LOOSE BALLS: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association by Terry Pluto

LOOSE BALLS: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Founded on shaky ground, in continual danger of collapse, the ABA lasted ten zany years (1967-76). As Pluto (The Earl of Baltimore, 1982; The Greatest Summer, 1979, etc.) reveals in this funny, informative oral history, the ABA revolutionized the game itself and the business of sports. Interviews with Dennis Murphy (""patron saint"" of the ABA) and the league's other founders, executives, coaches, and players show that tire initial intent was to pressure the closed, staid National Basketball Association (NBA) into expansion and/ or merger. The original 11 ABA teams (there would be considerable relocation and numerous foldings in such cities as Memphis, Charlotte, and Anaheim) paid $5,000 for a franchise; the NBA wanted $1.5 million. Presided over by basketball legend George Mikan, the new league boasted a red, white, and blue ball, and used the controversial 3-point basket. The result was a wide-open, high-scoring (the Oakland Oaks defeated the Anaheim Amigos 132-129 in the first game), run-and-gun style of play perfect for quick small guards like Larry Brown (5'9"") and acrobatic wizards such as Julius Erving. When NBA star Rick Barry jumped to the fledgling league following the 1967 season, players realized they had a bargaining chip with stingy owners. The ABA also provided a venue for such NBA-banned players as Connie Hawkins, accused in a college point-shaving scandal. When the Indiana Pacers signed college sophomore George McGinnis and Denver later signed Spencer Haywood, the first ""hardship case,"" it began a trend as significant as the advent of free agency. The NBA finally ""merged"" with the ABA in 1976, admitting Denver, San Antonio, New York, and Indiana, in part to obtain its pool off talent: 63 of the 84 players in the ABA were taken into the NBA. A rollicking, irreverent, well-organized history of the renegade league, told by its movers, shakers, and players.

Pub Date: Oct. 19th, 1990
Publisher: Simon & Schuster