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InsideHoops NBA [Home] Feb. 12, 2004

ABA History - The Original American Basketball Association




This is about the original American Basketball Association (ABA).

Related: Info on the new, current ABA league.

Related: Year-by-year original ABA champions and award-winners.

The ABA, a former professional basketball league, lived for nine seasons (1967-1976). At the time of its inception, the NBA only had 10 teams. NBA expansion was needed but, due to enormous financial demands, wasn't happening. So, the ABA was formed.

The ABA had major style. The basketball was wild, with patriotic red white and blue colors, as thought of by George Mikan, the first ABA commissioner. The players were wild as well, showcasing cool moves, fashionable (often ridiculously so) clothes and a bad attitude (in a good way). Many NBA stars first played in the ABA - Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Connie Hawkins, Artis Gilmore, George Gervin and Dan Issel, to name an impressive handful.

Other ABA stars were: Rick Barry, Spencer Haywood, Bobby Jones, Maurice Lucas, Billy Cunningham and Steve Jones. The ABA coaches list includes such stars as Larry Brown, Hubie Brown, K.C. Jones, Lou Carnesecca, Al Bianchi and Doug Moe.

The ABA brought cool nicknames: Bad News. Slick. Dr. J. The Iceman. Fatty.

The American Basketball Association had all the flair everyone wanted the NBA to have. ABA games were more wild. Lots of running. Fast breaks everywhere. The ABA had runners and gunners - guys would fly up and down the court, attacking the basket one minute and firing 3-pointers the next (yes, the ABA had the 3-point basket while the NBA did not). The 3-point line tended to force defenders to step out and guard respectable outside shooters, opening up the lane for drives. The NBA only had the two-point shot, so defenses tended to huddle closer to the basket, encouraging outside shots and not allowing as much to develop close to the basket. Also, there was no fouling out in the ABA. So, while NBA stars would sometimes be forced to sit down due to foul trouble, ABA stars were on the court as much as their bodies and coaches would allow.

ABA basketball was fun basketball.

The NBA, however, had all the money. And therefore, it could advertise, bringing fans and media coverage. The ABA lacked funds, and therefore lacked the means to draw fans and receive the attention it deserved.

The ABA was definitely not as good as the NBA when it was first created. Occasional ABA vs. NBA games were played, and NBA teams dominated. Over time, the quality of the ABA talent pool increased dramatically. While it's no longer a big deal for current NBA teams to draft high school players, NBA teams never did that years ago. ABA teams did, and therefore got the jump on a lot of talent that would have gone to the NBA if given the choice. In the later years of the ABA, ABA teams usually beat NBA teams in inter-league competition.

Despite the rise in quality of the American Basketball Association teams as time went on, the NBA still had all the fame and fortune. The ABA was struggling. The league managed to prove itself in many ways - competitive, exciting games, and top notch basketball stars, but it was unable to prove itself as a business. The logical solution - merge with the NBA.

The ABA - NBA merger took place in 1976, with four successful ABA teams - the San Antonio Spurs, New York Nets, Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers - joining the NBA. The rest of the ABA shut down for good.

Almost half of the players in the first NBA All-Star game after the merger were former ABA players.

Now see the players and championship teams.
Right here:Year-by-year original ABA champions and award-winners.

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