The Sports Lounge presents… Lost Leagues: The ABA
The American Basketball Association, or ABA, was an upstart basketball league that began in 1967 to compete with NBA. It has been reported that the league was created in hopes of merging with the NBA. Prospective owners could buy a franchise for cheaper than an NBA franchise and, if they would merge, could make more money off of their investment.
Eventually the ABA did merge with the NBA in 1976 effectively ending the existence of the alternative basketball league. The New York Nets, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs, and Indiana Pacers were absorbed into the NBA. The rest of the teams were disbanded or folded, making the ABA history.
But before the ABA merged, the league experienced some success with basketball fans with its flashy offensive play, three-point shots, and red, white, and blue ball. The league lasted for nine seasons and brought basketball all across the United States. Indiana, Denver, Utah, Dallas, San Antonio, Houston, Kentucky, Miami, Minnesota, Pittsburgh, Oakland, San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, New Orleans, Baltimore, Washington, Memphis, St. Louis, Virginia and Charlotte all had franchises at one point. Indiana and Kentucky were the only teams to be in the league for all nine seasons.
The ABA was also successful with finding talent on the court. Many of the most well-known basketball players played in the ABA including Rick Barry, George “Ice Man” Gervin, Artis Gilmore, Moses Malone, and, of course, Julius “Dr. J” Erving. Even two future legendary head coaches made their marks in the ABA. Larry Brown made his professional playing debut for the New Orleans Buccaneers, while Hubie Brown led the Kentucky Colonels to the 1975 ABA Championship.
In 2000, a semi-professional league also named the ABA began but it is not related in any way to the original. There is no comparison either as the talent is no as good and the league is still on a very small scale. Just like with the NFL, the NBA will never likely be challenged by another North American basketball league. The NBA’s worldwide presence and popularity has all but assured it will be the lone league for the best basketball players in the world. But for nine seasons, fans had the chance to experience basketball a different way and it is something we will almost surely never see again.
Daryl Karpinski Jr.