I'm a big time sports fan. I am a fan of the Packers since 1967, Cubs and Celtics since 1969 and Indiana Pacers since 1970.
The Official ABA Basketball
In 1967 a new professional basketball league was formed. The American Basketball Association.
This new league was colorful and exciting. They played with a red, white and blue basketball. The used a 30 second shot clock as apposed to the NBA's 24 second shot clock. Maybe the most important innovation was the idea of the 3 point shot.
The NBA and their loyal fans laughed at this new league. The laughter eventually died as the ABA not only produced some great players but the NBA adopted the 3 point shot. In today's NBA that is a vital weapon that all teams use.
The ABA Was Pretty Good
There were some NBA players that jumped to the ABA. Some of the players stayed in the ABA and some returned to the NBA. There were also players that established themselves in the ABA and then moved to the NBA.
In August 1976 the NBA and ABA merged. The NBA accepted 4 tams from the ABA into their league. This is when people really saw how good the ABA really was.
The Denver Nuggets won their division with a 50-32 record. The San Antonio Spurs also made the playoffs with a 44-38 record.
ABA Players Grew Into NBA All-Stars
The ABA had many good players. In my opinion, the top players in the ABA were as good as the top players in the NBA. The difference in the league were the bench players. The NBA bench players were usually better than those in the ABA.
So now I am going to give my opinion for the best all-time ABA players. I am basing this on their careers in the ABA. There were players that just began their careers in the ABA and then later developed into NBA all-stars.
Dan Roundfield is a prime example. He spent his first three seasons with the Indiana Pacers. Because of the restrictions and fees the NBA put on the incoming ABA teams, the Pacers could not afford to keep Roundfield. He wound up being a 3 time all-star for the Atlanta Hawks in the 1980's.
Moses Malone is another example. Malone was in the ABA for 2 seasons prior to the merger. Malone made the ABA all-star team as a rookie bet was injured his second year and only played 43 games. Once he entered the NBA, he became a 12 time all-star and Hall of Fame player.
The Third Team
I am going to list a 15 man all-star roster.
Here is my third string:
PG-Jimmy Jones. Jones was a 6'4" PG/SG that averaged 19.2 ppg; 4.3 rpg and 4.5 apg for his ABA career. Jones made 6 all-star teams in his 7 year ABA career.
SG-Darel Carrier. Carrier was a 6'3" SG that averaged 20.0 ppg; 3.4 rpg and 2.6 apg for his ABA career. Carrier made 3 all-star teams in his 6 year ABA career. Carrier spent 5 of those 6 seasons with the Kentucky Colonels. He also had a career 37.7% three point shooting percentage.
SF-Roger Brown. Brown was a 6'5" SF that averaged 17.4 ppg; 6.2 rpg and 3.8 apg. Brown was a 4 time all-star in 8 ABA seasons. While Brown's statistic's do not seem like the of an all-time great, there are extenuating circumstances in his career. Among other reasons for his lower statistics is the fact that he played for the Indiana Pacers. The Pacers were loaded with talent. Three of the 15 players on this list played for the Pacers and there were three other players that were strongly considered.
PF-Willie Wise. Wise was a 6'5" PF/SF who averaged 19.2 ppg; 9.1 rpg and 3.1 apg. Wise made 3 all-star games in 7 ABA seasons. Wise actually only played PF in his rookie season but due to the talent at SF, I placed him on the team at PF. He was simply too good of a player to leave off of the list.
C-Zelmo Beaty. Beaty was a 6'9" C/PF who averaged 19.1 ppg; 11.6 rpg and 1.5 apg. Beaty (or The Big Z as he was known) made 3 all-star teams in his 4 year ABA career. Beaty played all 4 of his ABA seasons with the Utah Stars. Beaty also was an NBA all-star before jumping over to the ABA.
The Second Team
Here are my picks for the second team:
PG-Warren Jabali. Jabali was a 6'2" PG/SG that averaged 17.1 ppg; 6.7 rpg and 5.3 apg in his 7 year ABA career. Jabali made 4 all-star teams in his 7 seasons in the ABA.
SG-Ralph Simpson. Simpson was a 6'5" SG/SF that played his entire 6 year ABA career in Denver. He averaged 20.4 ppg; 4.5 rpg and 3.9 apg as he made 5 all-star appearances.
SF-Rick Barry. Now we really start to see how good the ABA was. Rick Barry is only the second best SF in league history. This is the same Rick Barry that led the Golden State Warriors to then 1975 NBA title. Barry made 8 NBA all-star teams. In the ABA, Barry played 4 seasons and made 4 all-star teams. Barry averaged 30.5 ppg; 7.5 rpg and 5.1 apg in his 4 ABA seasons.
PF-George McGinnis. McGinnis Played 4 seasons in the ABA with the Indiana Pacers. He averaged 25.2 ppg; 12.9 rpg and 2.2 apg as he made 3 all-star appearances. McGinnis shared the MVP honor for the1974-75 ABA season. McGinnis went on to make 3 all-star teams in the NBA as well.
C-Artis Gilmore. Gilmore averaged 22.3 ppg; 17.1 rpg and 3.0 apg in his 5 year ABA career. Gilmore played all 5 seasons n the ABA with the Kentucky Colonels and represented them in 5 all-star games. Gilmore was also named the Rookie of The Year AND MVP in the ABA for the 1971-72 season. Gilmore went on to make 6 NBA all-star teams.
The Starting Five
Here is my starting five all-stars. This represents the best at each position in ABA history:
PG-Mack Calvin. Calvin was a quick 6'0" point guard that made 5 all-star games in his 7 ABA seasons. Calvin. averaged 19.9 ppg; 2.5 rpg and 4.8 apg.
SG-George Gervin. Gervin was a 6'7" SF/SG but because of all of the talent in. the ABA, I am listing him as a SG. He was nicknamed "The Ice Man" because he played like he had ice in his veins during clutch moments. Gervin averaged 21.9 ppg; 7.4 rpg and 2.2 apg in the ABA. He made 3 all-star teams in 4 seasons. Gervin went on to make 9 NBA all-star teams and win 4 NBA scoring titles.
SF-Julius Erving. Erving was nicknamed Dr. J because he operated so well on the basketball court. Dr. J was easily the most famous player to come out of the ABA. Dr. J averaged 28.7 ppg; 12.1 rpg and 4.8 apg in his 5 year ABA career. He made 5 all-star teams in those 5 seasons and won an ABA title. Erving shared the MVP honor with George McGinnis in 1973-74 and won the award outright in 1975-76. Erving made 11 NBA all-star games and won the MVP in the NBA for the 1980-81 season. Erving also won an NBA title.
PF-Dan Issel. Issel was a 6'9" PF/C that made 6 all-star teams in his 6 ABA seasons. Issel averaged 25.6 ppg; 10.9 rpg and 2.4 apg. Issel was a key member for the Denver Nuggets in the NBA. He only made 1 all-star team in the NBA but he averaged 20.4 ppg in the league.
ABA Career Rebound Average Leaders (Minimum 250 Games)
|Player||Points Per game Average|
Something to keep in mind about this ABA players is that by the time the NBA and ABA merged, most f these players were either nearing the end of their prime or just entering their prime.
The Indiana Pacers were the kings of the ABA. They won 3 titles and made the ABA Finals 5 times in the 9 year existence of the league. The nucleus of the Pacers of Mel Daniels, Roger Brown, Freddie Lewis and Bob Netolicky were all in their 30's when the merger happened. That is the case for many of the ABA stars.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2020 Art West