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Friday, May 6, 2016

Red, white and blue memories of the ABA

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Growing up as a child I will always remember a new pro-sports league that came along in the late 60s. It was a league called the American Basketball Association, commonly known as the ABA.

It was formed in 1967 and adopted a red, white and blue ball and also was the first league to use the 3-point shot.

When it first began it was an 11-team league with the following teams making up the Eastern Division: The Pittsburgh Condors, Minnesota Huskies, Indiana Pacers, Kentucky Colonels and the New Jersey Americans.

The Western Division consisted of six teams; New Orleans Buccaneers, Dallas Chapparals, Denver Nuggets, Houston Mavericks, Anaheim Amigos and the Oakland Oaks.

That first season saw the Pittsburgh Condors with Connie Hawkins, who would play in the NBA later in his career, edging out the New Orleans Buccaneers four games to three to win the first American Basketball Association championship.

Some of the players who came through this league were stars that would later have an impact on the NBA; Julius (Dr. J) Irving, George (Iceman) Gervin, Dan Issel, Roger Brown, Moses Malone, Artis Gilmore, David Thompson, and the aforementioned Hawkins.

The ABA never played any regular season games against the NBA, but they did play exhibition games from 1971 to 1975.

The first exhibition game was between the Milwaukee Bucks and Dallas Chapparals Sept. 21, 1971, with Milwaukee winning 106-103.

The ABA got off to a rough start at first in the exhibition games, but by the time the league ended in 1975, the ABA prevailed in games overall by a count of 79-76.

Some of the games were so intense between the two leagues that fights would break out. In fact players like Rick Barry, Charlie Scott and Dave Cowens were thrown out of preseason contests. According to rules, in the preseason games each league would play with its own basketball for a half, and in some contests they would use the ABA no-foul-out rule and also would use the ABA 30-second clock and 3-point shot for a half as well.

The league that would host the game would provide the referees. The two leagues also played two all-star games with the first one being held at the Astrodome in 1971. The NBA won that game 125-120 and they also won in 1972 by a score of 106-104.

In 1976 the ABA finally folded as it had only seven teams left. They were the Virginia Squires, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, New Jersey Nets, Spirits of St. Louis, Kentucky Colonels and Denver Nuggets.

Among this group of teams only the Pacers, Nuggets, Spurs and Nets survived and joined the NBA. This past season the Spurs and Nets squared off for the NBA championship with San Antonio winning.

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