The ABL got off the ground before the WNBA, and at least early on its quality of play was higher than the rival league. This was partly due to the league's signing of a majority of players from the 1996 USA women's national team. Although the WNBA was bankrolled by the NBA, the ABL offered higher salaries. The two leagues didn't compete directly; the ABL played during the winter while the WNBA played during the summer. Despite this, the ABL ultimately found the WNBA's stronger financial resources--augmented by the NBA's marketing muscle--to be too much to overcome.
Some of the ABL's problems were of its own making. The league operated as a single-entity structure, which was intended to control costs until it found its feet. However, it also meant that even the most basic decisions related to team operations had to go through the league office in Palo Alto, California. League officials were so fixated on national sponsorships that they hamstrung the teams' efforts to market themselves locally. The ABL was also underfinanced. According to Condors general manager Allison Hodges, she was on her way to a press conference announcing her team's name when the league office called to say the season was canceled. Minutes later, the office called back to say the season was on again. Hodges and the other general managers only found out about the league's shutdown when they were in the middle of their weekly conference call, though she suspected league officials had decided to pull up stakes long before then.
The 1998–99 ABL All-Star Game was scheduled to be played on January 24, 1999 in San Jose, California, but was canceled when the league ceased operations in December 1998. When the season was canceled, the Columbus Quest were declared champions by virtue of having the best record.