display | more...

The American Basketball Association was an upstart professional basketball league that lasted for 9 seasons from 1967 to 1976.

During the mid-1960s, the National Basketball Association was still a very small league that was just trying to keep its head above water. As a result of this, the league was slow to expand and the price for an expansion team was very high. Many cities around the country were large enough to support a professional basketball team but couldn’t convince the NBA to come out to them. So groups of businessmen in these cities decided to form their own league – the ABA.

The ABA began play in 1967 with 11 teams, each playing a 72 game season. The first ABA Commissioner--former NBA great George Mikan--came up with the idea of using a red, white and blue ball. The purpose of the ball was to give the league a patriotic and unique trademark that would, coincidentally, show up well on television. The league also set itself apart by adopting the three-point shot before the NBA did and having a 30 second shot clock instead of the NBA’s 24-second clock. In the ABA's last season the league also had a no foul out rule. When a player committed his sixth personal foul, he could stay in the game. However, subsequent fouls by that particular player resulted in two free throws plus possession of the ball for the opposing team.

The league quickly became known for playing a more "unscripted" style of basketball. The ABA displayed more running, wide-open offenses with less physical defenses. In comparison, the NBA used the more traditional pick and roll, cut and screen, grab and hold style of play. The lanes in the ABA tended to be less clogged because defenses had to respect the threat of the 3-point basket. Shorter guards flourished in the ABA's wide-open game, while bigger players like Julius “Dr. J” Erving and George “The Iceman” Gervin dazzled the crowds with high-flying dunks. An ABA basketball game was almost a real-life version of “NBA Jam”, fast paced with short guys bombing 3’s and big guys with huge afros throwing down dunks.

The ABA was considered an illegitimate league, and many “purists” claimed that they were “ruining” the game of basketball. There was always an intense rivalry between the NBA and the ABA, and Boston Celtics coach Red Auerbach never passed up a chance to slam the new guys.

From 1971 to 1975 the two leagues played a series of interleague games. They both compromised on the rules, an orange NBA ball for one half and the multicolored ABA ball for another half. A 24 second shot clock for one half and a 30 second clock for another half. Although many critics claimed that ABA players were less skilled than their NBA counterparts, the ABA won the rivalry by winning the interleague series 79 games to 76. After the 1974-75 regular season, the ABA Champion Kentucky Colonels formally challenged the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors to a "World Series of Basketball," with the winner to take a $1 Million purse. The NBA and the Warriors refused the challenge. Again, after the 1975-76 season, the ABA Champion New York Nets offered to play the NBA Champion Boston Celtics in a winner-take-all game, with the proceeds going to benefit the 1976 United States Olympic team. Predictably, the Celtics declined to participate.

Although the league always had 11 or 12 teams, many of the franchises moved around a lot due to the fact that the teams just couldn’t seem to draw a crowd in certain markets. A list of ABA franchises and their movements:

Anaheim Amigos (1967-68)
Los Angeles Stars (1968-70)
Utah Stars (1970-76)

Denver Rockets (1967-74)
Denver Nuggets (1974-76)

Dallas Chaparrals (1967-73)
San Antonio Spurs (1973-76)

San Diego Conquistadors (1972-75)
San Diego Sails (1975) (the team folded in the middle of the season)

Kentucky Colonels (1967-76)

Indiana Pacers (1967-76)

Minnesota Muskies (1967-68)
Miami Floridians (1968-72)

Pittsburgh Pipers (1967-68)
Minnesota Pipers (1968-69)
Pittsburgh Pipers (1969-70)
Pittsburgh Condors (1970-72)

Houston Mavericks (1967-69)
Carolina Cougars (1969-74)
Spirits of St. Louis (1974-76)

New Jersey Americans (1967-68)
New Jersey Nets (1968-76)

New Orleans Buccaneers (1967-70)
Memphis Pros (1970-72)
Memphis Tams (1972-74)
Memphis Sounds (1974-75)
Baltimore Hustlers (1975)
Baltimore Claws (1975) (the league forced the Hustlers to change their name before the season even started, then the team folded during the preseason)

Oakland Oaks (1967-69)
Washington Caps (1969-70)
Virginia Squires (1970-76)

Contrary to those awesome Nike ads, the Roswell Rayguns were not a real ABA team :-p

Although some of the ABA teams managed to draw big crowds, most of them were barely able to stay afloat. During the early years, the Houston Mavericks averaged about 200 fans a game. Finally, the league as a whole went out of business after the 1976 season. The most popular ABA teams, the Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers and New Jersey Nets, were allowed to join the NBA, where they still play today. Many of the other places, such as Miami, Dallas, and Utah, had their appetites whetted for pro basketball, and the NBA ended up moving into those areas over the next several years.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.