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The odyssey of the Orbiter Trophy was indeed a strange one. This bizarre trophy was commissioned in 1973 to be "presented annually to the winner of the American Basketball Association regular season series between the Denver Rockets and Utah Stars by Frontier Airlines." The bottom of the trophy was adorned with a crouching basketball player, surrounded by four wooden columns. At the top of these columns, a platform held numerous miniature rockets and stars, crafted in metal. A large red, white and blue basketball towered over these ornaments. Finally, a freshly painted Frontier Airlines model jet was precariously balanced on top of the ABA ball.
During the 1973-74 season, Joe Mullaney's Utah Stars beat Alex Hannum's Denver Rockets 8 out of 11 times, so the trophy traveled to the Salt Palace (above). Of course, the ABA never stayed the same from year to year, and for the next season both teams had new coaches (and Denver had a new nickname!). During the 1974-75 season, Larry Brown's Nuggets beat Bucky Buckwalter's Stars 9 out of 11 times during the regular season, and Nuggets GM Carl Scheer accepted the trophy in Denver's Auditorium Arena (below left). Naturally the metal rockets were replaced with metal Nuggets logos before the presentation.
Neither team won the trophy during the 1975-76 season, because Tom Nissalke's Stars folded only 16 games into the campaign. So where did the Orbiter Trophy end up? It's a mystery.
Denver Rockets History Page
Utah Stars History Page