Year of existence: 1967-68
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(portions from Jim Grasso and the December 1975 ABA Fan Club Newsletter -- used with permission)
The Anaheim Amigos were a charter ABA franchise. Hawaiian Art Kim, their owner, was a Chinese-American long associated with basketball -- as a college player, an AAU administrator, and even a provider of the opponent team for the touring Harlem Globetrotters. In 1961, Kim had owned the Hawaii Chiefs of the American Basketball League. In 1962, he moved the Chiefs to Long Beach where the team won its first 10 games and was fighting for the league's top spot when the ABL suddenly disbanded. When the ABA was formed in 1967, Kim brought professional basketball to Southern California for the second time. For his head coach, he hired Al Brightman, who had coached Kim's ABL Long Beach team. A name-the-team contest was held, and an Anaheim resident won with his entry of "Amigos."
Kim scheduled 31 regular season home games for the new Anaheim Convention Center (seating 7,800), just across the street from Disneyland. Strangely, it seemed as if Kim still wanted a professional team in Hawaii because three of the remaining eight regular season home games were played in Honolulu in December 1967. (At least the Amigos players had something to look forward to!) The Amigos' other five home games were played at various sites around Southern California.
The Amigos signed a mixture of players: some had pro basketball experience, others had played some AAU ball, and still others were fresh out of college. Much was expected out of 7-foot Larry Bunce from Utah State. Steve Chubin and old pro Les Selvage would provide the long-range firepower. Veteran Ben Warley and rugged Bob Bedell would hold down the corners. Penetrating guard Jeff Congdon, coming off the bench, would hustle for all he was worth, and Steve Kramer and ex-Laker John Fairchild would get plenty of playing time. Warren Davis, a late addition to the squad, had played in the Eastern League for a number of seasons before the advent of the ABA. Davis would eventually extend his ABA career to six years.
The Amigos were not a good team and nobody in Orange County (let alone Southern California) noticed them.
On October 13, 1967, the Amigos took the floor at Oakland and proceeded to lose the ABA's inaugural game, 134-129. They didn't win until their sixth game. It became a long season for the Amigos. Included were losing streaks of 6, 6, and 8 games. Coach Brightman got the axe at mid-season and was replaced by Harry Dinnel. The Amigos had an interesting cheerleader (to say the least) at their home games in Anaheim. The cheerleader was a man dressed to resemble a "Mexican bandit" -- complete with a pistol. He sat near the Amigos' bench, costume and all. When the Amigos rallied (which wasn't often), the bandit jumped up and down and shot loaded blanks into the air.
|Here are four original 1967-68 Anaheim Amigos.
Les Selvage (#12, above left, on a rare drive to the basket) was a mad bomber from three-point range. If Selvage was even slightly open 30 feet from the basket, he heaved up a shot. He took an amazing 461 three-pointers over the course of the 1967-68 season. In one particular game against the Denver Rockets, he took 26 threes, making 10 of them.
Larry Bunce (#52, above right) was the tallest player in the ABA in 1967-68, at an even seven feet. A fourth round choice of the Seattle Supersonics, Bunce opted to play for Anaheim.
Steve Chubin (above right, with ball) was probably the most popular Anaheim player. He led the team in both scoring and assists.
Before signing with Anaheim, Ben Warley (right) played with the Baltimore Bullets and the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA. Interestingly, Warley also played for the Long Beach Chiefs of the ABL in 1962-63. The Chiefs were owned by Art Kim (the owner of the Amigos) and coached by Al Brightman (the first coach of the Amigos).
Despite his impressive height, Bunce was a disappointment in the post. Les Selvage fired more 3-pointers (an incredible 461 of them!) than anyone else in the ABA, as the Amigos' guards were unwilling or unable to work the ball inside. Anaheim's best player was probably Chubin, who was the all-time leading scorer at Rhode Island University. He became the favorite of the team's few fans. Chubin had spent the 1966-67 season in Italy playing for the Simmenthal Company (Milan) team, which placed second in the International Games. In his 1967-68 season with the Amigos, he led the team in scoring with 18.2 ppg. He also ranked third in the ABA in assists and tenth in the ABA in free throw percentage (.810).
Warley was another strong performer for the Amigos, averaging 17.4 points per game with his strong outside shooting. He was also the top rebounder for the team. Warley had played for Kim's Long Beach Chiefs in 1962 (and had then played for Syracuse, Philadelphia and Baltimore of the NBA in subsequent years). Finally, Warren Davis turned out to be a good player for the Amigos, averaging 17.0 points per game and 10.5 rebounds per game.
The Amigos trimmed their player roster over the course of the season, and traded some of their best players, like Congdon. Congdon was traded in midwinter 1967 to the Denver Rockets for Willis "Lefty" Thomas, and was glad to leave. Congdon remembers that Anaheim was such a cheap operation that Amigos players were expected to furnish their own playing gear. Congdon recalls that: "We were issued one pair of game socks when we reported and they were supposed to last the whole season."
The Amigos limped home with a 25-53 record, good for fifth place in the ABA's Western Division. Despite radio and some TV play-by-play broadcasts, the Amigos averaged just 1,300 fans per game. The competition in the L.A. area for the basketball dollar was just too great: the Amigos were bucking the Lakers, the UCLA Bruins, and the USC Trojans. Kim simply didn't have the financial resources to sustain the struggle. During the summer of 1968, James Kirst, a local construction company owner, took over the franchise. Kirst hired Bill Sharman to coach the team and Jim Hardy to run the franchise. Kirst moved the team up the road to Los Angeles where it became the Los Angeles Stars. Nearly everything connected with the Amigos was changed: name, arena, team colors, front office, trainer, and all but two of the players.
Record: 25-53, Fifth Place in Western Division