How The ABA Changed Basketball, Then Sold Out And Died

By | October 13, 2020

test article image
Left: the red, white and blue ABA basketball. Right: Artis Gilmore #53 of the Kentucky Colonels passes to a teammate around a player from the Indiana Pacers. Sources: Smithsonian; Focus on Sport via Getty Images

On October 13, 1967, the Oakland Oaks defeated the Anaheim Amigos in the debut game of the revolutionary American Basketball Association. Although short-lived, the ABA influenced basketball by making the sport more exciting than ever before with original elements that the NBA would eventually adopt. While basketball was newer than the other Big Four major leagues, the world of athletics embraced a whole new form of hoops-entertainment with the ABA. 

The ABA Brought Basketball To Cities Lacking Athletic Experience

test article image
Julius Erving of the ABA’s New York Nets. Source: Pinterest

The ABA formed in the late ‘60s with just eleven teams split between the Eastern Division (Pittsburgh Pipers, Minnesota Muskies, Indiana Pacers, Kentucky Colonels, and The New Jersey Americans) and the Western Division (New Orleans Buccaneers, Dallas Chaparrals, Denver Nuggets, Houston Mavericks, Anaheim Amigos, and Oakland Oaks). This league brought teams to cities that had never been involved in professional basketball (Houston, Dallas, New Orleans, etc.), but would eventually become known as basketball havens with the help of the league. Relocation was a common theme for the ABA as teams were constantly switching cities causing the ABA to reach even farther to areas such as Salt Lake City, Miami, and Memphis. The only teams that remained true to their cities during the entire run of the ABA were The Kentucky Colonels, The Dallas Chaparrals, and The Indiana Pacers.