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What is the American Basketball Association?

The American Basketball Association held the first slam dunk contest at its all-star game in 1976.
The American Basketball Association merged with the National Basketball Association in 1976.
St. Louis had one of the 12 franchises in the ABA.
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  • Written By: Leo J
  • Edited By: Niki Foster
  • Last Modified Date: 25 June 2014
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The American Basketball Association (ABA) was a basketball league that formed in 1967 and eventually became successful enough that it merged with the National Basketball Association (NBA) in 1976. The ABA - also the name of a basketball league that started in 2000 - has been credited with a number of advances that have made their way into the NBA.

The American Basketball Association comprised 12 franchises: Anaheim Amigos/Los Angeles Stars/Utah Stars; Houston Mavericks/Carolina Cougars/Spirits of St. Louis; Dallas Chaparrals/Texas Chaparrals/San Antonio Spurs; Denver Rockets/Denver Nuggets/Indiana Pacers; Kentucky Colonels/New Orleans Buccaneers/Memphis Pros/Tams/Sounds; Minnesota Muskies/Miami Floridians/The Floridians; New Jersey Americans/New York Nets; Oakland Oaks/Washington Capitals/Virginia Squires; Pittsburgh Pipers/Minnesota Pipers/Pittsburgh Condors; San Diego Conquistadors/Sails. Of those 12, four financially successful teams were absorbed by the NBA: New York Nets (later New Jersey), Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs.

The American Basketball Association found success - despite the lack of national TV coverage - largely thanks to its wide-open style of play. Players who signed with ABA teams were often the athletic, high-flying player who fit more in the ABA style than in the NBA. Some of the biggest stars of the association - many of whom went on to stardom in the NBA after the merger - were Julius Erving, Billy Cunningham, Rick Barry, Connie Hawkins, David Thompson, George Gervin, George McGinnis, Spencer Haywood, Artis Gilmore, Dan Issel and Moses Malone.

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The American Basketball Association is also credited for creating the 3-point line, which later became a staple of all levels of basketball and which helped open up the game and make it more entertaining. In its final season of 1976, the American Basketball Association introduced the slam dunk competition at its All-Star Game. The NBA didn't begin its own slam dunk competition until 1984, but it has become one of the league's most popular events. The ABA also used a red, white and blue basketball, but that failed to catch on anywhere else.

While financial woes ultimately doomed the American Basketball Association, its level of play helped force the merger with the NBA. In the later years of the league, the ABA began winning the ABA vs. NBA games that the old league once dominated. In the first year after the merger, nearly half of the NBA's All-Stars were former ABA players.

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Discuss this Article

cardsfan27
Post 4

@titans62 - I fully understand you and I feel that is one reason why people that lived in the era feel nostalgic about the ABA.

I cannot believe how often I walk around and see retro style ABA clothing and jerseys from kids that were not even close to being born in that era.

There is quite an interest in the ABA, simply because of how different it was and how much it appealed to the public, despite the fact that one may have not even seen a game or been alive during the period it was around.

I really feel like this in itself establishes the legacy of the ABA as having a short life but having an incredible impact on the game.

titans62
Post 3

@JimmyT - I would say I agree with everything you say except the part about it being the most successful start up league.

The American Football League, which consolidated with the National Football League, was similar to the ABA as they played a more entertaining game and was so popular that the establishment was forced to bring them into the league and accept their style of play, because that is what the people wanted.

These two start up leagues revolutionized the game and to be honest they brought a new change of pace that most people crave when they are bored with the games they usually watch.

I really wish a something like this had happened in another game like baseball or hockey so it can maybe influence the style of play that would be more entertaining and could bring more fan interest back into the game.

JimmyT
Post 2

@Izzy78 - I absolutely agree. I feel like the ABA was the only instance in which the competing start up type of league really threatened the establishment to the point that it had to accommodate them simply because they knew that basketball had to change and that this brand was the way to go.

In a way I think the NBA lucked out because of their television contracts simply because lack of funds is what doomed the ABA as opposed to the success that it maintained.

Also, I feel like a lot of the revolutionary ideas that were occurring in the ABA for more entertainment purposes, like the 3 point line and All Star Game, was seen by the NBA as a way to connect fans more with the game, which the ABA was really good with.

The 1980's saw a brand of basketball, with a lot of former ABA players, that had never been seen before and I feel like the NBA just saw that the ABA had lost the battle, but fought valiantly and was a worthy foe to the point they had to accommodate them.

Izzy78
Post 1

I really feel like despite it folding the American Basketball Association was a wildly successful organization that may have been much better than the supreme league, but lack of money simply doomed it.

The ABA had far better players overall than the NBA and the games were much more exciting than the contests in the NBA, as there was far more athletic plays going on as well as higher scoring as opposed to the traditional type of game that was occurring in the NBA.

The greatest influence that the ABA had was how it revolutionized the game and modernized it to focus more on athleticism than technique. This has what made the game of basketball the way it is today and the NBA was forced to change its brand of basketball in order to compete with the far more entertaining ABA.

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