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Deal of the Century.
April 1, 2010 2:41 PM   Subscribe

What might be the most profitable team in professional sports hasn't played a game since 1976. That summer, as the American Basketball Association was completing its merger with the NBA, only four of the six remaining teams were going to be able to join the league. It was the ABA's responsibility to figure out how to pay off the other 2 owners. One owner accepted $3 million, which he eventually used to buy the Boston Celtics. The other owners got a slightly better deal.
posted by empath (23 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
Nice 10% cut for the attorney. That guy knew how to negotiate a deal, apparently.
posted by craven_morhead at 2:51 PM on April 1, 2010


Nice post! As someone blind to the appeal of organized sport, I give a squat named diddley about who gets traded for whom, about who is retiring or coming out of retirement, and about what any given team's defense or starting lineup or chance for the playoffs look like, but this sort of thing interests me.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 2:54 PM on April 1, 2010


Wow. Fascinating story, thanks!
posted by graventy at 2:57 PM on April 1, 2010


Nice work if you can get it.
posted by GuyZero at 2:57 PM on April 1, 2010


This reminds me of the slow nickel story my grandmother used to tell me, but not enough that i actually remember the details of the story.

I can't believe the NBA actually agreed to this deal.
posted by djduckie at 3:01 PM on April 1, 2010


Technically, the NBA had nothing to do with the deal. All of the money is coming out of the pockets of the 4 ABA teams: The Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, New Jersey Nets and the San Antonio Spurs. They're each giving up a little bit more than 1/7th of their TV revenue every year.
posted by empath at 3:03 PM on April 1, 2010


Cool. I think I heard this story on the Useless Information Podcast.
posted by jabberjaw at 3:12 PM on April 1, 2010


I can't believe the NBA actually agreed to this deal.

It was only a couple hundred thousand a year at the time. Although that's probably more then what it sounds like given inflation.

--

Anyway it's very important we keep tax rates very low because the rich work so hard and our economy would just fall apart without them!
posted by delmoi at 3:29 PM on April 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


Too bad Jackie Moon didn't have a better lawyer when the Flint Michigan Tropics didn't make the cut.
posted by Barry B. Palindromer at 3:52 PM on April 1, 2010


Was this in Bill Simmons' Book of Basketball?
posted by smackfu at 4:12 PM on April 1, 2010


1. Purchase ABA team with intent to make profit when it merges into the NBA.
2. Watch as it doesn't get merged into the NBA.
3. PROFIT
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:42 PM on April 1, 2010


Was this in Bill Simmons' Book of Basketball?

Yes, that's where I first read about it, and I was just fucking floored. Clearly, no one in 1976 thought the NBA was going to explode on TV the way it did. Guess they thought they'd always be a fourth-tier sport struggling to gain fan traction. As the kids say these days ... d'oh!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:49 PM on April 1, 2010


Was this in Bill Simmons' Book of Basketball?
posted by smackfu at 4:12 PM on April 1


That's the book about random pop culture references, right?
posted by basicchannel at 5:20 PM on April 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I hope Schupak took his old Contracts professor out for a nice dinner.
posted by cribcage at 6:28 PM on April 1, 2010


That's the book about random pop culture references, right?

Close, it's the book that made me hate basketball. I think it was somewhere in the middle of the "list of 50 players you've never heard of and that aren't really that good".
posted by smackfu at 6:40 PM on April 1, 2010


Growing up in STL, I just remember that they would put free kid passes to games inside of Sugar Daddy candy. Obviously the weaker part of their business plan.
posted by cgk at 7:30 PM on April 1, 2010


I just want to know what kind of deal the owners of the Washington Generals have got going!
posted by Pollomacho at 7:53 PM on April 1, 2010


This is the sort of epic tale of astonishing, grandiose strangeness that is worthy of pro-sports canon.

Sports are weird and eerie... basketball especially channels something primal in the American psyche (and along the Ionian coast and Inner Mongolia, apparently). It appeals to the United States's culture of money-as-a-game, and also its culture of valuing people in dollars, yet it acts as a natural vent for city-state rivalries that in classical times would have resulted in endless warring (and apparently Boston would be in the bomber sights of everyone on a regular basis. Go Green!)

Sports as jocks getting all homoerotic with each other, or nerds beating each other about the pocket-protector with Applied Statistics 101, is boring. As a spiritual component of Human Civilization, and a conduit for all of its hopes and fears and domination/submission instincts, the small writ large, sports is endlessly entertaining.
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:43 PM on April 1, 2010


Wow! As someone who grew up in St. Louis with no home team to root for, I never really got into basketball, nor did I ever know the story behind why we had no team. It just always was, from my perspective. This is a pretty awesome bit of trivia, and I'm actually a little surprised that my dad (a loyal fan of local sports teams, even the Rams) never told me.
posted by mysterpigg at 9:06 PM on April 1, 2010


I hope everyone takes away from this the single most important point of the story:

Always get a percentage. Never take the lump-sum.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:23 AM on April 2, 2010


On the percentage issue, one of my drama instructors used to work a little bit with Uncle Rico, from Napoleon Dynamite. He was sort of an average working actor in LA, doing commercials, little parts here and there, etc. Then he signs up to do this weird independent film, throws a football, etc. They didn't have money to pay any of the lead actors, so everyone took a percentage of the gross. Turned out pretty well.

Same goes for Jennifer Gardner in Juno. They couldn't pay big-money up front, so she took a couple of points on the back end. Ended up being her biggest paycheck so far.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:45 AM on April 2, 2010


On the percentage issue, one of my drama instructors used to work a little bit with Uncle Rico, from Napoleon Dynamite. He was sort of an average working actor in LA, doing commercials, little parts here and there, etc.
posted by Pollomacho at 12:25 PM on April 2, 2010


Yeah, I can't really watch Napoleon Dynamite, because the whole time I just think, "That's Laslo Holyfeld!"
posted by Chrysostom at 2:40 PM on April 2, 2010


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