Monday, May 28, 2012
1970s: The NBA vs. the ABA: Why the NBA Needed the ABA
The 1970s NBA or National Basketball Association for people who don't follow the NBA closely. Was coming off one of the best decades, not only in its history but one of the best decades in sports history. The NBA was dominated by the Boston Celtics and the Western Conference was dominated by the Los Angeles Lakers, the Celtics win nine NBA Finals in that decade and beat the Lakers like five times in that decade. The Celtics-Lakers Rivalry didn't start in the 1980s, with Legend Bird and Magic Johnson, that rivalry started in the early 1960s, you had a league surrounded by great players and Head Coaches. Players like Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, John Havlicheck, Oscar Robertson and others, so the 1960s was a great decade for the NBA, as well as for its popularity. By the early 1970s, the Celtics were no longer dominant and the Lakers were getting older, even though they won the NBA Finals for the first time in 1973. But with a very veteran and aging club trying to finally win their championship.
So the NBA was in transition from the 1960s, where you had several great teams, including one of the best ever in the 1967 Philadelphia 76ers, led by Center Wilt Chamberlain, that won the NBA Finals that year. Going from a decade where there were several great teams each year, to a decade that maybe didn't have one great team for the entire season. The 1973 Lakers being an exception to that, a team that had three Hall of Famers on it and won 69 games, had like a thirty game winning streak. The 1975 as I call them the Oakland Warriors, that had a great player in Forward Rick Berry, but that team wasn't great and beat a better team in the Washington Bullets to win the NBA Finals. Unfortunately American sports fans need to see great teams every year, they need to see teams that simply dominant their competition. For them to appreciate the sport they claim to love, otherwise they won't appreciate the teams they follow.
We have a hard time as fans appreciating good players for being good. Unless they are great and dominant, we simply don't appreciate them for what they are. Thats what happened in the 1970s in the NBA, the quality of play was still very good but it lacked the dominance and greatness, that it had in the 1960s and 1980s. And NBA fans didn't support their teams and the league that they had, to the point by the late 1970s, the NBA Finals were seen Tape Delay TV, after the late news. The ABA or American Basketball Association changed that, not by itself but brought Pro Basketball to more people in more cities and markets. That never had an NBA Franchise before, like Denver, Indianapolis, New Orleans, San Antonio and other cities and other people who were shut out from NBA Basketball. Got to see how great a game NBA Basketball was and how many great players were out there, to the point that most of the ABA Franchises were able to merge into the NBA.
Its really Earvin Magic Johnson, Larry Legend Bird and of course Commissioner David Stern, who brought the NBA back to good health. But the ABA contributed to that and showed them that they didn't have to be so Conservative, that they could be flashy, highlight their great players and their great teams. And still represent the game of Pro Basketball very well and is something that today's NBA has gotten away from.