• Pittsburgh Pipers

    The Pipers were one of the ABA's inaugural franchises in 1967. The team had great success on the court, posting the league's best record during the regular season (54-24, .692) and winning the league's first ABA Championship.
  • Kentucky Colonels

    The Louisville based Colonels started their time in the ABA as a colorful franchise, and not just because of their bright chartreuse green uniforms.
  • Oakland Oaks

    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.
  • New York Nets

    The 1973–74 season saw the Nets finally put all the pieces together. The key event of the season though would come in the 1973 offseason, as the Nets acquired Julius Erving from the Virginia Squires.
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American Basketball Association

American Basketball AssociationThe ABA existed from 1967 to 1976, for nine full seasons. During that time, the ABA fought a bitter war with the established National Basketball Association the NBA for players, fans, and media attention. In June 1976, the two rival pro leagues finally made peace. Four of the strongest ABA teams, the New York Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, and San Antonio Spurs joined the NBA and survived. The other remaining ABA teams the Kentucky Colonels, the Spirits of St. Louis, and the Virginia Squires vanished, along with the ABA itself.

On October 13, 1967, the Anaheim Amigos lose to the Oakland Oaks, 134-129, in the inaugural game of the American Basketball Association. In its first season, the ABA included 11 teams: the Pittsburgh Pipers, Minnesota Muskies, Indiana PacersKentucky Colonels and New Jersey Americans played in the Eastern Division, and the New Orleans Buccaneers, Dallas Chaparrals, Denver Rockets, Houston MavericksAnaheim Amigos and Oakland Oaks played in the Western. Until it folded in 1976, the league offered players and fans a freewheeling alternative to the stodgy NBA. "It was a looser atmosphere," one fan remembered. "We could do a lot of things the NBA won’t let us do"; these days, basketball games are "supposed to be family entertainment."

See how each American Basketball Association team came to be in their city, their nickname and their facility.


ABA Founded

The original ABA was founded in 1967, competing with the well-established National Basketball Association, until the ABA-NBA merger in 1976. According to one of the owners of the Indiana Pacers, its goal was to force a merger with the more established league. Potential investors were told that they could get an ABA team for half of what it cost to get an NBA expansion team at the time. When the merger occurred, ABA officials said their investment would more than double.

ABA-NBA Merger Committee

In June 1970, only three years after the ABA began play, the NBA owners voted 13-4 to work toward a merger with the ABA. Seattle SuperSonics owner Sam Schulman, a member of the ABA-NBA merger committee in 1970, was so ardently eager to merge the leagues that he publicly announced that if the NBA did not accept the merger agreement worked out with the ABA, he would move the SuperSonics from the NBA to the ABA. Schulman also threatened to move his soon to be ABA team to Los Angeles to compete directly with the Lakers. The owners of the Dallas Chaparrals, now the NBA's San Antonio Spurs were so confident of the impending merger that they suggested that the ABA hold off on scheduling and playing a regular season schedule for the 1971 - 1972 season. After the 1970 - 1971 season Basketball Weekly wrote "The American basketball public is clamoring for a merger. So are the NBA and ABA owners, the two commissioners, and every college coach. The war is over. The Armistice will be signed soon." The two leagues continued merger discussions and plans through the early and mid-1970s.

Oscar Robertson lawsuit

The early attempts at merging the ABA and NBA were delayed for years by litigation known as the Oscar Robertson suit, styled Robertson v. National Basketball Association, 556 F.2d 682 (2d Cir. 1977). After the NBA owners voted in 1970 to merge with the ABA, the NBA Players Association filed a lawsuit in April 1970 to prevent the merger on antitrust grounds. The existence of the ABA resulted in increased salaries for players in both leagues as the ABA and NBA competed with each other to sign players. The Robertson suit was finally settled on February 3, 1976, but for the entirety of its tendency it presented an insurmountable obstacle to the desired merger of the two leagues.

Interleague Competition

In the summer before the 1971 - 1972 season the ABA and NBA met in an interleague All Star Game. The NBA won a close game, 125-120. In that same preseason, ABA and NBA teams began playing exhibition games against each other. The first such exhibition was played on September 21, 1971 with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Milwaukee Bucks barely defeating the Dallas Chaparrals, 106-103. Gradually, the ABA began to prove itself superior, going 15-10 against the NBA in 1973, 16-7 in 1974, and 31-17 in 1975. Overall, the ABA won more of these interleague games than the NBA did, and in every matchup of reigning champions from the two leagues, the ABA champion won, including in the final pre-merger season when the Kentucky Colonels defeated the Golden State Warriors. Boston Globe sportswriter Bob Ryan said of the ABA-NBA exhibition games: "When those exhibition games began, the view in the NBA was, 'Now we'll show those guys.' But then you know what happened the ABA teams won nearly as often as the NBA did. Those NBA-ABA games were intense." Longtime NBA coach Larry Brown said of the ABA vs. NBA games, "When some exhibition games were arranged in the 1970s to make some money and we (the ABA) beat them, the NBA said they weren't up for the games. Come on. When I coached Carolina, we played the Knicks after they won a championship. I looked at their guys shooting around and I looked at my guys and I didn't want my players to take off their warm-ups because they looked so scrawny next to the Knicks and we went out and beat New York. We also played the Celtics a couple of times and beat them. Celtics coach Tommy Heinsohn would say that we were playing to win and they weren't, but I'd check the box score and see that Tommy played his regulars 35 to 40 minutes, so what does that tell you?" .
Interest in ABA vs. NBA play extended beyond the two leagues' management. In 1976, CBS sought to establish a postseason playoff between the ABA and NBA, and to win the rights to broadcast those games.

Merger Terms

The NBA imposed the following terms on the four ABA refugees:.
The new teams' arrival was treated as an expansion, not a merger. The four remaining ABA teams had to pay a $3.2 million expansion fee to the NBA by September 15, 1976..
The New York Nets were to pay an additional $4.8 million directly to their in-town rival, the New York Knicks, as compensation for "invading" the New York area..
The four ABA teams would receive no television money at all during their first three seasons in the NBA 1976 - 1979, and were to pay one seventh of their annual television revenues after that to the owners of the defunct Spirits of St. Louis in perpetuity..
The four ABA teams would receive no votes related to the distribution of gate receipts or the alignment of NBA divisions for two years..
The remaining players from the Kentucky Colonels and the Spirits of St. Louis would be made available to NBA teams through a dispersal draft, with superstars such as Artis Gilmore and Moses Malone going to teams other than the four ABA teams..
In addition, the NBA would not recognize ABA records..
The Nets offered their superstar forward Julius Erving to the Knicks in return for waiving the $4.8 million territorial penalty fee, but the Knicks declined the offer. Instead, Erving was sold to the Philadelphia 76ers for $3 million. In effect, the Nets traded their franchise player for a berth in the NBA.

Immediate Results

In the first NBA All Star Game after the merger, 10 of the 24 NBA All Stars were former ABA players.
In the first post-merger season's NBA Finals between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Philadelphia 76ers, five of the ten starting players were former ABA players. Those five starters from the ABA were Julius Erving, Caldwell Jones, George McGinnis, Dave Twardzik and Maurice Lucas..
Of the 84 players in the ABA at the time of the merger, 63 played in the NBA during the 1976–77 season. In that first post-merger season, four of the NBA's top ten scorers had come over from the ABA, Billy Knight, David Thompson, Dan Issel and George Gervin..
Don Buse, who joined the NBA with the Pacers, led the NBA in both steals and assists during that first post-merger season. The Spirits of St. Louis' Moses Malone finished third in rebounding; the Kentucky Colonels' Artis Gilmore was fourth. Gilmore and his former Colonels teammate Caldwell Jones were both among the top five in the NBA in blocked shots..
Tom Nissalke left the ABA to coach the NBA's Houston Rockets in the first post-merger season and won the Midwest Division; Nissalke was named NBA Coach of the Year. Former Kentucky Colonels coach Hubie Brown took over the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, and the four former ABA teams kept their coaches as they entered the NBA.