Remembering the ABA: 5 Things That Would Never Happen in the NBA

Categories: Sports

Remember? Of course you don't.
Thirty-six years ago this week, avant-garde basketball went away when the American Basketball Association merged with the National Basketball Association.

The old ABA (1967-1976) helped revolutionize the game through the invention of the three-point shot and the drafting of underclassmen. At one time, the "red, white and blue league" was actually fielding better and more exciting teams than those competing in the big-brother version.

But the ABA -- which gave birth to the Spurs, Nuggets, Pacers and Nets -- got in its own way too much and eventually joined forces with the NBA, which has become cookie-cutter compared to a league that featured five things that would never ever happen in today's NBA.

(Thanks to the Remember the ABA website, which has compiled a lot of neat factoids, photographs and play-by-play sound bites from old radio broadcasts.)

5. Really Dumb Team Names
The Orlando Magic and Utah (by way of New Orleans) Jazz are pretty lame names, but the Baltimore Claws, Anaheim Amigos, The Floridians and the Spirits of St. Louis? More often than not, the logo designs for these teams were just as bizarre as the names.

4. Less Than 100 Spectators at a Game
The league's lack of business sense was appalling most of the time, down to the cities in which they decided to establish franchises. In places like Anaheim and Houston, nobody cared: For instance, during the Houston Mavericks' final game in franchise history, 89 folks/8,836 empty Sam Houston Coliseum seats sent the Mavs into infamy.

ABA beefcake Wendell Ladner.
3. Super Weird Promotions
From Victor the Wrestling Bear to the promo poster for the Kentucky Colonels' porn star-looking forward Wendell Ladner, the ABA sports-marketing folks made Bill Veeck look like a poser.

2. Owners More Eccentric Than Mark Cuban
The original owners of the Kentucky Colonels, Joe and Mamie Gregory, would bring their prize-winning dog Ziggy to owners' meetings and to a special front-row seat at home and road games. Apparently, some jackholes thought that Ziggy was the real owner of the team.

1. Oy, the Fashion
The Memphis Tams' players and coaches once took the court wearing Oakland A's-colored Tam o' Shanter caps. The Denver Rockets changed their color scheme to a lavender upchuck. What hipsters would do to land their grubby paws on this merch.

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I miss the eccentric players of the ABA.


Marvin Barnes played for the Spirits of St. Louis in the old ABA. Barnes was supposed to catch a flight that departed at 8:00 p.m. from St. Louis, and arrived at 7:59 p.m. in Kansas City, due to the change from Eastern to Central time.  Barnes missed his flight.  When his coach asked him why he wasn't at the game, Barnes said he wasn’t “getting on no damn time machine.”

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