The long-awaited HBO ABA documentary premiered on June 9, 1997, and is now available on home video for $14.99. Check your local video store for a copy, or click here for official information from HBO Home Video.
The hour-long documentary features rarely seen ABA team films, home videos, and footage from local television stations. The feature also contains numerous interviews with ABA players, coaches, and personnel.
Among the many ABA movers and shakers interviewed in the HBO documentary are Julius Erving, George Gervin, Larry Brown, Hubie Brown, Louis Dampier, Artis Gilmore, Connie Hawkins, Dave DeBusschere, Dan Issel, Bob Costas, Lloyd "Pinky" Gardner (Colonels trainer), and George McGinnis. There is even an interview with Red Auerbach of the Boston Celtics, who typically demeans the ABA while puffing on his trademark cigar.
The documentary highlights the contributions the ABA made to the NBA, including the three-point field goal and the All-Star Game slam dunk contest. The feature is filled with never-before-seen ABA film of the Floridians Ballgirls, the 1975 All-Star game in San Antonio, Darnell Hillman's enormous and unequaled afro, the 1976 ABA All-Star game slam dunk contest (new angles!), and the New York Nets' wild comeback against the Denver Nuggets in Game 6 of the 1976 ABA Finals.
If you want to see some NBA Hall-of-Famers playing in ABA arenas (using the ABA's "beach ball"!) look no further: the documentary has footage of Lew Alcindor and the Milwaukee Bucks playing the Kentucky Colonels (at Freedom Hall), Wes Unseld and the Baltimore Bullets playing the Floridians (at Miami Beach Convention Hall), and Willis Reed of the New York Knicks playing the Utah Stars (at the Salt Palace). Finally, if you're a fan of Dr. J you're in for a treat. HBO unearthed some rare and unusual clips of Dr. J in the ABA (both with the Squires and the Nets!).
Warm up those VCRs, every true red, white and blue fan is going to get an early holiday present. HBO's presentation of Long Shots: The Life and Times of the American Basketball Association is going to warm the heart of every basketball aficionado of the Lively League . I had the opportunity to see the New York premiere of this special at the HBO building in Manhattan on Tuesday night, June 3rd, 1997. Before the screening we had the chance to mingle. In the lounge area they were presenting the last ABA game played, the Nets versus Nuggets, where the Nets staged one of the great comebacks in basketball history to win the final ABA title. It was like a time machine--the picture was broadcast quality so it was like viewing a live showing. As I was watching, a tall gentleman sidled up to me and started to comment on the game: "Who is that?....Ha, its the Hound Dog McClain. Hey, look at the Doctor put the moves on!" I looked up to see the Iceman, George Gervin. I shook hands, introduced myself and then we went back to look at the game, with the Iceman continuing his commentary.
After awhile the place started to full up. Some other ABA notables starting coming in; Bill Melchionni, Dave DeBusschere, Louie Carnesecca, Marty Glickman, Roy Boe and various members of the media, like Dick Stockton. After a half hour of schmoozing we were ushered into the viewing theater. After some opening comments the special started. Game footage galore! All in glorious color. Broadcast quality again. It appears there is more game footage than I could ever conceive. Interviews with ABA players, owners, trainers, GM's and announcers appear throughout the movie; Steve Jones, Rick Barry, Spencer Haywood, George McGinnis, Darnell Hillman, Mike Storen, Bob Costas, and Pat Boone just to name a few. The themes constantly changed: the small ABA crowds, the constant lack of media attention, the attitude of ABA players, game stories, flakes, stars, all-star games, the three-point shot, the merger and finally the impact the ABA had on the future of the game. Before I knew it the hour was up leaving me hungry for more. George Gervin closed out the preview with some comments about how some great players labored in obscurity and how eager they were to play against the NBA. He called the NBA "the old slow league." Every true ABA fan knows that today's NBA is the ABA style game--it's just missing the singular tri-color ball. The only advice I can give on this special is try to see this documentary on the biggest TV screen you can, because you won't want to miss the details of uniforms, arenas, players and just the sheer color. Once again, warm up those VCRs, sit back and enjoy.