American Basketball Association

Basketball has a long history, and over the course of that history, a number of basketball leagues, from the amateur to the professional, have come into and out of prominence. One of the major leagues in the golden years of basketball was the American Basketball Association, also known as the ABA. A major rival to the NBA, the ABA has left an indelible mark on basketball as a sport. Let’s learn more about the ABA.

What Is the American Basketball Association?

The American Basketball Association, also known as the ABA, was a challenger to the NBA in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The league’s modern take on basketball was refreshing to new fans, who had grown tired of the current state of basketball played in the NBA. Without the success of the ABA and its eventual merger with the NBA, the modern game of basketball would be much different.

ABA History

The ABA was started in 1967 in order to challenge the NBA as America’s premier basketball league. Many of the teams were located in areas without NBA teams in order to quickly gain support. The ABA was wildly successful due to the many changes it made to the sport. One of the most recognizable signs of the ABA was a red, white, and blue basketball, as opposed to the orange basketball used in the NBA. The ABA also introduced the three-point line, where if a player made a shot outside that line, it would count for three points instead of two.

Star ABA Players

The star players who chose the ABA over the NBA also helped to attract attention. The most well-known ABA player was Julius Erving, more commonly known as “Dr. J.” His vibrant new style of play incorporated something unheard of at the time: the slam dunk. With this move, Dr. J became a household name.

Other famous ABA players included:

  • Marvin Barnes
  • Rick Barry
  • Zelmo Beaty
  • Ron Boone
  • Billy Cunningham
  • Louie Dampier
  • Mel Daniels
  • Donnie Freeman
  • Spencer Haywood
  • Dan Issel
  • Warren Jabali
  • Jimmy Jones
  • Freddie Lewis
  • Doug Moe
  • Bob Netolicky
  • Billy Paultz
  • Charlie Scott

ABA Merge with the NBA

After a decade, the ABA began to experience serious financial difficulties. Star players such as Dr. J, George “The Iceman” Gervin, Moses Malone, and David Thompson had already or were planning on leaving for the NBA. Eventually, the ABA merged with the NBA, with four ABA teams (the Spurs, Pacers, Nets, and Nuggets) all becoming official NBA franchises.

The NBA also adopted the three-point line and the fast style of play that had been popularized by the ABA. Today’s game has been greatly impacted by this, with the three-point line and Dr. J’s slam dunk both now being synonymous with today’s form of basketball.

1999 ABA Relaunch

In 1999, the ABA relaunched as an alternative semi-professional basketball league with an emphasis on affordability. Rosters include players that were previously on NBA and college teams. There are ABA teams spread across the US; over 90 teams play at least one game in a typical season. Tickets and franchise ownership are both much cheaper than in the NBA.


Does the ABA still exist?

The ABA does exist today, but in a different form than it used to exist in. After merging with the NBA in 1976, the ABA did not exist for over 20 years. However, in 1999, Joe Newman and Richard P. Tinkham relaunched the ABA as a semi-professional league. In 2000, the relaunched ABA entered into a partnership with the NBA, and while the league has undergone many tumultuous changes since 2000, it continues to work alongside its larger partner, and currently consists of around 95 teams.