Saturday, March 23, 2013

the last book I ever read (The Big O by Oscar Roberston, excerpt thirteen)

from The Big O: My Life, My Times, My Game by Oscar Robertson:

The league expanded to twelve teams in 1966. The next year, in 1967, another league, the American Basketball Association (ABA), announced itself with an expensive booze-filled press conference, and a red, white, and blue basketball. George Mikan, who ran the conference and became the new league’s president, brought a certain amount of credibility with him because of his Hall of Fame career (he was the game’s first towering center) and because of his business acumen. The ABA ran for a raucous, turbulent ten years and transformed the game of basketball in all sorts of ways.

When it started, the ABA was perceived as a rogue, outlaw league, with a wild, freelancing, playground style of game (they could only manage to sign guards and had few quality big men) and that colorful, twirling basketball (someone once said it should be on a seal’s nose). Because the ABA did not have a television contract, they were dependent on ticket sales to stay in business. Their franchises tried everything and anything to get people in the stands. They introduced the three-point basket to the game, the dunk contest, and all-star weekend extravaganzas. Where the NBA was seen as a walk-it-up, pound-the-ball-inside game, the ABA was loose, flying, and freewheeling—all playground moves and three-point bombs. Teams may have folded, moved, or changed ownership constantly, but their front offices also set new standards in promotional creativity: giving out posters at games and thousands (if not millions) of red, white and blue basketballs to children. They also delved into the realm of surreal and bizarre promotions. The Miami Floridians were the first to dress up pretty dancers in tight uniforms and have them perform dance routines, the Indiana Pacers had a cow-milking contest during one of their halftimes, and the New York Nets actually tried a Gerbil Night. The first five hundred fans received a free rodent.

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