The NBA Finals begin Thursday night in Oakland, Calif. and will feature incredible athletic feats and a barrage of three-point shots. The introduction of both in the modern game can be traced back to something the average NBA fan never even considers today: the American Basketball Association. Formed in 1967 and lasting until 1976, the ABA played a flashy, distinct brand of basketball, one far different from the traditional product the NBA was playing at the same time. It had a multi-colored ball, three-point shots and featured high-flying stars such as Julius Erving and George Gervin. It also featured the first slam dunk contest, won by Erving in 1976. The league only lasted a few seasons, but its impact on the game continues to this day. Four ABA franchises that merged into the NBA -- the Brooklyn Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs -- remain today. And its innovations, such as the three-point shot, have continued to help the NBA evolve over time. So here is a trip down memory lane, a deep dive into everything that made the ABA such a wild and wonderful league -- not to mention one that’s had an incredible impact on the sport.

Some of the ABA’s marquee players:

Artis Gilmore

1971-76

One-time MVP

9,362

 

7,169

REBOUNDS

POINTS

Spencer Haywood

1969-70

2,519

1,637

REBOUNDS

POINTS

Julius Erving

1971-76

Three-time MVP

11,662

 

4,924

REBOUNDS

POINTS

Dan Issel

1970-76

12,823

 

5,426

REBOUNDS

POINTS

Ron Boone

1968-76

3,302

12,153

POINTS

REBOUNDS

Freddie Lewis

1967-76

11,660

2,883

POINTS

ASSISTS

Mel Daniels

1967-76

Two-time MVP

11,739

9,494

REBOUNDS

POINTS

Rick Barry

1968-72

6,884

1,695

REBOUNDS

POINTS

George Gervin

1972-76

5,887

1,995

REBOUNDS

POINTS

Louie Dampier

1967-76

13,726

4,044

ASSISTS

POINTS

Career statistical leaders

Points

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

 

Louie Dampier

Dan Issel

Ron Boone

Mel Daniels

Julius Erving

Freddie Lewis

Don Freeman

Mack Calvin

Stew Johnson

Roger Brown

 

13,726

12,823

12,153

11,739

11,662

11,660

11,544

10,620

10,538

10,498

 

Rebounds

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

9,494

7,169

7,119

6,155

5,518

5,426

5,406

5,165

5,142

4,995

Mel Daniels

Artis Gilmore

Gerald Govan

Red Robbins

Bob Netolicky

Dan Issel

Billy Paultz

Byron Beck

Jim Eakins

Ira Harge

 

Assists

4,044

3,067

3,044

2,883

2,786

2,569

2,509

2,420

2,389

2,315

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

 

Louie Dampier

Mack Calvin

Bill Melchionni

Freddie Lewis

Jimmy Jones

Ron Boone

Larry Brown

Chuck Williams

Warren Jabali

Roger Brown

 

“[The ball] was something you could see from the balcony, you could see it on television. When you shot it, it left a red, white and blue streak − like a rainbow.”

 

George Mikan, the first commissioner of the ABA

With the exception of two teams — the Pacers and Colonels — every ABA franchise moved or changed names. How each franchise evolved:

Anaheim Amigos, 1967-68

Los Angeles Stars, 1968-70

Utah Stars, 1970-75

Indiana Pacers, 1967-76

 

Minnesota Muskies, 1967-68

Miami Floridians, 1968-70

Floridians, 1970-72

Oakland Americans, 1967

Oakland Oaks, 1967-69

Washington Caps, 1969-70

Virginia Squires, 1970-76

Dallas Chaparrals, 1967-70

Texas Chaparrals, 1970-71

Dallas Chaparrals, 1971-73

San Antonio Spurs, 1973-76

 

Denver Larks, 1967

Denver Rockets, 1967-74

Denver Nuggets, 1974-76

New Orleans

Buccaneers, 1967-70

Louisiana Buccaneers, 1970

Memphis Pros, 1970-72

Memphis Tams, 1972-74

Memphis Sounds, 1974-75

Baltimore Hustlers, 1975

Baltimore Claws, 1975

Pittsburgh Pipers, 1967-68

Minnesota Pipers, 1968-69

Pittsburgh Pipers, 1969-70

Pittsburgh Pioneers, 1970

Pittsburgh Condors, 1970-72

Houston Mavericks, 1967-69

Carolina Cougars, 1969-1974

Spirits of St. Louis, 1974-76

 

 

Kentucky Colonels, 1967-76

New York Americans, 1967

New Jersey Americans, 1967-68

New York Nets, 1968-76

 

San Diego Conquistadors, 1972-75

San Diego Sails, 1975

In 1976, four ABA teams — the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, New York Nets and San Antonio Spurs — merged with the NBA. The terms of the merger required each team to pay the NBA $3.2 million and ABA teams would receive no money from national television contracts for the first three seasons. The four ABA teams also could not participate in the 1976 draft.

“While some people thought the ABA was fleeced by the merger,

it turned out to be one

of the great business

bargains of all time.”

 

Mike Goldberg, former ABA

legal counsel

The dispersal draft

In 1976 the NBA hosted a draft to select players from the Kentucky Colonels and the Spirits of St. Louis, the two ABA franchises that were not included in the merger.

Bulls

Trail Blazers

Kings

Pistons

Trail Blazers

Knicks

Braves

Pacers

Rockets

Spurs

Nets

Kings

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

Artis Gilmore

Maurice Lucas

Ron Boone

Marvin Barnes

Moses Malone

Randy Denton

William Averitt

Wil Jones

Ron Thomas

Louie Dampier

Jan van Breda Kolff

Mike Barr

10

In the first NBA All-Star Game after the merger, 10 of the 24 players

were former ABA players.

63

Of the 84 players in the ABA at the time of the merger, 63 played in the NBA during the 1976-77 season.

3

Three of the players who were part of the dispersal draft became Hall of Famers C Artis Gilmore, Moses Malone and Louie Dampier.

The ABA had a few indelible impacts on NBA play. Some of the lasting effects:

“In my mind, the NBA has just become a bigger version of the ABA. They play the style of game that we did. They sell their stars like we did.”

 

Julius Erving

The three-point shot

George Mikan, the first commissioner of the ABA, introduced the three-point shot, and adopted the rule and distances of the defunct American Basketball League.

“We called it the home run, because the three-pointer was exactly that. It brought fans out of their seats.”

 

George Mikan

1,223

Total three-point field goals made in 1967-68, the inaugural season of the ABA. The Denver Rockets made the fewest — only 25 in the 78-game season.

794

Three-pointers made by Louie Dampier, the ABA’s all-time leader in that category as well as the league’s all-time points leader.

The dunk contest

The first slam dunk contest took place during halftime of the 1976 ABA All-Star Game. Julius Erving emerged victorious, defeating Artis Gilmore, Larry Kenon, George Gervin and David Thompson.

“The Slam Dunk

Contest went right to the heart of the ABA.

The dunk was a bigger play in the ABA than it is today’s NBA; it was a statement of your manhood and your talent.”

 

Dan Issel

SOURCES: Basketball-reference.com,

remembertheaba.com, “Loose Balls”

by Terry Pluto

Some of the ABA’s marquee players:

Spencer Haywood

1969-70

Julius Erving

1971-76

Artis Gilmore

1971-76

Dan Issel

1970-76

Three-time MVP

One-time MVP

11,662

 

9,362

 

12,823

 

2,519

POINTS

POINTS

POINTS

POINTS

4,924

7,169

5,426

1,637

REBOUNDS

REBOUNDS

REBOUNDS

REBOUNDS

Mel Daniels

1967-76

Ron Boone

1968-76

Freddie Lewis

1967-76

Rick Barry

1968-72

Two-time MVP

6,884

12,153

11,660

11,739

POINTS

POINTS

POINTS

POINTS

1,695

3,302

2,883

9,494

REBOUNDS

REBOUNDS

ASSISTS

REBOUNDS

ABA career

1972-74: Virginia Squires

1974-76: San Antonio Spurs

Scoring by season

14.1

1972-73

23.4

1973-74

23.4

1974-75

1975-76

21.8

1,995

5,887

584

REBOUNDS

POINTS

ASSISTS

ABA career

1967-76: Kentucky Colonels

Scoring by season

1967-68

20.7

24.8

1968-69

26.0

1969-70

18.5

1970-71

15.9

1971-72

16.8

1972-73

17.8

1973-74

16.8

1974-75

13.0

1975-76

2,282

13,726

4,044

REBOUNDS

POINTS

ASSISTS

Career statistical leaders (Players in red are members of the Hall of Fame):

Points

Rebounds

Assists

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

13,726

12,823

12,153

11,739

11,662

11,660

11,544

10,620

10,538

10,498

 

9,494

7,169

7,119

6,155

5,518

5,426

5,406

5,165

5,142

4,995

4,044

3,067

3,044

2,883

2,786

2,569

2,509

2,420

2,389

2,315

Louie Dampier

Dan Issel

Ron Boone

Mel Daniels

Julius Erving

Freddie Lewis

Don Freeman

Mack Calvin

Stew Johnson

Roger Brown

 

Mel Daniels

Artis Gilmore

Gerald Govan

Red Robbins

Bob Netolicky

Dan Issel

Billy Paultz

Byron Beck

Jim Eakins

Ira Harge

 

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

 

Louie Dampier

Mack Calvin

Bill Melchionni

Freddie Lewis

Jimmy Jones

Ron Boone

Larry Brown

Chuck Williams

Warren Jabali

Roger Brown

 

“[The ball] was something you could see from the balcony, you could see it on television. When you shot it, it left a red, white and blue streak − like a rainbow.”

George Mikan, the first commissioner of the ABA

With the exception of two teams — the Pacers and Colonels — every ABA

franchise moved or changed names. How each franchise evolved:

Anaheim Amigos, 1967-68

Los Angeles Stars, 1968-70

Utah Stars, 1970-75

Dallas Chaparrals, 1967-70

Texas Chaparrals, 1970-71

Dallas Chaparrals, 1971-73

San Antonio Spurs, 1973-76

 

Houston Mavericks, 1967-69

Carolina Cougars, 1969-1974

Spirits of St. Louis, 1974-76

 

 

Indiana Pacers, 1967-76

 

Kentucky Colonels, 1967-76

Denver Larks, 1967

Denver Rockets, 1967-74

Denver Nuggets, 1974-76

Minnesota Muskies, 1967-68

Miami Floridians, 1968-70

Floridians, 1970-72

New Orleans Buccaneers, 1967-70

Louisiana Buccaneers, 1970

Memphis Pros, 1970-72

Memphis Tams, 1972-74

Memphis Sounds, 1974-75

Baltimore Hustlers, 1975

Baltimore Claws, 1975

New York Americans, 1967

New Jersey Americans, 1967-68

New York Nets, 1968-76

 

Oakland Americans, 1967

Oakland Oaks, 1967-69

Washington Caps, 1969-70

Virginia Squires, 1970-76

Pittsburgh Pipers, 1967-68

Minnesota Pipers, 1968-69

Pittsburgh Pipers, 1969-70

Pittsburgh Pioneers, 1970

Pittsburgh Condors, 1970-72

San Diego Conquistadors, 1972-75

San Diego Sails, 1975

In 1976, four ABA teams — the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, New York Nets and San Antonio Spurs — merged with the NBA. The terms of the merger required each team to pay the NBA $3.2 million and ABA teams would receive no money from national television contracts for the first three seasons. The four ABA teams also could not participate in the 1976 draft.

“While some people thought the ABA was fleeced by the merger, it turned out to be one of the great business bargains of all time.”

Mike Goldberg, former ABA legal counsel

The dispersal draft

In 1976 the NBA hosted a draft to select players from the Kentucky Colonels

and the Spirits of St. Louis, the two ABA franchises that were not included in the merger.

Chicago Bulls

Portland Trail Blazers

Kansas City Kings

Detroit Pistons

Portland Trail Blazers

New York Knicks

Buffalo Braves

Indiana Pacers

Houston Rockets

San Antonio Spurs

New York Nets

Kansas City Kings

1

2

3

4

5

6

7

8

9

10

11

12

Artis Gilmore

Maurice Lucas

Ron Boone

Marvin Barnes

Moses Malone

Randy Denton

William Averitt

Wil Jones

Ron Thomas

Louie Dampier

Jan van Breda Kolff

Mike Barr

Kentucky Colonels

Spirits of St. Louis

Spirits of St. Louis

Spirits of St. Louis

Spirits of St. Louis

Spirits of St. Louis

Kentucky Colonels

Kentucky Colonels

Kentucky Colonels

Kentucky Colonels

Kentucky Colonels

Spirits of St. Louis

 

63

3

10

In the first NBA All-Star

Game after the merger,

10 of the 24 players

were former ABA players.

Of the 84 players in the ABA at the time of the merger, 63 played in the NBA during the 1976-77 season.

Three of the players who were part of the dispersal draft became Hall of Famers —

Artis Gilmore, Moses Malone and Louie Dampier.

The ABA had a few indelible impacts on NBA play. Some of the lasting effects:

“In my mind, the NBA has just become a bigger version of the ABA. They play the style of game that we did. They sell their stars like we did.”

Julius Erving

The three-point shot

George Mikan, the first commissioner of the ABA, introduced the three-point shot

and adopted the rule and distances of the defunct American Basketball League.

“We called it the home run, because the three-pointer was exactly that. It brought fans out of their seats.”

George Mikan

794

1,223

Total three-point field goals made in 1967-68, the inaugural season of the ABA. The Denver Rockets made the fewest — only 25 in the 78-game season.

Three-pointers made by Louie Dampier, the ABA’s all-time leader in that category as well as the league’s all-time points leader.

The slam dunk contest

The first slam dunk contest took place during halftime of the 1976 ABA All-Star Game.

Julius Erving emerged victorious, defeating Artis Gilmore, Larry Kenon,

George Gervin and David Thompson.

“The slam dunk contest went right to the heart of the ABA. The dunk was a bigger play in the ABA than it is today’s NBA. It was a statement of your manhood and your talent.”

Dan Issel

SOURCES: Basketball-reference.com, remembertheaba.com, “Loose Balls” by Terry Pluto

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