Read as part of CBR15Bingo: North America. The story of the American Basketball Association takes place exclusively in the United States and the organization has the word “American” in it.
The other day, I was at a basketball team store when I saw a New York Nets hat for sale. I’ve tried really hard not to purchase clothes and hats these days but I just couldn’t help myself. It was beautiful, with the old school Nets logo. It represented everything good about the old American Basketball Association.
The AFL came along just as football was getting a toehold in the market after the 1958 NFL Championship Game. None of the rogue baseball leagues survived long but the failed Continental one gave the league much needed expansion.
The ABA came along when pro basketball was a virtual non-entity. Yeah the NBA had history before but no one, not even folks in Boston, cared about the Celtics winning 10 titles in 12 years. It was a blah league that needed to be pulled into a new era. And the ABA dragged it kicking and screaming. Three point line. Slam Dunk Contest. Spacing for guard-play instead of just dumping it off to the biggest guy down low. The league had it all.
Terry Pluto does a great job letting the story tell itself through oral history. It’s somewhat organized from year-to-year but also goes off on tangents, with the major teams getting a large chapter and the wild Spirits of St. Louis, who only existed for two seasons, getting twice as long as established teams like Indiana, Denver, and Kentucky. But that’s the ABA for you. Print the legend because the facts are close enough. Excellent book. I devoured it in two days because I just couldn’t get enough.