On This Date in Sports October 23, 1967

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A new colorful brand of basketball is born as the American Basketball Association begins its inaugural season. The ABA takes professional basketball to a new level introducing the three-point shot while playing with a colorful red, white and blue basketball. The first-year league features 11 teams, including the Dallas Chaparrals, Denver Rockets, Indiana Pacers and New Jersey Americans who would go on to join the NBA after the ABA folded after nine seasons.

The ABA was one of many upstart leagues to challenge the NBA, which was the youngest of the major professional sports leagues. The league was picking up where the American Basketball League had failed. The ABL, founded in 1961 was the first league to utilize a three-point arc but never managed to have much of an impact as it folded after less than two seasons. One of the keys to the ABA’s success was its flashy up-tempo play as slam dunks were encouraged, while the NBA was more buttoned-down looking for passing and layups. Nothing highlighted the flashiness of the ABA, more than its red, white and blue ball that became the league’s signature.

The ABA featured 11 teams in its first season, led by the Pittsburgh Pipers who won the first championship thanks to Connie Hawkins who still was living in exile from the NBA, due to a point-shaving scandal while in college. The Pipers would defeat the New Orleans Buccaneers in the ABA Finals. The other nine teams in the ABA’s first year included the Minnesota Muskies, Houston Mavericks, Anaheim Amigos, and Oakland Oaks, who were just some of the teams that came and went in the league’s nine-year existence.

The five franchises that lasted all nine seasons were the Dallas Chaparrals, Denver Rockets, Indiana Pacers and New Jersey Americans. When the ABA folded after the 1976 season, four teams were invited to join the NBA. The Kentucky Colonels took a one-time buyout, while the Spirts of St. Louis made a killing off annual payments from the four-surviving team’s television money shares. The Dallas Mavericks who suited up in the first season, later moved to San Antonio becoming the Spurs. The Denver Rockets, changed their name to the Denver Nuggets to ensure they would be allowed to merge in the final years in the ABA. The Indiana Pacers were the ABA’s most successful team with three championships before moving to the NBA. The New Jersey Americans, after one season became the New York Nets, and won two of the last three ABA Championships led by Julius Erving. The Nets who would trek across the river and back several times in their existence, playing as the New Jersey Nets for 35 years, before moving to Brooklyn in 2012.