Glorified Streetball
May 19, 2011 11:55 AM   Subscribe

From 1967 to 1976, the American Basketball Association delivered wild, raw, above-the-rim hoops that few ever saw (lacking TV broadcasts). They introduced the 3-point shot and slam-dunk contests (along with a red, white and blue ball, short shorts and big afros), brought pro ball to the American South, and launched the careers of Connie (the Hawk) Hawkins, Bob Costas, George Gervin, Fly Williams, David Thompson and a guy named Julius Erving. You know, Doctor J.

After the ABA and NBA merged in 1976, 10 of the 24 players in the next All-Star game were from the ABA.
HBO documentary "Long Shots:" 1 2 3 4 5 6
Not many game clips exist. Here are 3:
1976 ABA Finals game 6 Nuggets vs Nets
1975 ABA Finals game 5 Pacers vs Colonels
1972 NBA vs ABA All Stars game -- Chamberlain vs. Gilmore

For a ton of great, funny stories about the league, read Loose Balls by Terry Pluto, an oral history. Sports Illustrated put it at #13 best sports book ever, I'd say #1.
posted by msalt (16 comments total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Whenever I read about overviews of the ABA, it always surprises me that they merged when they did -- because for some reason, it still feels like it was a separate entity in my youth even though (I was born in '74 so do the math) it obviously wasn't. I think that goes to show just how (a) awesome the ABA was, (b) how big of a deal the merger was, and (c) how it was obviously the type of thing that a 4-8 year old was going to respond to.

Thanks for this post.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:08 PM on May 19, 2011

I think it's been mentioned here before, but the Spirit of St. Louis merger deal still amazes me.
posted by kmz at 12:12 PM on May 19, 2011

posted by kmz at 12:13 PM on May 19, 2011

Yet another reason why I love MetaFilter.
posted by Devils Rancher at 12:25 PM on May 19, 2011

Love this stuff-thanks.
posted by PHINC at 12:28 PM on May 19, 2011

I'm amazed at how skinny those guys are, compared to the players of today. Although maybe the tiny shorts and vertically striped pants (!!!) are kind of having an optical illusion effect.
posted by MadamM at 12:41 PM on May 19, 2011

I want an afro so bad right now.
posted by the painkiller at 12:46 PM on May 19, 2011

That was such a great time to live in Indianapolis. The Pacers rocked.
posted by Thorzdad at 1:10 PM on May 19, 2011

I want an afro so bad right now.
posted by the painkiller at 14:46 on May 19 [+] [!]

Then perhaps you should throw away your common sense and get one!
posted by a snickering nuthatch at 1:15 PM on May 19, 2011

I want an afro so bad right now.

Here you go.
posted by msalt at 1:40 PM on May 19, 2011

Does anyone else remember the (fake) commercial for Dr. J's Slam Dunkin' Donuts? They had three sizes of drinks: a smaller one, a medium one and Alajuwon. My Google-fu has failed me.
posted by tommasz at 2:20 PM on May 19, 2011

A story a lot of people have heard, or at least read in the Terry Pluto book:

I ain't gettin' in no time machine.

(few paragraphs down)
posted by gimonca at 2:26 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Oh this is some great reading. I absolutely love the history of sports promotion, especially the scrappy pluck you often find in minor and regional leagues. The ABA is just full of absolute gems such as The Floridians. In 1970 the team, which held such promotions as giving away pantyhose on Ladies' Night, traded away all their players after a disastrous season at the bottom of the league. The team owner at the time, Ned Doyle, was one of the founders of ad firm Doyle Dane Bernbach, whose other hits included LBJ's notorious Daisy campaign ad. The Floridians' 1970-71 season, with an entirely new roster, featured the brilliant slogan "We didn't fire the coach, we fired the team."

The team folded at the end of 1972.
posted by Spatch at 2:30 PM on May 19, 2011

Then there's enforcer John Brisker (pics), "the heavyweight champion of the ABA." The friend of Idi Amin who once knocked out a teammate's teeth during a scrimmage.

My favorite story in Loose Balls is about the hapless guy assigned by his coach to "take out" Brisker. His plan was brilliantly simple. The coach put him in at center for the opening tipoff, opposite Brisker. While everyone looked up at the ball as it rose, this guy just belted Brisker in the face as hard as he could and knocked him cold. The referees didn't even see it.
posted by msalt at 3:37 PM on May 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

Nthing Loose Balls, it is really a great book.
posted by Sphinx at 3:49 PM on May 19, 2011

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