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Today in Sports History: 2/1 | American Basketball Association Forms

Today in sports history (1967), the American Basketball Association (ABA) began operations. The league was founded to be a direct competitor of the NBA, which was seeing an increase in fan interest at the time. The ABA produced a different style of play. Players were given more opportunities to dunk and shoot longer shots. Opposed to the NBA’s set style, this gave fans another variation of basketball to watch.

The American Basketball Association eventually merged with the NBA in 1976, as the NBA absorbed four teams.

Julius Erving American Basketball Association
Credit: NBA Photos/ Getty Images/NBAE/Getty Images

American Basketball Association History

The American Basketball Association distinguished itself by opening up the offense compared to the NBA. This allowed for players to produce higher offensive numbers. The ABA included a 30-second shot clock, use of the three-point shot and an All-Star game. The All-Star game also introduced the Slam Dunk Contest. NBA legend George Mikan was the commissioner of the ABA. He introduced the use of the classic red, white and blue ball. With all of this innovation to the sport, the league lacked a television contract, meaning that the league was doomed to survive.

In its nine-year run, the league incorporated 12 different teams, most notably the Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and the New York Nets. Players like Julius Erving, Moses Malone, George McGinnis and Connie Hawkins were influential in making the league succeed.

ABA Merges with NBA

The eventual result of the ABA was a merger with the NBA in 1976. The NBA took in four teams from the ABA. Those teams being NBA mainstays — Indiana, San Antonio, Denver and New York. The Virginia Squires had folded a month early, missing the merger. Two other teams, the Kentucky Colonels and Spirits of Saint Louis, were disbanded at the merger. With much less money than the NBA, the four ABA teams needed to survive. The Nets sold Erving to the 76ers for money. Erving went on to have a legendary career with the 76ers, winning a championship. McGinnis was also sold as a part of that deal.

The NBA eventually incorporated many techniques from the ABA. Things like the three-point line, slam dunk contest, faster pace of play and drafting underclassmen revolutionized the NBA. Out of the four teams who made the NBA only one won a championship. The San Antonio Spurs have won five championships thanks to Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich. The Nets have been to two Finals, the Pacers have been to one and the Nuggets have been to none.

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