The history of the American Basketball Association is almost as colorful as the iconic red, white and blue ball which represents it.
The original ABA was formed in 1967 and lasted 10 seasons prior to merging four of its teams into the NBA. They were the Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets, New Jersey Nets and San Antonio Spurs. The lead attorney for the ABA during the merger was one of the Indiana Pacers co-founders and Commissioner of the ABA, Dick Tinkham, an Indianapolis attorney. Opposing counsel was David Stern, who was later to become the NBA Commissioner.
The original ABA did not have national television, national radio and today’s digital media. What it did have was the mystique of the ABA- featuring it’s red, white and blue ball, 3 point shots, wide open style of play including slam dunks (and the introduction of the first Slam Dunk Competition), and a remarkable group of players. The ABA produced some of the greatest players of the 20th century- Dr J, George Gervin, Spencer Haywood, Connie Hawkins, Dan Issel, Roger Brown, David Thompson, Mel Daniels, Moses Malone, Marvin Barnes and many others. In fact, 50% of the NBA All Star team in the first year of the merger were ABA players.
Dick Tinkham and Joe Newman decided to bring back the ABA in 1999, after the original ABA had been dormant for nearly 30 years. This time, to avoid the lack of profitability of the ABA in the past, they decided to improve the business model by making it more affordable to own a team by reducing the operating costs, cost of travel and venues, as well as forming strong bonds with communities and encouraging family friendly entertainment. They kept the exciting rules and style of play, and the result is that the ABA is now one of the largest professional sports leagues in the US, with over 70 teams competing for the Championship this season, across 10 divisions. Their community work with Fast Break for Reading, Bullies are Cowards, Proud to Serve America and the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and have made major impacts in cities throughout the US.
Today, the ABA has nearly 1000 players competing at the professional level, over 200 coaches and over 200 officials. It is made up of former NBA players, NCAA Div 1 and 2 players, McDonalds All Americans, international players, and is the platform for sending off many players to international teams.
The ABA will continue to grow as it continues to form valuable ties with basketball governing bodies, and grows its number of teams. Network coverage is set to broaden, as is the fan base and merchandising. Big things are in store for the ABA, and the red, white and blue ball is set to be around for a long time to come.