The 61-62 ABL vs. NBA teams

The 61-62 ABL vs. NBA teams

Postby Jerry11 » Tue Jun 21, 2016 10:08 pm

This is just hypothetical... but what if a single team from the American Basketball League of 1961-62 had somehow been allowed to join and compete with the NBA in 1962-63, with the best players from that league made available to them ?
Who would be on this ABL team ? Who would likely coach it ? What city like hosts the new team and who might the owners be ?
How well might this team have done in the NBA ?
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Re: The 61-62 ABL vs. NBA teams

Postby rlee » Tue Jun 21, 2016 11:18 pm

These are the 1st & 2nd all-star teams from 61-62:

First Team
Bill Bridges
Larry Staverman
Dan Swartz
Connie Hawkins
Dick Barnett

Second Team: Herschell Turner, Johnny Cox, Bill Spivey, Nick Mantis, Tony Jackson, Kenny Sears
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Re: The 61-62 ABL vs. NBA teams

Postby MCT » Wed Jun 22, 2016 5:29 pm

From what I understand, the Cleveland Pipers actually tried to jump to the NBA for the 1962-63 season, and were stopped from doing so not by the NBA (which was actually interested in bringing them in as an expansion team), but by the ABL. After that there was no going back, so the franchise simply disbanded.

The history of the ABL on the APBR web page also states that there were merger talks between the NBA and ABL after the 1961-62 season. It's hard to know how far they got along, though, and I have a hard time seeing any merger happening that involved every team in the ABL. I think it would have been just a select few teams. I can see the NBA being interested in Cleveland and Kansas City. Both were competitive teams located in decent-sized markets. Pittsburgh is a maybe. The teams in San Francisco and Chicago would be out, because the NBA wanted those markets for existing NBA franchises. And I can't see the NBA having any interest in adding another team in the New York area, where the Tapers had moved during the season, or in Hawaii. The Tapers moved to Philadelphia for 1962-63, a city the NBA was undoubtedly interested in (I don't think the NBA planned on leaving Philly without an NBA team for long after the Warriors moved), but the Syracuse Nationals may have already been eyeing a move there. The NBA would probably have rather seen the Nats move there (eliminating the one remaining really small market in the NBA, and putting an established franchise in a large market that had historically been very successful for pro basketball) than fill it with a team from the ABL.

The scenarios discussed above are obviously different from what Jerry is envisioning (these involve one existing ABL team, or perhaps a limited number of existing ABL teams, jumping leagues, as opposed to a single "ABL super-team" doing so), but it's interesting that they seem to have been real possibilities at the time. Getting back to Jerry's scenario:

The Pipers appear to have signed Jerry Lucas not long after the 1961-62 season ended, so the "ABL super-team" would have presumably had Lucas.

I think the team would have been located in Cleveland. Cleveland was probably the biggest ABL market that the NBA wasn't already in, the team there had been successful on the court (I have no idea how their attendance was), and in real life the NBA apparently seriously considered taking on the Pipers as an expansion team. Going back to what I said earlier, if not Cleveland, then maybe Kansas City, or possibly Pittsburgh as a dark horse.

I think the team would have been coached by Bill Sharman. He was already the coach in Cleveland, he had coached the Pipers to the ABL championship, and was certainly one of the bigger names among the ABL head coaching ranks.

I could see this team being a midrange NBA team right off the bat, with the potential to develop into a competitor depending on how they drafted and managed their roster moving forward. Hawkins, Bridges, Barnett and Lucas would go on to be good NBA players for years to come. Of the players listed in Ray's post, though, there wasn't a whole lot behind those guys. Sears had one or two good seasons left in him, but was nearing the end of the line. Spivey was getting up there in years. Staverman, Swartz, Cox and Mantis would all play in the NBA post-ABL, but none lasted more than a year or two. Jackson may have been good enough to make the NBA had he not been blacklisted, but I don't know that he would have had a career of much more substance than the guys listed in the previous sentence. Turner never played in the NBA, although he did resurface in the 1967-68 ABA. If this team could have access to any player from the 1961-62 ABL, they might have been better off not simply taking all the players on the All-Star teams and instead scooping up guys like John Barnhill, Connie Dierking, Larry Siegfried, and Ben Warley. None of them would ever really develop into stars, but all would prove themselves useful NBA players for several years into the future, giving the team a solid reserve corps.
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Re: The 61-62 ABL vs. NBA teams

Postby rlee » Wed Jun 22, 2016 5:34 pm

I think you are underrating Tony Jackson. Among other things, he was a great long-range shooter.
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Re: The 61-62 ABL vs. NBA teams

Postby MCT » Wed Jun 22, 2016 5:59 pm

MCT wrote:If this team could have access to any player from the 1961-62 ABL,

This is of course, a big "if". I realize that Jerry's original post is asking us to assume that this happens, not give reasons why it couldn't, but a few things would need to be worked out:

1) What would happen to the NBA rights to these players?

When the NBA and ABA merged in 1976, with a few minor exceptions (mostly related to free agency), these rights simply went away. Merging teams kept the players they had, and players from the two other teams that survived all the way to the merger were entered into a dispersal draft. It is my understanding that teams who lost the NBA rights to players could submit a claim to a compensation pool established for this purpose, but the money they received was probably pennies on the dollar. One might simply say, "the NBA would have done the same thing with the ABL", but I'm not so sure.

--The ABA had been around for nine years. The ABL had been around for one. NBA owners may have been less willing to let teams from an upstart league keep players if that league had only been around for a single season.

--At the time of the merger, most of the ABA players whose NBA rights were held by someone were draft picks who had never actually played in the NBA; there were few players in the ABA who had jumped leagues after playing out their option. Many of the players involved had been drafted years before, and the NBA teams that held their rights had moved on without them. Some had been drafted purely for speculative value, or had not been high draft picks in the first place. Not every player was like this (Exhibit A: David Thompson), but losing the rights to those who were may have been easier for NBA teams to swallow. By contrast, the ABL had a number of players who had jumped leagues, and all of the players who were draft picks were from the past year or two. NBA owners may have been less willing to let these players go.

--In 1976, the NBA had been through years of battles with both a rival league and the labor movement. The idea that teams could use the reserve clause to keep players under their thumbs forever had crumbled. That was not so in 1962. I think many NBA owners in 1962 would have taken the attitude that "These players belong to us, period, end of discussion."

The history of the ABL at the APBR web site states that if the Pipers had jumped to the NBA, they would have had to pay an indemnity to the Royals for Jerry Lucas' rights. The Pipers had several other players whose NBA rights probably belonged to someone (Barnett, Warley, Siegfried, Dierking, Barnhill, Cox), but it's not clear to me how they would have been handled.

2) The ABL had a handful of prominent players who had been blacklisted from the NBA due to peripheral involvement in point shaving scandals (e.g., Connie Hawkins, Bill Spivey, Tony Jackson). Would these players have been allowed to move to the NBA, or would any ABL teams that joined the NBA (either as individual teams, or as a single "super-team") been forced to leave them behind?
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