Remember the ABA
Posted by frankpos on October 27, 2011
Yes, as this new season kicks off, we’re going back for some fun. To a time when pro basketball was at its wildest and craziest–and most fun.
From 1967 to 1976 — nine full seasons during my peak sports-crazed teen years — I got to witness close-up entrepreneurial creativity at its purest. The three-point play, the 30-second clock, the first dunking contest, Moses Malone leading high schoolers going pro, bikini-ed Ball Girls, incredibly talented and bizarre player/characters like Marvin “Bad News” Barnes, enormous Afros –and run-and-gun offenses.
Without the big lumbering centers of the NBA, who actually stopped their offenses, the ABA showcased its players’ skills, allowing them the opportunity to freelance, and turned basketball into an artistic venture.
And our own Kentucky Colonels were one of the ABA’s most exciting and dominant teams. Many observers believe that the later Colonels teams, anchored by Artis Gilmore in the middle starting in the 1971-72 season, would have dominated most NBA teams.
In 1974-75, before 16,622 screaming fans in Freedom Hall, the Colonels knocked off their arch-nemesis, the Indiana Pacers, 110-105, to capture the series 4-1 for their one and only ABA championship. Yes, I was there.
Most experts now believe that the Colonels would have beaten the Rick Barry- led NBA champion Golden State Warriors. That Colonels team had two of the greatest pro players of all time–Dan Issel and Artis Gilmore–and the premier scorer in ABA history, little Louie Dampier. Oh, yeah, and it was coached by Hubie Brown.
By the time the ABA folded in 1976, the Colonels had won the most regular season games in ABA history. Generally, Kentucky, Indiana, New York, Denver and San Antonio had been the most consistently strong ABA teams.
It was clear to everyone that the Colonels had the talent and the fan support to join the NBA for the 1976-77 season. So it was an incredible shock to Louisville fans–and to true basketball aficionados nationwide– when owner John Y. Brown sold off Issel right after winning the championship, and then later the team.
Yes….. our own Kentucky Colonels once ruled the pro basketball world.