Basketball fans old enough may remember the American Basketball Association – the flamboyant startup league that played with a red, white and blue basketball and merged with the National Basketball Association in 1976.
For those who weren’t keeping score, the ABA was revived as a semipro league in 1999. Now, a Hollywood horror film director and producer – along with the son of ABA and NBA legend Julius “Dr. J” Erving – are looking to get it flying high again.
Deon Taylor, whose credits include various B movies, and the basketball star’s son recently took an undisclosed minority interest in the current version of the ABA, which has 50 teams playing in markets as small as Aberdeen, Texas, and as large as New York.
Locally, there’s the Los Angeles Slam, which actually plays in Corona, and the SoCal Swish, whose home court is the West Los Angeles College gym.
Taylor said that with an NBA lockout looming, it looked like a good time to try to improve the fortunes of the struggling ABA, which features a mix of former college players looking to increase their pro prospects, overseas players and former NBA players – all willing to play for just a few thousand dollars a season.
Taylor’s plan is to expand the league even further to 80 franchises – it costs $20,000 to secure a franchise – and then have the top 16 teams invited to an ABA Classics playoff similar to the NCAA basketball tournament, with the winning team splitting $10 million in prize money.
“The new ABA will be high-stakes basketball,” said Taylor, who played professionally in Europe.
In order for the plan to work, however, the league needs to get some sort of television contract, and that’s where the son of Dr. J may help. J. Erving, who runs a New York sports marketing firm, declined comment, except to confirm his investment.
Taylor said he believes the final broadcast product could be much more interesting than a typical hoops game, with multiple camera angles, music and other treatments used in movies and television.
“The current league was lacking innovation and infrastructure that made the original ABA successful,” he said.
Oh, and yes, the league still does play with a red, white and blue ball.
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