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HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN BASKETBALL LEAGUE

Compiled by Robert Bradley, with special thanks to Steve Dimitry, Roger Meyer
and Dick Pfander for their many contributions
The impetus for the American Basketball League occurred during the summer of
1960 when Bob Short moved his National Basketball Association franchise, the
Minneapolis Lakers, to Los Angeles for the 1960-61 season. Abe Saperstein,
owner of the Harlem Globetrotters who 's team had frequently performed as the
opening game for NBA teams to bolster attendance throughout the 1950's, felt
that he had been promised the NBA franchise in Los Angeles, and in response,
announced the formation of a rival league, the American Basketball League in
March of 1961, with the league to begin play in October of 1961 with the
season split into two halves.
The charter eight members of the league included Saperstein's own Chicago
Majors, the Cleveland Pipers, a former Amateur Athletic Union industrial
league club owned by a group of investors headed by a young George
Steinbrenner, Art Kim's Hawaii Chiefs, Ken Krueger's Kansas City Steers,
Len Corbosiero's Los Angeles Jets, Lenny Lipman's Pittsburgh Renaissance
(known simply as the Pittsburgh Rens), George McKeon's San Francisco Saints
and the Washington Tapers (another former industrial league team owned
by the Technical Tape Corporation and Paul Cohen). Saperstein installed
himself as the league's commissioner, setting up a conflict of interests which
would the tarnish the league's leagues credibility, as would his involvement
in the ownership structure of other ABL franchises.
Only a handful of established NBA players joined the league, one of them being
Boston Celtics' star guard Bill Sharman, who after failing in an attempt to
become the head coach of a proposed Pittsburgh NBA franchise elected to become
the coach of the ABL's Los Angeles team (Sharman would become the only coach
to win professional basketball titles in three different leagues, winning with
Cleveland of the ABL in 1962, the Los Angeles Stars of the ABA in 1971 and the
Los Angeles Lakers of the NBA in 1972). In Cleveland, John McLendon, who had
enjoyed great success as a college and AAU coach, led the Pipers, becoming the
first African-American coach of a professional basketball team. Joining
McLendon and Sharman as the league's coaches were former pro players Andy
Phillip (Chicago), Red Rocha (Hawaii), Jack McMahon (Kansas City), Neil
Johnston (Pittsburgh) and Stan Stutz (Washington) and college coach Phil
Woolpert (San Francisco).
No big-name played were enticed to jump from the NBA, but a few established
players joined the league, including Syracuse's Dick Barnett who signed with
Cleveland and New York's Kenny Sears who signed with San Francisco. Larry
Seigfried was the only notable NBA draft choice to sign with the league as he
joined Cleveland. Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, a member of Saperstein's
Globetrotters and a former New York Knick, returned to play for Chicago, and
former Syracuse and Fort Wayne star George Yardley signed with Los Angeles.
Another source of talent for the league was the list of players banned by the
NBA for perceived transgressions while in college. Among the blacklisted
players to join the ABL were Connie Hawkins of Pittsburgh (from Iowa), Tony
Jackson of Chicago (St. John's) and Bill Spivey of Hawaii (Kentucky). The bulk
of the ABL's players came from the Eastern League (the forerunner of today's
Continental Basketball Association) and AAU teams.
During the season, Washington moved to New York, where they had been located
as an AAU team, and Los Angeles folded during the first half of the season due
to financial problems, with Sharman moving on to Cleveland as coach, filling
the position which had been left vacant when McLendon resigned due to
Steinbrenner's interference.
Hawkins (27.5 PPG, 13.3 RPG, .510 FG%) was named the ABL Most Valuable Player,
with Dan Swartz of New York (24.8 PPG, 9.0 RPG), Bill Bridges (21.4, PPG, 13.4
RPG) , Larry Staverman of Kansas City (17.5 PPG, 8.8 RPG) and Barnett (26.2
PPG) joining him on the All-ABL First Team and Johnny Cox of Cleveland (18.5
PPG, 8.6 RPG) , Sears (17.7 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 4.4 APG), Spivey of Hawaii (22.7
PPG, 11.2 RPG), Nick Mantis of Kansas City (14.6 PPG) and Jackson (17.5 PPG)
and Hershell Turner of Chicago (16.5 PPG) forming the All-ABL Second Team.
On April 9 Cleveland edged Kansas City 106-102 to win the best-of-five ABL
Championship Series three games to two. After winning the league championship,
Cleveland shocked the basketball world by signing Ohio State All-American
Jerry Lucas to a two-year, $50,000 contract. Lucas brought an impressive
resume with him: not only was he one of the key members of the 1960 Olympic
team and leader of Ohio State's NCAA championship team of 1960-61, he had been
named player of the year in 1961, NCAA tournament MVP in 1960 and 1961,
All-American three times (1960, 1961 and 1962), leading the NCAA in rebounding
twice (1960-61 and 1961-62) and field goal percentage three times (1959-60,
1960-61 and 1961-62) with career averages of 24.3 points, 17.2 rebounds and a
62.4 % field goal percentage. Soon after the signing, the ABL and NBA held
discussions about a merger of the two leagues, but in July the NBA announced
that Cleveland would be joining the league as an expansion franchise at a cost
of $400,000 (including a $100,000 indemnity to Cincinnati who held the NBA
rights to Lucas). The ABL quickly filed a lawsuit blocking the Pipers from
joining the established league.
Some of the league's losses were substantial. Saperstein's Globetrotters were
being scheduled on many occasions in an opening game in an effort to boost
attendance. Barnett was forced back to Syracuse by a court order, and
Steinbrenner's Cleveland franchise dropped out of the league, taking Lucas
along with them. A plan for a franchise to play in Denver never reached
fruition.
The 1962-63 season began with three relocated franchises as the New York
Tapers had moved again, becoming the Philadelphia Tapers, the San Francisco
Saints became the Oakland Oaks and the Hawaii Chiefs became the Long Beach
Chiefs. Three teams returned from the 1961-62 season - Chicago, Kansas City
(now coached by Johnny Dee) and Pittsburgh, with the league now reduced to six
teams.
The league continued operations until suddenly, on December 31, it ceased
operations, claiming losses of $1 million in 1961-62 and $250,000 in 1962-63.
Kansas City, which had the league's best record, 22-9 at the time, was
declared league champion by Saperstein. Oakland, Long Beach, Kansas City and
Pittsburgh considered continuing with a reorganized four-team league, but
their plans fell through and the brief tenure of the ABL ended at that point. 
The top ABL players scattered throughout basketball, with Hawkins joining the
Globetrotters and Bridges joining the NBA's St. Louis Hawks.
The only lasting impression made by the league rested in two innovative rule
changes: a three-point field goal, which would later be adopted by the
American Basketball Association and NBA itself, and a widened free throw lane
(adopting the Olympic-sized key), which the NBA soon copied.
ABL MEMBERSHP CHRONOLOGY 1961-62 - 1962-63
1961-62
In-  Chicago Majors        1961-62 - 1962-63 [charter franchise]
     Cleveland Pipers      1961-62           [charter franchise]
     Hawaii Chiefs         1961-62           [charter franchise]
     Kansas City Steers    1961-62 - 1962-63 [charter franchise]
     Los Angeles Jets      1961-62           [charter franchise]
     New York Tapers       1961-62           [formerly Washington Tapers, moved
                                              during season]
     Pittsburgh Rens       1961-62 - 1962-63 [charter franchise]
     San Francisco Saints  1961-62           [charter franchise]
     Washington Tapers     1961-62           [charter franchise]
Out- Los Angeles Jets                        [disbanded during season]
     Washington Tapers                       [to New York Tapers during season]
1962-63
In-  Long Beach Chiefs     1962-63           [formerly Hawaii Chiefs]
     Oakland Oaks          1962-63           [formerly San Francisco Saints]
     Philadelphia Tapers   1962-63           [formerly New York Tapers]
Out- Cleveland Pipers                        [disbanded]
     Hawaii Chiefs                           [to Long Beach Chiefs]
     New York Tapers                         [to Philadelphia Tapers]
     San Francisco Saints                    [to Oakland Oaks]


ABL FRANCHISES BY SEASON 1961-62 - 1962-63
CHM - Chicago Majors [Chicago, IL]             1961-62 - 1962-63
CLP - Cleveland Pipers [Cleveland, OH]         1961-62
HAW - Hawaii Chiefs [Honolulu, HI]             1961-62
KCS - Kansas City Steers [Kansas City, MO]     1961-62 - 1962-63
LAJ - Los Angeles Jets [Los Angeles, CA]       1961-62
LBC - Long Beach Chiefs [Long Beach, CA]       1962-63
NYT - New York Tapers [New York, NY]           1961-62
OKO - Oakland Oaks [Oakland, CA]               1962-63
PHT - Philadelphia Tapers [Philadelphia, PA]   1962-63
PRN - Pittsburgh Rens [Pittsburgh, PA]         1961-62 - 1962-63
SFS - San Francisco Saints [San Francisco, CA] 1961-62
WST - Washington Tapers [Washington, DC]       1961-62
1961-62 - CHM  CLP* HAW* KCS  LAJ# NYT* PRN  SFS*
1962-63 - CHN  KCS  LBC  OKO  PHT  PRN
Notes:
* - franchise disbanded or relocated after season
# - frachise disbanded or relocated during season
ABL ARENAS 1961-62 - 1962-63
CHM- Chicago International Amphitheater, Chicago, IL 1961-62
CLP- Cleveland Arena, Cleveland, OH 1961-62
     Public Hall, Cleveland, OH 1961-62
     Baldwin-Wallace Gymnasium, Berea, OH 1961-62
HAW- Honolulu City Auditorium, Honolulu, HI 1961-62
     Hilo Civic Center, Hilo, HI 1961-62
KCS- Municipal Auditorium, Kansas City, MO 1961-62 - 1962-63
     Memorial Hall, Kansas City, KS
LBC- Long Beach Sports Arena, Long Beach, CA 1961-62
LAJ- Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, Los Angeles, CA 1961-62
     Olympic Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA 1961-62
NYT- Long Island Arena, Commack, NY 1961-62
OKO- Oakland Auditorium, Oakland, CA 1961-62
PHT- Convention Hall, Philadelphia, PA 1962-63
PRN- Pittsburgh Civic Arena, Pittsburgh, PA 1961-62 - 1962-63
SFS- San Francisco Civic Auditorium, San Francisco, CA 1961-62
     Cow Palace, Daily City, CA 1961-62
WST- Washington Coliseum, Washington, DC 1961-62
ABL YEARLY STANDINGS 1961-62 - 1962-63
1961-62 ABL           -- First Half--    --Second Half--    -----Total-----
Eastern Division       W   L  Pct.  GB    W   L  Pct.  GB    W   L  Pct.  GB
Cleveland Pipers      24  18  .571  ..   21  18  .538  ..   45  36  .556  ..
Pittsburgh Rens       23  19  .548   1   18  21  .462   3   41  40  .506   4
Chicago Majors        18  26  .409   7   21  18  .538  ..   39  44  .470   7
Wash/NY Tapers        14  28  .333  10   17  22  .436   4   31  50  .448  14
Western Division       W   L  Pct.  GB    W   L  Pct.  GB    W   L  Pct.  GB
Kansas City Steers    28  12  .700  ..   26  13  .667  ..   54  25  .684  ..
San Francisco Saints  19  17  .528   7   19  21  .475   7.5 38  38  .500  14.5
Hawaii Chiefs         13  28  .317  15.5 16  25  .390  11   29  53  .354  26.5
Los Angeles Jets*     24  15  .615  ..   ..  ..  ....  ..   ..  ..  ....  ..
*Los Angeles disbanded 10Jan62
ABL FIRST HALF PLAYOFFS
12Jan62 Kansas City 106, Cleveland 93 at KCS
13Jan62 Cleveland 98, Kansas City 87 at CLP
14Jan62 Kansas City 120, Cleveland 104 at KCS
ABL SECOND HALF PLAYOFFS
ABL PRELIMINARY ROUND
(Single elimination- Chicago and Cleveland drew first round byes)
29Mar62 San Francisco 107, Pittsburgh 103 (OT) at PRN
29Mar62 New York 125, Hawaii 116 (OT) at PRN
ABL QUARTERFINALS
30Mar62 Cleveland 117, San Francisco 112 at CLP
30Mar62 New York 115, Chicago 108 at CLP
ABL SEMIFINALS
31Mar62 Cleveland 107, New York 84 at KCS
ABL FINALS
(Kansas City drew a bye to the ABL Finals)
1Apr62 Kansas City 126, Cleveland 101 at KCS
3Apr62 Kansas City 118, Cleveland 82 at KCS
5Apr62 Cleveland 130, Kansas City 114 at CLP
7Apr62 Cleveland 100, Kansas City 98 at CLP
9Apr62 Cleveland 106, Kansas City 102 at KCS
1962-63 ABL           W   L  Pct.  GB
Kansas City Steers   22   9  .710  ..
Long Beach Chiefs    16   8  .667   2.5
Pittsburgh Rens      12  10  .545   5.5
Oakland Oaks         11  14  .440   8
Philadelphia Tapers  10  18  .357  10.5
Chicago Majors        8  20  .286  12.5
The ABL disbanded 31Dec62 with Kansas City declared league champions


ABL YEARLY STATISTICAL LEADERS 1961-62 - 1962-63
1961-62 ABL SCORING LEADERS
Player, Team          GP   Pnts   PPG
Connie Hawkins, PRN   78  2,145  27.5
Bill Spivey, HAW      78  1,773  22.7
Dan Swartz, WST/NYT   70  1,739  24.8
Bill Bridges, KCS     79  1,697  21.4
Roger Kaiser, WST/NYT 80  1,556  19.4
John Cox, CLP         80  1,482  18.5
Jim Francis, SFS      73  1,395  19.1
Larry Staverman, KCS  79  1,387  17.5
Kenny Sears, SFS      75  1,330  17.7
Dick Barnett, CLP     50  1,314  26.2
1962-63 ABL SCORING LEADERS
Player, Team          GP Pnts   PPG
Bill Bridges, KCS     29  849  29.2
Larry Staverman, KCS  31  649  20.9
Bill Spivey, LBC      24  542  22.5
Sy Blye, PHT          28  496  17.7
Kelly Coleman, CHM    26  494  19.0
Fred LaCour, OKO      25  494  19.7
Roger Kaiser, PHT     27  467  17.2
Tony Jackson, CHM     27  464  17.1
Maury King, KCS       31  456  14.7
Ron Horn, LBC         24  450  18.7
Ranked by total points scored
ABL ALL-TIME LEADERS
SCORING
Player, Teams                 GP  Pnts   PPG
Connie Hawkins, PRN           94  2592  27.6
Bill Bridges, KCS            108  2546  23.6
Bill Spivey, HAW/LBC         102  2315  22.7
Larry Staverman, KCS         110  2036  18.5
Roger Kaiser, WST/NYT/PHT    107  2023  18.9
Sy Blye, WST/NYT/PHT         109  1797  16.6
Dan Swartz, WST/NYT           70  1739  24.8
Tony Jackson, CHM             99  1724  17.4
Roger Taylor, WST/NYT/PHT    107  1596  14.9
Kelly Coleman, CHM           103  1591  15.4
Bucky Bolyard, PTR-CHM       103  1515  14.7
John Cox, CLP                 80  1482  18.5
Hershell Turner, CHM          99  1439  14.5
Jim Francis, SFS              73  1395  19.1
Gene Tormohlen, KCS          106  1380  13.0
Phil Rollins, PRN             97  1332  13.7
Ken Sears, SF                 75  1330  17.7
Dick Barnett, CLP             50  1314  26.2
Frank Burgess, HAW            80  1229  15.3
Herb Lee, HAW                 84  1193  14.2
Nick Mantis, KCS              77  1129  14.6
Jack Adams, WST/NYT           82  1123  13.6
Walt Mangham, PRN            103  1067  10.4
Maury King, KCS              109  1066   9.8
Bruce Spraggins, WST/NYT/PHT 105  1023   9.7
REBOUNDS
Player, Team                  GP   Reb   RPG
Bill Bridges, KCS            108  1496  13.9
Connie Hawkins, PRN           94  1243  13.2
Gene Tormohlen, KCS          106  1210  11.9
Bill Spivey, HAW/LBC         102  1092  10.7
Larry Staverman, KCS         110   956   8.7
Ben Warley, CLP/LBC           96   943   9.8
Sy Blye, WST/NYT/PHT         109   905   8.3
Leroy Wright, WST/NYT/PHT    106   763   7.1
Jim Francis, SFS              73   760  10.4
Kelly Coleman, CHM           103   749   7.2
ASSISTS
Player, Team                 GP  Ast  APG
Roger Taylor, WST/NYT/PHT   107  457  4.3
Maury King, KCS             109  424  3.9
Phil Rollins, PRN            97  381  3.9
Gene Brown, SFS/OKO          94  360  3.8
Ken Sears, SFS               75  347  4.6
Whitey Bell, SFS             71  322  4.7
Win Wilfong, KCS             97  312  3.2
Roger Kaiser, WST/NYT/PHT   107  307  2.9
Larry Staverman, KCS        110  304  2.8
Bucky Bolyard, PRN-CHM      103  286  2.8
Ranked by total assists
ABL AWARD WINNERS 1961-62 -1962-63
ALL-ABL
1961-62
First Team              Second Team
Bill Bridges, KCS       Herschell Turner, CHM
Larry Staverman, KCS    John Cox, CLP
Connie Hawkins, PRN     Bill Spivey, HAW
Dan Swartz, WST/NYT     Nick Mantis, KCS
Dick Barnett, CLP       Ken Sears, SFS
                        Tony Jackson, CHM
ABL MOST VALUABLE PLAYER
1961-62 - Connie Hawkins, PRN

ABL COACHES
              1961-62                                  1962-63
CHM           Andy Phillip                             Ron Sobieszczyk
CLP           John McLendon/Bill Sharman               .....
HAW/LBC       Red Rocha                                Al Brightman
KCS           Jack McMahon                             John Dee
LAJ           Bill Sharman                             .....
NYT/WST/PHT   Stan Stutz                               Mario Perri
PRN           Neil Johnston                            Neil Johnston
SFS/OKO       Phil Woolpert/Kevin O'Shea/Al Brightman  Ermer Robinson