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American Basketball League (1996–1998)

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American Basketball League (ABL)
First season1996–97
Owner(s)Steve Hams, Anne Cribbs and Gary Cavalli
CEOGary Cavalli
COOSteve Hams (1996-97)
Jim Weyermann (1998)
DirectorTracey Williams
Motto"Real Basketball"
No. of teams9
CountryUnited States
Most titles2 (Columbus Quest)
TV partner(s)SportsChannel, BET, Fox Sports Net

The American Basketball League, often abbreviated to the ABL of 1996 was a professional women's basketball league in the United States. At the same time the ABL was being formed, the National Basketball Association (NBA) was creating the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). The ABL began league competition in the Fall of 1996, while the WNBA launched its first game in June 1997. Both organizations came into existence during a surge in popularity for women's basketball in the United States that followed the perfect 35–0 national championship season for the Connecticut Huskies in 1995[3] and the undefeated, gold medal-winning performance of the United States Women's basketball team at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

The ABL lasted two full seasons: 1996–97 and 1997–98. The Atlanta Glory and Long Beach Stingrays folded prior to the start of the 1998–99 season, and were replaced by two expansion teams, the Chicago Condors and Nashville Noise. On December 22, 1998, with almost no warning, the ABL declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy and suspended operations. Each team had played between 12 and 15 games of the 1998–99 season.

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 did not compete directly; the ABL played during the winter while the WNBA played during the summer. However, this arrangement put the ABL in competition with the established men's NBA for an audience. Ultimately, the ABL found the WNBA's stronger financial resources—augmented by the NBA's marketing machine—to be too much to overcome.

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. The ABL was also under-financed.[4]

Of all the ABL cities, Chicago, Seattle, and Atlanta now have WNBA teams.

1996–98 clubs[edit]

Long Beach StingraysSeattle Reign (basketball)San Jose LasersPortland Power (basketball)Colorado XplosionNashville NoiseChicago CondorsPhiladelphia RageNew England BlizzardColumbus QuestAtlanta Glory



The 1996–97 ABL All-Star Game was played on December 15, 1996, at the Hartford Civic Center. The Western Conference defeated the Eastern Conference, 81–65, and the game's MVP was Tari Phillips.[5]

Semifinals Finals
E1 Columbus 2
W2 San Jose 0
E1 Columbus 3
E2 Richmond 2
E2 Richmond 2
W1 Colorado 0


The 1997–98 ABL All-Star Game was played on January 18, 1998, at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The Eastern Conference defeated the Western Conference, 102–73.

First Round Semifinals Finals
E1 Columbus 2
E2 New England 0 W4 San Jose 0
W4 San Jose 2 E1 Columbus 3
W2 Long Beach 2
W1 Portland 0
W2 Long Beach 2 W2 Long Beach 2
W3 Colorado 1


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.[6]

Notable players[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "History of the American Basketball League". apbr.org. Association for Professional Basketball Research. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
  2. ^ "American Basketball League Human Resources Manual". funwhileitlasted.com. American Basketball League. 1997. Retrieved April 6, 2018.
  3. ^ "The 1995 Connecticut Huskies: The Team That Made Women's Basketball". The Big Lead. Retrieved 2016-04-17.
  4. ^ Former Team Official Recounts the A.B.L.'s Dizzying Descent
  5. ^ West beat East, according to Spokesman
  6. ^ "SHOCK: EnShocklopedia – A". Women's National Basketball Association.

External links[edit]