Oakland Oaks (ABA)
|Arena||Oakland–Alameda County Coliseum Arena|
|Team colors||Green and Yellow
|Head coach||Bruce Hale (1967–1968)
Alex Hannum (1968–1969)
S. Kenneth Davidson
Dennis A. Murphy
The Oakland Oaks were a charter member of the original American Basketball Association. Formed in February 1967 as the Oakland Americans, the team changed its name to the Oaks prior to play that fall. Playing in the ABA during the 1967–68 and 1968–69 seasons at the Oracle Arena, the team colors were green and gold.
On February 2, 1967, pop singer Pat Boone, S. Kenneth Davidson and Dennis A. Murphy (who would later co-found the World Hockey Association) were awarded a team in exchange for $30,000. An earlier Oakland Oaks basketball team played in the American Basketball League in 1962, along with a baseball team that had played for nearly a half century in Oakland, with the latter and the ABA Oaks both using the oak tree and the acorn as its symbols.
The team had widely varying performances in its two years of existence. In their first season, the Oaks finished 22–56 and had the second-worst performance of any professional basketball team ever in a major league, of 1485 such team-seasons (through 2015, according to the Elo rating system); only the 1946–1947 Pittsburgh Ironmen had a worse year.
They were probably noted more for a major contract dispute with the cross-bay San Francisco Warriors of the established National Basketball Association over the rights to star player Rick Barry than for any on-court accomplishments. Barry, a former NBA Rookie of the Year who led the Warriors to the NBA finals in 1966–67, was so angered by management's failure to pay him certain incentive awards he felt he was due that he sat out the 1967–68 season. He joined the Oaks in the following year, leading the franchise to the ABA championship in 1968–69.
The first and last great year
The road to the championship was led by pioneering owner, S. Kenneth Davidson, who aggressively pursued top NBA talent Rick Barry and head coach Alex Hannum, signing them for an unprecedented $85,000 per year. His efforts drove a historic turnaround, from last place to first in one year. Unfortunately for Barry, he tore ligaments in his knee after colliding with Kenny Wilburn late in a game versus the New York Nets on December 27, 1968. He tried to return in January, but he only aggravated the injury and he subsequently sat out the rest of the season, only appearing in 35 games as a result. Regardless, the Oaks won 60 games on the season. In the playoffs, they narrowly escaped the Denver Rockets in the Semifinals, but swept the New Orleans Buccaneers in the Division Finals to advance to the ABA Finals versus the Indiana Pacers. After splitting the first two games, the Oaks won an overtime thriller 134–126 to take a 2–1 lead in the series. They then won the fourth game to set up a clinching opportunity in Oakland. In Game 5, the Oaks won 135–131 in overtime to clinch the series and win the ABA title Warren Jabali was named Playoffs MVP, scoring 21.5 points per game with 9.7 rebounds per game during the playoffs. In the nine playoff games in Oakland, the Oaks averaged just 3,401 attendance a game, with 30,615 total attendance, with the highest being Game 5 of the Finals that had 6,340 attending.
With or without Barry, the team proved to be a poor investment for Boone and his co-owners. Despite winning the ABA championship, the Oaks were a failure at the box office, due in large part to the proximity of the NBA Warriors. The team was sold and moved to Washington, D.C. for the 1969–70 season, where it was renamed the Washington Caps. After one season in the nation's capital, the team moved to Norfolk, Virginia for the 1970–71 season and became the Virginia Squires. The team disbanded after the 1975–76 season, keeping it out of the ABA–NBA merger which occurred just weeks later.
Note: W = Wins, L = Losses, % = Win–Loss %
|Oakland Oaks (ABA)|
|1967–68||22||56||.282||Did not qualify|
|1968–69||60||18||.769||Won Western Division Semifinals
Won Western Division Finals
Won ABA Finals
|Oakland Oaks 4, Denver Rockets 3
Oakland Oaks 4, New Orleans Bucs 0
Oakland Oaks 4, Indiana Pacers 1
- Nate Silver; Reuben Fischer-Baum (May 22, 2015). "The Best NBA Teams Of All-Time, According To Elo". Five Thirty Eight. Retrieved May 24, 2015.