American Basketball Association (2000–present)

The American Basketball Association (ABA) is an American semi-professional men's basketball minor league that was founded in 1999.

American Basketball Association
Current season, competition or edition:
Current sports event 2024 ABA playoffs
FormerlyABA 2000
SportBasketball
Founded1999; 25 years ago (1999)
First season2000–01
CEOJoe Newman
MottoMore than just a game
CountriesUnited States
HeadquartersIndianapolis, Indiana
Most recent
champion(s)
Burning River Buckets and Indiana Lyons (2023)
Most titlesJacksonville Giants (7)
TV partner(s)ABAGALE and SFBN
Official websiteABA Basketball

ABA teams are based in the United States, with one traveling team from Japan. The league previously had international teams based in Canada, China and Mexico. League management infamously maintains low requirements for franchise ownership, and hundreds of ABA teams have either folded or defected to rival leagues.

The league licenses its name and use of ABA trademarks from the National Basketball Association, which absorbed the American Basketball Association (1967–1976) during the ABA–NBA merger. The Women's American Basketball Association has operated as a sister league to the ABA since 2017.

History edit

Launch and suspension, 1999–2002 edit

 
Darryl Dawkins, head coach of the Tampa Bay ThunderDawgs during their 2000–01 season.

The league was originally co-founded by Dick Tinkham and Joe Newman in 1999 as ABA 2000.[1] Tinkham had previously co-founded the Indiana Pacers in the original American Basketball Association, and Newman had been an advertising executive for the Pacers.[2] The National Basketball Association (NBA), owner of the ABA trademark after absorbing many of the original league's teams, sued Tinkham and Newman in December 1999.[3] The lawsuit was unsuccessful since the NBA had failed to actively use the ABA trademark, and the new league entered an agreement with the NBA to license the name for $50,000.[4]

The league began its inaugural 2000–01 season with eight teams: the Chicago Skyliners, Detroit Dogs, Indiana Legends, Kansas City Knights, Los Angeles Stars, Memphis Houn'Dawgs, San Diego Wildfire and Tampa Bay ThunderDawgs. Joe Newman founded the Indiana Legends to replace the Jacksonville Jackals, who were removed from the league after failing to secure a venue.[5] Mark Hamister purchased the rights to a Buffalo franchise for $75,000, but was also unable to secure a venue.[6][7] A proposed merger with the International Basketball League fell through in December 2000, which would have allowed the inaugural season to begin with additional teams.[8]

To attract fans, the ABA encouraged its teams to fill rosters with former NBA players and past college basketball stars that had local ties.[9][10] Former NBA champion and Florida native Darryl Dawkins was recruited as the first head coach of the Tampa Bay ThunderDawgs.[11]

The 2001–02 ABA season saw only three teams return from the inaugural season, with the Chicago Skyliners, Los Angeles Stars, Memphis Houn'Dawgs, San Diego Wildfire and Tampa Bay ThunderDawgs replaced by the Kentucky Pro Cats, Las Vegas Slam, Phoenix Eclipse and Southern California Surf.

Joe Newman folded the Indiana Legends after he was sued by eight former players in August 2002 for failing to pay their salaries.[12] Newman had claimed $1 million in losses over two seasons of ownership.[13]

The 2002–03 season was not played, as the league suspended operations for reorganization.[14] Jim Clark, owner of the Kansas City Knights, was named league President and COO in November 2002.[15]

Restructuring and defections, 2003–2005 edit

 
Sun Yue, two-time ABA All-Star who played for the Beijing Aoshen Olympians from 2005 to 2008.

The league resumed play with seven teams for the 2003–04 season. The returning Kansas City Knights were joined by the Fresno Heatwave, Jersey Squires, Las Vegas Rattlers, Juárez Gallos de Pelea, Long Beach Jam and Tijuana Dragons. Dennis Rodman brought national attention to the league when he signed with the Long Beach Jam, leading them to an ABA title in their first season.[16]

The 2004–05 season saw franchise fees lowered from $50,000 to $10,000, and the bond requirement removed in order to attract new teams.[17] Teams were subsequently organized into regional groups to facilitate interest and reduce travel costs, with 37 clubs competing that season in three divisions. The Arkansas RimRockers won the 2004–05 ABA title in their first year of play, but then left with the Long Beach Jam to join the rival NBA Development League.

The ABA welcomed the Beijing Aoshen Olympians beginning with the 2005–06 season, a club which had been banned from the Chinese Basketball League after refusing to allow star prospect Sun Yue to play for the Chinese national team. The Olympians played their home games in Maywood, California.[18] CCTV-5 in China broadcast the team's games, where they were watched by an average of 15 million people.[19]

Following the 2005–06 season in which many teams failed to complete their full schedules and became insolvent, the Charlotte Krunk, Florida Pit Bulls, Indiana Alley Cats, Pittsburgh Xplosion, San Jose Skyrockets and SoCal Legends left to join the rival Continental Basketball Association.

Failed coup and formation of PBL, 2006–2008 edit

My idea of success and Newman's differ. I'd rather have fewer teams, that are stable and last, as opposed to having tons that continue to fold. It's not the amount of teams that a league has, it's the amount that finish.[20]

—Tom Doyle, Maryland Nighthawks

In preparation for the league's initial public offering (ABKB), former NBA player John Salley was named league commissioner and Maryland Nighthawks owner Tom Doyle was named league COO in September 2006.[21] Cost for new franchises was subsequently raised to $20,000 for the 2006–07 season.[22] Sports Illustrated writer Alexander Wolff launched the Vermont Frost Heaves, regularly penning articles in the publication about his team's inaugural campaign.

John Salley and Tom Doyle attempted a boardroom coup on behalf of shareholders, with ABA's Board of Directors voting to remove Joe Newman as CEO on January 31, 2007.[23] Newman sued Salley and Doyle, leading to a settlement in which he kept his job and forced their resignations from the league.[24]

The 2006–07 season concluded with the defending champion Rochester Razorsharks withdrawing from the league after they asked to reschedule a playoff game against the Wilmington Sea Dawgs, but were denied and told to forfeit.[25] Following this incident, the Hammond Rollers, Jacksonville Jam, Maryland Nighthawks, Quad City Riverhawks and Wilmington Sea Dawgs joined the Razorsharks in forming the Premier Basketball League (PBL).

Following the 2007–08 season, the reigning champion Vermont Frost Heaves left for the Premier Basketball League along with the Halifax Rainmen, Manchester Millrats and Quebec Kebs.[26]

Quentin Townsend, owner of the Atlanta Vision, was named league President and COO in April 2008.[27] He was later removed from those positions after being arrested in November 2008 for defrauding investors in a scheme to acquire an NBA Development League franchise.[28]

CBA absorption and continued instability, 2008–2013 edit

 
Chris Beard coaching the South Carolina Warriors, who finished their 2011–12 regular season undefeated.

At the start of the 2008–09 season, over 200 teams had folded since the league's inception.[29]

The 2008–09 season saw the Southeast Texas Mustangs franchise join the league after leaving the struggling Continental Basketball Association. The ABA attempted interleague play with the four remaining CBA teams, but their league folded mid-season.[30]

NBA scouts stopped attending the league's games in January 2009, citing the amount of cancelled and forfeited contests.[31]

Several teams folded during the 2009–10 season, including the entire Pacific Northwest Division. The San Francisco Rumble forfeited their playoff game against the Southeast Texas Mavericks, as they could not afford to travel for the contest.[32]

Gilas Pilipinas, the Philippine national basketball team, competed in a series of exhibitions against ABA teams including the Clayton Showtime, Los Angeles Slam, Riverside Rainmakers, San Diego Surf and the West Coast All-Stars.[33] This April 2010 series was referred to as the ABA Friendship Games.

Dick Packer was named league President and COO in April 2010.[34]

After winning their second consecutive championship in 2010–11, the Southeast Texas Mavericks publicly opined that the ABA did not have adequate competition, and they left with intentions of joining the NBA Development League.[35] However, their application to join the NBA Development League was denied, and the franchise sat out the 2011–12 and 2012–13 seasons. Consecutive titles were won by the Jacksonville Giants in their absence, with championship wins over the previously undefeated South Carolina Warriors in 2011–12 and North Dallas Vandals in 2012–13.[36] The team returned to the ABA for 2013–14 as the Shreveport-Bossier Mavericks, going undefeated and winning the league title in a perfect season.[37]

Management change and ESPN3 deal, 2014–2016 edit

 
Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena, which hosted the largest crowd in ABA history on January 16, 2016.

At the conclusion of the 2013–14 season, over 350 franchises had folded since the league's inception.[38]

Former Arizona Scorpions owner Ron Tilley replaced Joe Newman as league President and CEO following Newman's retirement in July 2014.[39]

The league signed a two-year streaming deal with ESPN3 in August 2014 to broadcast regular season and playoff games beginning with the 2014–15 season.[40]

After completing a perfect season for the second time in 2014–15 and winning their fourth championship, the Shreveport-Bossier Mavericks left the ABA to join the Premier Basketball League.[41]

Joe Newman returned to the role of league President and CEO beginning with the 2015–16 season.

The Jacksonville Giants drew the league's all-time record crowd of 8,987 for their 100–93 victory over the previously unbeaten Chicago Steam at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on January 16, 2016.[42] It had been reported the week prior that the Orlando Magic was considering adopting the Giants as their NBA Development League affiliate, although later in the year they instead moved their existing affiliate Erie BayHawks to Lakeland, Florida.[43][44]

WABA launch and addition of play-in tournament, 2017–present edit

The Indiana Lyons hosting the Indiana Legends on February 24, 2024.

A sister league, the Women's American Basketball Association (WABA), was launched in 2017.[45] Garden State Warriors owner Marsha Blount was named the league's President and CEO.[46]

The 2017–18 season saw franchise fees lowered to $2,500.[47]

League co-founder Dick Tinkham died of muscular dystrophy in October 2018.[48]

The 2019–20 season was ended prematurely and the playoffs cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.[49]

The undefeated Jacksonville Giants captured their seventh and final championship in 2020–21, concluding the team's first perfect season and third in ABA history.[50]

A play-in tournament was implemented beginning with the 2021–22 season to determine which teams would advance to the divisional round of the playoffs.[51]

Following elimination from the 2021–22 playoffs by the Steel City Yellow Jackets, the Jacksonville Giants ceased operations.[52] The Steel City Yellow Jackets suspended operations after their elimination from the 2022–23 playoffs by the Burning River Buckets.[53]

The Burning River Buckets and Indiana Lyons were declared co-champions of the 2022–23 season after storm damage rendered the venue for their championship game unplayable.[54]

Rule changes edit

 
ABA official.

The league employs a number of unconventional rules that are unique to the league:[55]

  • Four-point field goal: Shots made from behind the half-court division line are credited as 4 points.
  • 3D rule: If a team commits a backcourt violation or turns the ball over in the backcourt, any field goal scored by the opposing team on the ensuing possession shall be awarded an additional point (2-point shots are credited as 3 points, 3-point shots are credited as 4 points, 4-point half-court shots are credited as 5 points).
  • Basket interference rule: Once the ball hits the rim, any play for the ball by a defender will not be considered goaltending.
  • Sixth foul rule: A player who has committed six fouls may stay in the game, but any foul they commit after that point in time results in an uncontested free throw for the opposing team by a player of their choosing, and the opposing team also retains possession.
  • 3–10 & Out: Overtime begins with a single 3-minute period. If the score is still tied, a second untimed overtime period shall commence, and the first team to reach 10 points wins the game.
  • 13th man rule: Each team is allowed an additional player to dress for games beyond their normal 12-man squad. This traditionally is a role filled by celebrities and dignitaries as publicity stunts, but teams have also used the rule to strengthen their roster for important games.

Teams edit

 
Vermont Frost Heaves, winners of the 2006–07 and 2007–08 league championship.

109 teams completed at least one game during the 2023–24 season.[56]

The league's oldest surviving franchises are the Garden State Warriors (est. 2005), Georgia Gwizzlies (est. 2007), and Oceanside Surf (est. 2009).

Defunct edit

Franchises that left the ABA but still compete elsewhere include the Detroit Panthers (Maximum Basketball League), Kitsap Admirals (Independent), Motor City Cruise (NBA G League), Newfoundland Rogues (Basketball Super League), and Shreveport Mavericks (The Basketball League).

Championship results edit

Year Champion Runner-up Result Host arena Game MVP Ref
2000–01 Detroit Dogs Chicago Skyliners 107–91 Cox Pavilion Gee Gervin / Ndongo N'Diaye [57]
2001–02 Kansas City Knights Southern California Surf 118–113 Kemper Arena Pete Mickeal [58]
2002–03 Not held due to league shutdown.
2003–04 Long Beach Jam Kansas City Knights 126–123 Walter Pyramid [59]
2004–05 Arkansas RimRockers Bellevue Blackhawks 118–103 Alltel Arena Kareem Reid [60]
2005–06 Rochester Razorsharks SoCal Legends 117–114 Blue Cross Arena Chris Carrawell [61]
2006–07 Vermont Frost Heaves Texas Tycoons 143–95 Barre Auditorium [62]
2007–08 Vermont Frost Heaves San Diego Wildcats 87–84 Pavillon de la Jeunesse Dwuan Rice [63]
2008–09 Kentucky Bisons Maywood Buzz 127–120 Nashville Municipal Auditorium Michael James [64]
2009–10 Southeast Texas Mavericks Kentucky Bisons 96–99, 104–83, 85–76 Lamar State College Josh Pace [65]
2010–11 Southeast Texas Mavericks Gulf Coast Flash 114–97, 109–85 Nutty Jerry's Entertainment Complex PJ Couisnard [66]
2011–12 Jacksonville Giants South Carolina Warriors 106–101, 100–91 Eckerd College Jermaine Bell [67]
2012–13 Jacksonville Giants North Dallas Vandals 85–84, 110–109 Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena Tony Hooper [68]
2013–14 Shreveport-Bossier Mavericks Jacksonville Giants 136–127, 105–103 Hirsch Memorial Coliseum Ed Horton [69]
2014–15 Shreveport-Bossier Mavericks Miami Midnites 109–81, 116–91 Hirsch Memorial Coliseum PJ Couisnard [70]
2015–16 Jacksonville Giants Windy City Groove 92–80, 93–90 Laredo Energy Arena Maurice Mickens [71]
2016–17 Jacksonville Giants Windy City Groove 120–102 Woodlawn High School Maurice Mickens [72]
2017–18 Jacksonville Giants Austin Bats 119–114 Lehman High School Bernard Nugent [73]
2018–19 Jacksonville Giants South Florida Gold 116–112 St. Louis College of Pharmacy Maurice Mickens [74]
2019–20 Not held due to COVID-19 pandemic.
2020–21 Jacksonville Giants Chicago Fury 111–108 James J. Eagan Center Miguel Paul [75]
2021–22 Steel City Yellow Jackets Team Trouble 123–118 St. Frances Academy Steven Vorum [76]
2022–23 Not held due to unplayable conditions. Burning River Buckets and Indiana Lyons declared co-champions.
2023–24 TBD TBD Spring Hill College

All-Star Game results edit

East (6 wins) West (3 wins) South (2 wins) Kansas City Knights (1 win) Team Dr. J (1 win)
Year Result Host arena Host city Game MVP Ref
2001 Not held.
2002 Kansas City Knights 161, ABA All-Stars 138 Kemper Arena Kansas City Maurice Carter, Kansas City Knights [77]
2003 Not held due to league shutdown.
2004 Not held.
2005 West 163, East 149 Las Vegas Sports Center Las Vegas Lou Kelly, Las Vegas Rattlers [78]
2006 East 129, West 127 BankAtlantic Center Sunrise Armen Gilliam, Pittsburgh Xplosion [79]
2007 West 138, East 123 Halifax Metro Centre Halifax Billy Knight, Atlanta Vision [80]
2008 East 161, West 140 Barre Auditorium Barre Anthony Anderson, Manchester Millrats [81]
2009 West, East Nashville Municipal Auditorium Nashville Keith Simpson, Texas Fuel [82]
2010 ABA West All-Stars vs. Gilas Pilipinas Hangar Athletic Xchange Los Angeles [83]
2011 East 123, West 122 Jacksonville Veterans Arena Jacksonville Kayode Ayeni, Jersey Express [84]
2012 Red vs. White vs. Blue (round-robin tournament) Eckerd College St. Petersburg [85][86]
2013 East 198, West 141 South Suburban College South Holland Maurice Mickens, Memphis Bluff City Reign
2014 No reported result. Grandview Christian School Grandview
2015 South 138, North 131 Kroc Center South Bend [87]
2016 Team Dr. J 140, Team Gervin 139 St. Frances Academy Baltimore Terry Hosley, DMV Warriors [88]
2017 South , North Big Ben's Home Court Richmond Christopher Cromartie, South Florida Gold
2018 No reported result. Giving Heart Community Center Pittsburgh Antonio Reddic, Steel City Yellow Jackets [89]
2019 No reported result. Giving Heart Community Center Pittsburgh
2020 Not held due to COVID-19 pandemic.
2021 East 210, West 165 James J. Eagan Center Florissant [90]
2022 East vs. West [91]
2023 East 169, West 151 Jefferson College Hillsboro Dominique Jones, Garden State Warriors [92]

Notable alumni edit

* Elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

Players edit

USA:

Asia:

Africa:

Americas:

Canada

Europe:

Oceania:

Coaches edit

References edit

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External links edit