June 3, 1997
The American Basketball Association, a maverick enterprise symbolized by
the red-white-and-blue basketball and the 3-point shot, provided
exciting, fast-paced entertainment from its inception in 1967 until it
was absorbed by the NBA in 1976.
Office will take a look back at the league with "Long Shots: The Life
and Times of the American Basketball Association" Monday at 10 p.m.
ABA began with 11 teams playing mostly in small arenas. Four teams -
Denver, Indianapolis, the New York Nets, and San Antonio - paid $ 3.2
million to join the NBA in 1976. That so-called merger marked the demise
of the ABA.
In the HBO program, Celtics
vice chairman of the board/legend Red Auerbach said, "We didn't pay much
attention to the ABA. We thought it was a bunch of guys trying to
become pests. They weren't playing in big cities. They didn't have
enough credible ballplayers. It was sort of minor league with a couple
of players, and so it was a question of how long they would continue to
lose money before they folded the tent."
Julius Erving, who left the University of Massachusetts after his
junior season to join the ABA's Virginia Squires, "Once I got to
Virginia, it was almost like having the chains taken off. No zones. You
could dunk the ball. I was a young free spirit during that time, so I
figured I could run all day. Jump with the best of 'em. And I literally
said, 'The chains have been taken off. Now let me see if I can handle
Steve Jones, a former ABA star and
current NBC analyst, could tell that Erving was destined for stardom.
"He was just inventing stuff on the way to the basket," Jones said. "I
don't think he knew. We didn't know. I know his teammates didn't know.
All the Virginia Squires knew was that this guy's a whole lot better
than whoever was at the University of Massachusetts."
added, "If they didn't have Julius Erving, that league would've folded
like that. He kept that league up, in my opinion, all by himself."