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Since George Mikan was the ABA's first Commissioner, the ABA's league office was located in Minneapolis (in the old Farmers and Mechanics Bank Building). Therefore, it made sense to place a team in the city as well.
The franchise was named the "Minnesota Muskies" after a popular Minnesota game fish. The team put together a talented group of players. The Muskies first ever draft pick was Mel Daniels out of New Mexico. Daniels had already been drafted in the NBA's first round by the Cincinnati Royals. But Daniels took a gamble on the new league and signed with Minnesota. Daniels would become one of the ABA's most dominating centers for years to come. The Muskies also found and signed Donnie Freeman, a 6'3" guard out of Illinois. Freeman also became a perennial ABA All-Star. Les "Big Game" Hunter gave the team a forward who could score when needed. These three players, Daniels, Freeman and Hunter, all played in the first ABA All-Star game in Indianapolis. Another key player for the Muskies was Ron Perry, a guard out of Virginia Tech. Perry was the least heralded of the Muskie stars, but observers noted that he single-handedly won several games for the team. Their coach was Jim Pollard--a former teammate of George Mikan with the NBA's Minneapolis Lakers.
The Muskies came out of the gate quickly with their superior talent. For the first few months of the ABA's first season, Minnesota and Indiana staged a heated battle for first place in the Eastern Division. After the first half of the season, the Pacers faded, and the Eastern Division battle was between the Muskies and Connie Hawkins' Pittsburgh Pipers. Pittsburgh ended up winning the division crown, but Minnesota still won 50 games. Daniels led the league in rebounding with a 15.6 rpg average. He also finished sixth in the league in scoring. Freeman ended up averaging 16.3 points per game, and Hunter averaged 17.6 points per game.
The Muskies defeated the Kentucky Colonels in the first round of the playoffs, but succumbed to the eventual champion Pipers in the second round. While Minnesota was generally successful on the court, they were terrible at the gate. Despite playing in a beautiful and spacious arena (the Metropolitan Sports Center), they had difficulty attracting fans. According to Basketball Weekly newspaper, the Muskies only managed to attract 100 season ticket holders. The ABA record books say that the Muskies averaged 2,800 people per game. However, given the low season ticket base the Muskies had to work with, that number is obviously padded. It is estimated that the Muskies lost $400,000 in their only season.
For their second season, the Muskies planned to play nine home games elsewhere in Minnesota, to boost attendance. A lucrative television contract was also in place. However, Muskies management eventually decided to move the team. The "promising" new location for the franchise was Miami, where the team became the Miami Floridians for the 1968-69 season. Mel Daniels, rookie of the year in 1967-68, was sold to the Pacers in order to pay off debts--a deal that turned out to be one of the worst in ABA history.
Interestingly enough, the Pittsburgh Pipers dared to take up where the Muskies left off, moving to Minneapolis for the ABA's second season.
Record: 50-28, Second Place in Eastern Division
1968 Playoff Results:
1968 Eastern Division Semifinals vs. Kentucky Colonels (36-42)
Muskies won series, 3-2
1968 Eastern Division Finals vs. Pittsburgh Pipers (54-24)
Pipers won series, 4-1