Can you believe that twenty-one years have passed? It's not too difficult to remember the ABA's last season, 1975-76. It was a stormy, surreal year -- Baltimore folded before the regular season even started. San Diego and Utah bowed out before Christmas. Virginia barely lasted through the season. Denver roared through the regular season to 60 victories, but succumbed to an emotional Nets team in the last ABA Finals. After that, it was painfully obvious that the ABA was finished. The ABA owners had little bargaining power, but managed to strike a one-sided merger agreement with the skeptical NBA owners in June 1976.
At the time, the mood was one of relief. Finally, the lifelong ABA players like Julius Erving, Artis Gilmore, George Gervin and Ron Boone would get the chance to shine in the "big time." Basic questions remained to be answered. Would Dr. J continue his domination in the NBA? Would any of the four assimilated ABA teams be able to compete with vaunted NBA teams like the Celtics, Lakers, Knicks, or Warriors? With a year's exile from the college draft, would the Nuggets, Nets, Spurs or Pacers even finish above .500?
Twenty-one years later, everything is different. Everyone is nostalgic about the red, white and blue ball. Most basketball fans agree that ABA players were just as good as NBA players (if not significantly better). George Gervin and Julius Erving smile politely when they talk about their NBA years. But they break out into huge grins when remembering their wild ABA days. George Gervin publicly chides the NBA for being the "Slow Man's League." On the other hand, Sports Illustrated calls ABA the "Funkadelic" league that "valued big hair, flashy dunks and second chances."
In June 1997, HBO aired its long-awaited ABA documentary, which received rave reviews. And in late August 1997, ABA fans, players, and personalities gathered at the ABA Reunion in Indianapolis to revisit their fond memories of the league.