Los Angeles Stars
2012 NBA/ABA Throwback Uniforms -
Back to "Remember the ABA" Main Page
Did you see an L.A. Stars game? Or, did you have a favorite L.A. Stars player? Contribute to this web page by
(portions from Jim Grasso and the February 1975 ABA Fan Club Newsletter -- used with permission)
During the summer of 1968, Los Angeles construction businessman Jim Kirst bought the struggling Anaheim Amigos. Kirst immediately moved the franchise to Los Angeles where it became the Los Angeles Stars. The team's home court in Los Angeles was the Los Angeles Sports Arena (capacity 13,325). A 5-game local TV contract was signed and Jim Hardy was named general manager.
In their best move of all, the Stars signed former NBA-great Bill Sharman (left) as their new coach. Sharman left a high-paying job as head coach of the San Francisco Warriors (a team he took to the NBA Finals in 1967) to come to the Stars. Sharman had also previously coached the L.A. Jets and the Cleveland Pipers in the ABL.
The Stars signed their first five draft choices -- an ABA record -- and Sharman drilled them non-stop. Nearly all of the former Amigo players were traded or waived, and the Stars began the 1968-69 season with eight rookies, including blue-chippers Larry Miller (North Carolina), Merv Jackson (University of Utah at Salt Lake City), Bobby Warren (Vanderbilt), George Stone (Marshall) and injury-plagued Ed Johnson (Tennessee State).
The Stars opened their first season on October 30, 1968 against the New Orleans Buccaneers. A crowd of 3,700 turned out. The Sports Arena lights were dimmed, and two cheerleaders held a spotlighted hoop covered with paper. Wearing an attractive powder blue, scarlet and white uniform, Merv "the Magician" Jackson burst through the hoop and trotted onto the hardwood, followed by the other Stars. Despite the dramatics, Los Angeles lost 112-109.
That season was a forgettable one for the Stars as they won only 33 games (finishing fifth in the six-team Western Division) and failed to qualify for the playoffs. George Lehmann, picked up at mid-season from the NBA St. Louis Hawks, led the team with 18.8 ppg. On January 13, 1969, the 6'3" Lehmann established an ABA record with 27 points in the third quarter of a game against the Denver Rockets (after the game, Lehman noted that two of those points were scored on what he intended to be a pass! ).
Miller averaged 17.0 ppg, Jackson averaged 15.7 ppg, and Stone averaged 15.7 ppg. Jackson finished 7th in the league in free-throw shooting with a .824 percentage, and at one point hit 25 free throws in a row. Miller was named to the All-Rookie First Team, and Stone and Jackson to the Second Team.
Although attendance had been poor, Kirst stated that, "We are in Los Angeles to stay." For the 1969-70 season, the Stars signed two fine (and unheralded) rookies: guards Willie Wise and Mack Calvin. Wayne Hightower and Billy "the Hill" McGill were acquired in trades and All-American Simmie Hill was signed. Unfortunately, Hill arrived at the Stars' training camp overweight. Apparently, he hadn't picked up a basketball all summer long. A disappointed Sharman traded Hill shortly after the season opened.
|Two longtime ABA superstars broke in with the 1969-70 L.A. Stars. Willie Wise (above left and above right, #42) and Mack Calvin (right, #20) were relatively unknown rookies in the Stars' competitive pre-season training camp. Fortunately for ABA fans, both players immediately caught the attention of Coach Bill Sharman.
During his first season, the 6'0" Calvin hustled all over the court, and averaged an impressive 16.8 points per game. By the end of the 1969-70 campaign, it was apparent that Calvin was a future ABA All-Star. Wise averaged 15.2 points per game during the regular season, and was the Stars' second leading shooter from the field in the playoffs (with a .526 mark).
In 1997, both players were voted to the 30-man ABA All-Time Team.
(Photos Copyright © John Oznick and used with permission)
The Stars had always lacked a dominating center. Dennis Grey, Ed Johnson, and Billy McGill had all fallen short. In January 1970, with the team's record at 16-22, Jim Hardy made the move that propelled Los Angeles into the playoffs: he acquired 6'11" Craig Raymond from the Pittsburgh Pipers. For the remainder of the season -- for reasons unknown -- Raymond consistently played the best pivot of his life. After Raymond's timely arrival, the Stars became a very dangerous team. With hustling Mack Calvin, gunner George Stone, and Jackson providing the firepower, the Stars finished two games above .500. They barely squeezed into the playoffs, edging out New Orleans by only one game.
In the playoffs, the Stars simply shocked the basketball world. They faced an uphill battle, because they did not have the home court advantage in any series. Still, they managed to upset the favored Dallas Chaparrals in the first round, 4 games to 2. Then, in the second round, they cruised past league-MVP Spencer Haywood and the Denver Rockets, 4 games to 1. In the 1970 ABA Finals, Los Angeles faced the powerful Indiana Pacers. The series went to six games before the "Cinderella Stars" succumbed: Raymond was injured early in Game 6 and the Pacers, led by Roger Brown's 43 points, won the ABA title, 111-107. Of course, the key to the Stars' incredible playoff run was Raymond, who dominated the boards and scored clutch baskets. Tom "Trooper" Washington (who, like Raymond, had been acquired from the Pipers) helped by hitting a blistering 62.4% from the field in the playoffs.
|The Stars' improbable 1970 playoff run was largely due to the stellar play of center Craig Raymond (left, #54). In each successive series, Raymond grabbed every critical rebound and seemed to score at will (even against excellent defenders like Spencer Haywood of the Rockets and Mel Daniels of the Pacers). Andy Anderson (center, #40) and Trooper Washington (right, #14) also made significant post-season contributions.
(Photos © Copyright John Oznick and used with permission)
Apparently, the Stars' 1970 playoff success was complete surprise to the Stars' front office, which had failed to book the LA Sports Arena for several required dates. Some of the Stars' home playoff games against Denver and Indiana had to be shifted to Anaheim and Long Beach. Los Angeles averaged less than 4,000 fans at those "home" games. Back in the Sports Arena for the final game of the Championship Series, the Stars drew an impressive 8,233 fans.
Nevertheless, the Sports Arena's electronic game attendance counter rarely registered over 2,500 during the 1969-70 regular season. Kirst had expected to lose money the first two or three years, but the cost of running a pro basketball franchise in Los Angeles in the face of anemic attendance was much more than he expected. Kirst called it quits and sold his talented team to Colorado cable TV entrepreneur Bill Daniels. For the 1970-71 season, the Stars moved to Salt Lake City, Utah.
Record: 33-45, Fifth Place in Western Division
Record: 43-41, Fourth Place in Western Division
1970 Playoff Results:
1970 Western Division Semifinals vs. Dallas Chaparrals (45-39)
Stars won series, 4-2
1970 Western Division Finals vs. Denver Rockets (51-33)
Stars won series, 4-1
1970 ABA Championship vs. Indiana Pacers (59-25)
Pacers won series, 4-2