INDIANAPOLIS – The colorful legacy of the American Basketball Association will be celebrated at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on April 7, 2018, when the ABA’s 50th reunion is held. All proceeds will go to the Dropping Dimes Foundation, an Indianapolis-based charity that assists former ABA players, coaches, and team employees in need of financial or health care assistance.
The event will bring a retro ABA All-Star weekend feel to downtown Indianapolis. Many of the league’s greatest players and coaches are scheduled to attend, including former Pacers legend George McGinnis and legendary Pacers coach Slick Leonard, Julius Erving, Spencer Haywood, Dan Issel, George Gervin, and Artis Gilmore. NBC announcer Bob Costas will serve as master of ceremonies. During the program, the list of the ABA’s all-time 50 greatest players will be announced, as voted on by a media panel.
Leonard, who coached the Pacers to three ABA championships, looks forward to honoring a unique league with unforgettable players and personalities who left a mark on pro basketball history.
“(The ABA) was just a hell of a lot of fun, a hell of a lot of fun,” said Leonard in a news release. “And I’m telling you this reunion will be more of the same. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”
The ABA, which began in 1967 with the Pacers and 10 other teams, lasted nine seasons. It ended in 1976, when the league disbanded and four franchises were absorbed into the NBA – the Pacers, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs and New Jersey Nets, who have since relocated to Brooklyn.
The ABA was beset with financial problems from start to finish, competing with the more-established and stable NBA. But the talent and excitement of ABA basketball was undeniable. With its signature red-white-and-blue basketball, the ABA was innovative and flashy, featuring the 3-point shot and an All-Star slam dunk contest before the NBA implemented them. The league featured Hall of Fame players like Erving, Issel, David Thompson, Moses Malone, Rick Barry, and three former Pacers players who made the Hall of Fame – McGinnis, Roger Brown and Mel Daniels.
Brown and Daniels are both deceased, but they would be thrilled the ABA 50th reunion is being held in Indianapolis, says Dropping Dimes Foundation co-founder and CEO Scott Tarter.
“The Dropping Dimes foundation was always something Mel wanted to get going,” Tarter said. “He was a great friend, and so adamant about this reunion. This event is not just about the stars. It’s going to be about all the players. We’re going to try to bring back as many as possible, and we’re expecting anywhere from 100 to 200 former ABA players to attend. It’s about showing these guys some love and respect for what they did for the game.”
When the ABA dissolved, if left the players with a meager pension -- $60 a month for every year of service with a minimum of three years. That has created a financial hardship for some former ABA players, coaches, and employees.
“They are the only group of professional basketball players who have slipped through the cracks,” said Scott Tarter, co-founder and CEO of the Dropping Dimes Foundation.
A VIP reception will be held Friday, April 6, and an online auction is being organized where ABA memorabilia will be available. An autograph session, open to the public, is being planned for April 7th before the official reunion. Tables and individual tickets will go on sale in November and will available for purchase at droppingdimes.org.