional sports leagues in the United States. Basketball was seen as particularly vulnerable to a challenge; its major league, the National Basketball Association, was the youngest of the Big Four major leagues, having only played 21 seasons to that point, and was still fending off contemporary challenging leagues (it had been less than five years since the American Basketball League (ABL) shut down). According to one of the owners of the Indiana Pacers, its goal was to force a merger with the more established league. Potential investors were told that they could get an ABA team for half of what it cost to get an NBA expansion team at the time. When the merger occurred, ABA officials said their investment would more than double.
The ABA distinguished itself from its older counterpart with a more wide-open, flashy style of offensive play, as well as differences in rules—a 30-second shot clock (as opposed to the NBA's 24-second clock, though the ABA did switch to the 24 second shot clock for the 1975–76 season) and use of a three-point field goal arc, pioneered in the earlier ABL. Also, the ABA used a colorful red, white and blue ball, instead of the NBA's traditional orange ball. The ABA also had several "regional" franchises, such as the Virginia Squires and Carolina Cougars, that played "home" games in several cities.
The ABA also went after four of the best referees in the NBA: Earl Strom, John Vanak, Norm Drucker and Joe Gushue, getting them to "jump" leagues by offering them far more in money and benefits. In Earl Strom's memoir Calling the Shots, Strom conveys both the heady sense of being courted by a rival league with money to burn—and also the depression that set in the next year when he began refereeing in the ABA, with less prominent players performing in inadequate arenas, in front of very small crowds. Nevertheless, the emergence of the ABA boosted the salaries of referees just as it did the salaries of players.
The freewheeling style of the ABA eventually caught on with fans, but the lack of a national television contract and protracted financial losses would spell doom for the ABA as an independent circuit. In 1976, its last year of existence, the ABA pioneered the now-popular slam dunk contest at its all-star game in Denver.
The league succeeded in forcing a merger with the NBA in the 1976 offseason. Four ABA teams were absorbed into the older league: the New York Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, and San Antonio Spurs. Two other clubs, the Kentucky Colonels, and the Spirits of St. Louis, were disbanded upon the merger, with each getting a buyout: the Colonels received a one-time buyout that owner John Y. Brown, Jr. used to purchase the NBA's Buffalo Braves, while the Spirits owners negotiated a cut of the other ABA teams' television revenues in perpetuity. This deal netted the ownership group of the Spirits over $300M through nearly four decades due to a large increase in television revenues. In 2014, the NBA reached an agreement with the Spirits ownership to forfeit future payments for a one-time payment of $500M, making the total value for the deal over $800M. The seventh remaining team, the Virginia Squires, received nothing, as they had ceased operations shortly before the merger.
One of the more significant long-term contributions of the ABA to professional basketball was to tap into markets in the southeast that had been collegiate basketball hotbeds (including North Carolina, Virginia, and Kentucky). The NBA was focused on the urban areas of the Northeast, Midwest and West Coast. At the time, it showed no interest in placing a team south of Washington, D.C.
- George Mikan 1967–1969
- James Carson Gardner 1969 (interim)
- Jack Dolph 1969–1972
- Bob Carlson 1972–1973
- Mike Storen 1973–74
- Tedd Munchak 1974–75
- Dave DeBusschere 1975–76
NBA great George Mikan was the first commissioner of the ABA, where he introduced both the 3-point line and the league's trademark red, white and blue basketball. Mikan resigned in 1969. Dave DeBusschere, one of the stars of the New York Knicks championship teams, moved from his job as Vice President and GM of the ABA's New York Nets in 1975 to become the last commissioner of the ABA and facilitate the ABA–NBA merger in 1976.
Of the original 11 teams, only the Kentucky Colonels and Indiana Pacers remained for all nine seasons without relocating, changing team names, or folding. However, the Denver Larks/Rockets/Nuggets, a team that had been assigned to Kansas City, Missouri, moved to Denver without playing a game in Kansas City due to the lack of a suitable arena. In addition to the four surviving ABA teams, eight current NBA markets have ABA heritage: Utah, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Minnesota, New Orleans, Memphis, and Charlotte all had an ABA team before the NBA arrived. The Louisville, Kentucky-Indiana market, former home of the ABA Kentucky Colonels, is considered a top contender for the next NBA expansion or relocation, and in fact the then Vancouver Grizzlies had Louisville as one of its four "finalists" for a new home before choosing Memphis in 2001. The Colonels led the ABA in attendance five of the ABA's nine seasons, with regular sellouts of 16,600+ fans at Louisville's Freedom Hall, since replaced by the 22,000-seat KFC Yum! Center.
Los Angeles Stars
|Anaheim Amigos||1967–1968||Folded, 1975
NBA entered Utah in 1979 (Jazz)
|Los Angeles Stars||1968–1970|
San Antonio Spurs
|Dallas Chaparrals||1967–1970||Joined NBA, 1976,
as San Antonio Spurs
NBA added franchise in Dallas (Mavericks) in 1980.
|San Antonio Spurs||1973–1976|
Spirits of St. Louis
|Houston Mavericks||1967–1969||Folded, 1976
NBA added franchise in Charlotte (1988–2002, moved to New Orleans) and added a replacement franchise in 2004.
|Spirits of St. Louis||1974–1976|
|Indiana Pacers||Indiana Pacers||1967–1976||Joined NBA, 1976,
as Indiana Pacers
|Kansas City (unnamed)||1967||Joined NBA, 1976,
as Denver Nuggets
|Kentucky Colonels||Kentucky Colonels||1967–1976||Folded, 1976|
|Minnesota Muskies||1967–1968||Folded, 1972
NBA added Miami market in 1988 with Heat, which wear Floridians jerseys in Hardwood Classics days.
NBA added Minnesota market in 1989 with Timberwolves, which wear Minnesota Muskies jerseys in Hardwood Classics games.
|New Orleans/Louisiana Buccaneers
|New Orleans Buccaneers||1967–1970||Folded, 1975
Both New Orleans (Pelicans) and Memphis (Grizzlies) have NBA teams.
|New York/New Jersey Americans
New York Nets
|New York Americans||1967||Joined NBA, 1976, with name changes to reflect move to New Jersey (1977) and currently Brooklyn Nets (2012).|
|New Jersey Americans||1967–1968|
|New York Nets||1968–1976|
|Oakland Americans||1967||Folded, 1976
NBA relocated San Francisco Warriors to Oakland (as the Golden State Warriors) in 1971 and the Baltimore Bullets to Washington (now the Washington Wizards) in 1973.
|Pittsburgh Pipers||1967–1968||Folded, 1972
NBA has been in Minneapolis–St. Paul since 1989 with the Timberwolves.
|San Diego Conquistadors/Sails||San Diego Conquistadors||1972–1975||Folded, 1975
NBA operated in San Diego from 1978 to 1984 with the San Diego Clippers
|San Diego Sails||1975|
List of ABA championships
|Year||Western Division champion||Games||Eastern Division champion||Playoffs MVP|
|1967–68||New Orleans Buccaneers||3–4||Pittsburgh Pipers||Connie Hawkins C, Pittsburgh|
|1968–69||Oakland Oaks||4–1||Indiana Pacers||Warren Jabali G, Oakland|
|1969–70||Los Angeles Stars||2–4||Indiana Pacers||Roger Brown F/G, Indiana|
|1970–71||Utah Stars||4–3||Kentucky Colonels||Zelmo Beaty C, Utah|
|1971–72||Indiana Pacers||4–2||New York Nets||Freddie Lewis G, Indiana|
|1972–73||Indiana Pacers||4–3||Kentucky Colonels||George McGinnis F/C, Indiana|
|1973–74||Utah Stars||1–4||New York Nets||Julius Erving F, New York|
|1974–75||Indiana Pacers||1–4||Kentucky Colonels||Artis Gilmore C, Kentucky|
With the ABA cut down to seven teams by the middle of its final season, the league abandoned divisional play.
|1975–76||New York Nets||4–2||Denver Nuggets||Julius Erving F, New York|
|*||Elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame|
||Hawkins, ConnieConnie Hawkins*||Pittsburgh Pipers||70||1875||26.8|
||Barry, RickRick Barry*||Oakland Oaks||35||1190||34.0|
||Haywood, SpencerSpencer Haywood*||Denver Rockets||84||2519||30.0|
||Issel, DanDan Issel*||Kentucky Colonels||83||2480||29.9|
||Scott, CharlieCharlie Scott||Virginia Squires||73||2524||34.6|
||Erving, JuliusJulius Erving*||Virginia Squires||71||2268||31.9|
||Julius Erving* (2)||New York Nets||84||2299||27.4|
||McGinnis, GeorgeGeorge McGinnis||Indiana Pacers||79||2353||29.8|
||Julius Erving* (3)||New York Nets||84||2462||29.3|
||Daniels, MelMel Daniels*||Minnesota Muskies||78||502||711||1213||15.6|
||Mel Daniels* (2)||Indiana Pacers||76||383||873||1256||16.5|
||Spencer Haywood*||Denver Rockets||84||533||1104||1637||19.5|
||Mel Daniels* (3)||Indiana Pacers||82||394||1081||1475||18.0|
||Gilmore, ArtisArtis Gilmore*||Kentucky Colonels||84||421||1070||1491||17.8|
||Artis Gilmore* (2)||Kentucky Colonels||84||449||1027||1476||17.6|
||Artis Gilmore* (3)||Kentucky Colonels||84||478||1060||1538||18.3|
||Nater, SwenSwen Nater||San Antonio Spurs||78||369||910||1279||16.4|
||Artis Gilmore* (4)||Kentucky Colonels||84||402||901||1303||15.5|
||Brown, LarryLarry Brown*||New Orleans Buccaneers||78||506||6.5|
||Larry Brown* (2)||Oakland Oaks||77||544||7.1|
||Larry Brown* (3)||Washington Caps||82||580||7.1|
||Melchionni, BillBill Melchionni||New York Nets||81||672||8.3|
||Bill Melchionni (2)||New York Nets||80||669||8.4|
||Bill Melchionni (3)||New York Nets||61||453||7.4|
||Smith, AlAl Smith||Denver Rockets||76||619||8.1|
||Calvin, MackMack Calvin||Denver Nuggets||74||570||7.7|
||Buse, DonDon Buse||Indiana Pacers||84||689||8.2|
||McClain, TedTed McClain||Denver Rockets||84||250||2.98|
||Taylor, BrianBrian Taylor||New York Nets||79||221||2.80|
||Don Buse||Indiana Pacers||84||346||4.12|
||Jones, CaldwellCaldwell Jones||San Diego Conquistadors||79||316||4.00|
||Caldwell Jones (2)||San Diego Conquistadors||76||246||3.24|
||Paultz, BillyBilly Paultz||San Antonio Spurs||83||253||3.05|
In 1999, a new league calling itself the ABA 2000 was established. The new league uses a similar red, white and blue basketball as the old ABA, but unlike the original ABA, it does not feature players of the same caliber as the NBA, nor does it play games in major arenas nor on television as the original ABA did.
- American Basketball Association (2000–present)
- List of defunct sports leagues
- Loose Balls, written by Terry Pluto
- Semi-Pro, a comedy about the ABA starring Will Ferrell, of the fictional Flint Tropics
- World Hockey Association, another league that intended to compete with its professional counterpart, the NHL
- The Official NBA Basketball Encyclopedia. Villard Books. 1994. p. 180. ISBN 0-679-43293-0.
- Burke, Monte. "The NBA Finally Puts An End To The Greatest Sports Deal Of All Time". Forbes. Retrieved 2016-12-11.
- Sports Encyclopedia
- "ESPN Classic: Mikan was first pro to dominate the post". Retrieved 2007-12-04.
- "Dave DeBusschere Bio". NBA.com. Archived from the original on 11 April 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-09.
- Official ABA Guides, 1967–1976.
- RememberTheABA.com ABA All-Time Team Page (as selected at 30 year ABA anniversary event)