Friday, December 3, 2010

What If There Had Been an ABA-NBA Finals?

Having done this for the AFL and the NFL, I move on to basketball.

1968: With the AFL-NFL World Championship Game (soon to be called the Super Bowl) already having been played twice, the Pittsburgh Pipers, newly-crowned champions of the American Basketball Association, challenge the National Basketball Association Champion Boston Celtics to a best-4-out-of-7 "World Series of Basketball."

Big mistake: Bill Russell and company shut down Connie Hawkins, and the Celtics take the Pipers in 4 straight.

1969: Rick Barry and the Oakland Oaks put up a better fight, but the Celtics still win the series in 5. Bill Russell retires a "World Champion."

1970: Flush with their glorious win over the Los Angeles Lakers for their first NBA title, the New York Knickerbockers get surprised by the ABA Champion Indiana Pacers. Captain and center Willis Reed missing the first 2 games doesn't help. But when the series goes out to Indianapolis, the Knicks take over, and win the series in Game 7 at a raucous Madison Square Garden.

1971: This one also goes to 7 games, but the Milwaukee Bucks of Oscar Robertson and Lew Alcindor (it will be another year before he changes his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) beat the Utah Stars, coached by former Celtic star Bill Sharman (who then moves on to the Lakers) and led on the court by Willie Wise and Zelmo Beaty.

1972: The Lakers, having gone on a 33-game winning streak (still the longest ever in North American major league sports) and won an NBA-record 69 games (since broken), sweep the Pacers in 4 straight.

1973: The Knicks make it 6 straight wins by the NBA over the ABA, defeating the Pacers in 6 games.

1974: Finally, the ABA wins, as Julius "Doctor J" Erving, and rookie "Super" John Williamson lead the Long Island-based New York Nets to a stunning victory over John Havlicek, Dave Cowens and the Boston Celtics. Dr. J's 42-point performance in Game 7 at the Boston Garden stuns the sports world, and talks of a merger between the two leagues can finally be taken seriously.

1975: The Louisville-based Kentucky Colonels make it 2 straight, beating the Oakland-based Golden State Warriors in 5 games.

1976: The Nets make it 3 in a row, beating the Celtics again, this time in 6 games.

The merger happens. The Knicks demand a huge sum from the Nets for "territorial indemnification." It's either sell Dr. J off, or not be let into the NBA even though they've won 2 of the last 3 ABA and World Championships. A compromise is struck: The Nets' owners will receive Gulf + Western stock, thus making them part-owners of the Knicks, Rangers, and the Madison Square Garden Corporation; while the Nets' players are dispersed. Erving goes to the Philadelphia 76ers, and the teams that enter the NBA from the ABA are the Colonels, the Pacers, the Denver Nuggets and the San Antonio Spurs.

2002: The Lakers beat the Pacers in the NBA Finals for the 2nd time in 3 years.

2003: The Spurs beat the Colonels in the NBA Finals. The Pistons win it all the next year against the Lakers, but in 2005 will fall to the Spurs again.

Meanwhile, Bruce Ratner is looking to buy an NBA team, but he can't get one. The Seattle SuperSonics go to Clay Bennett, while Ratner's bid to buy the New Orleans Hornets is scuttled because their city is determined to keep them as a rallying point after Hurricane Katrina.

Ratner wants to build a new arena in Brooklyn, but can't get anyone to play there. He comes close in 2008, but the Kentucky Colonels get a deal to build the KFC Yum! Center (seriously, that's the building's RL name, as Louisville-based Yum! Brands is the owner of Kentucky Fried Chicken, Taco Belland Pizza Hut), and move out of old Freedom Hall.

Ratner appeals to the NBA to grant him an expansion franchise, which he would give the old name of the New York Nets, but so far, no luck.


I will conclude this series with the WHA and the NHL at a later date.

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