NBA Trivia: Defunct ABA Teams

By Lorenzo Tanos

Out of all the teams that competed in the American Basketball Association from 1967 to 1976, only four made it to the NBA when the two leagues merged.  In this week's "bonus" team trivia article, we'll be looking at the teams that didn't quite get absorbed by the NBA, as well as those who folded before the NBA-ABA merger took place.

1. True or False – Penny Early, the first and only woman to play in the NBA or ABA, did not play a minute of high school or college basketball.

True.  The 5'3"-112 Early did not play basketball at any level before she was signed by the Kentucky Colonels in one of the ABA and its teams' many publicity stunts in the league's nine-year history.  She played less than a minute in a November 27, 1968 game against the Los Angeles Stars and focused thereafter on her actual career as a jockey and trainer; Early was also the first female jockey in American horse racing history in 1968.

2. What was the Utah Stars' original team nickname and home city, and who was their player who stood out in the 1967-68 season for sinking a record ten three pointers in a game (out of 26 attempts)?

Before they became the Los Angeles, and later the Utah Stars, the team was known as the Anaheim Amigos.  In their inaugural season, the Amigos' lineup featured an obscure AAU standout named Les Selvage.  The 6'1" Missouri native (and alumnus of Truman State University) was the ABA's first "mad bomber", and his 461 three-point attempts in 1967-68 were more than those of all individual ABA teams, except Pittsburgh and, of course, the Amigos.  Despite his proclivity for the long bomb, Selvage averaged only 14 ppg, and was gone from the lineup the next season; he did return very briefly in 1969-70 for the L.A. Stars, playing just four games and averaging a mere 2 ppg in 4.3 minutes an outing.

3. True or False – The Minnesota Muskies of 1967-68 renamed themselves to the Pipers in 1968-69.

False.  Several ABA teams were always on the move in their stay in the league, changing cities when times would get too rough and gate receipts too paltry.  In 1967-68, there was the Pittsburgh Pipers and the Minnesota Muskies, but in 1968-69,those two teams were known as the Minnesota Pipers and Miami Floridians respectively.  You probably recognize the latter team, and if you weren't alive yet in the early '70s, you may have read a thing or two about the Floridians' ball girls, forerunners of today's NBA cheerleaders.  And in case you're wondering about the Minnesota Pipers, they returned to Steeltown in 1969-70, changed their team name to the Condors a year later, and disbanded following the 1971-72 season.

4. Who were the first three coaches of the San Diego Conquistadors, the ill-fated 1972 expansion team that folded after 11 games in the 1975-76 season?

The San Diego Conquistadors/Sails may have gotten kicked around a lot in their ABA run, but they sure had high-profile head coaches early on.  K.C. Jones, the former Boston Celtics point guard turned championship coach, got his coaching start in 1972-73 with the Conquistadors, while fellow Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain took over the following season.  Alex Groza, who could have been a Hall of Famer as well if not for his expulsion from the NBA due to his alleged role in collegiate betting scandals, coached part of the 1974-75 season, going 15-23 before getting replaced by Beryl Shipley.

5. Which famous singer was part-owner of the Oakland Oaks until prior to the 1969-70 season?

Pat Boone, purveyor of inoffensive '50s ballads and a man who hated heavy metal so much he released a big band-style album of rock and metal covers in the '90s, was also a big sports fan, though he ended up losing a lot of money on the Oaks as part-owner. After Boone sold the team, they became the Washington Caps, then finally the Virginia Squires until the 1975-76 season.

6. True or False – The Spirits of St. Louis signed Petersburg HS blue-chipper Moses Malone straight out of high school in 1974.

False.  While Malone's last ABA team was the Spirits of St. Louis (where he played second fiddle in the frontcourt to Marvin Barnes and Mo Lucas), he made his debut with the Utah Stars in 1974-75.  The Spirits' crowded frontcourt led to a sophomore jinx for Malone, but he sure made up for that following the merger, eventually making the Hall of Fame after a brilliant 21-year pro career.

7. Which newly-relocated and renamed ABA team had disbanded prior to the 1975-76 season after just three exhibition games?

Formerly the New Orleans Buccaneers and Memphis Pros/Tams/Sounds, the Baltimore Claws were one of several troubled teams on the verge of collapse ahead of the 1975-76 season.  After three exhibition games, the Claws were shut down by the ABA due to their sorry financial state and a myriad of unpaid bills.  Had they pushed forward in the ABA's last season, the team would have been led by Mel Daniels, Dave Robisch and Stew Johnson, and would have suited up ex-Clemson Tigers guard Skip Wise, who signed with the Claws after being the first freshman to win All-ACC honors.

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