October 2017 marks the 50th Birthday of the American Basketball Association (ABA). The ABA was a professional basketball league that is no longer around, but their impact on today’s NBA is lasting. They gave us the three point line, a larger lane, and with it a more open and fast pace style of play. This year’s defending champs, the Golden State Warriors, are right out of the ABA style. Like it or not, the league changed the game.
Their first commissioner was the NBA’s first legendary big man George Mikan. The league produced such stars George Gervin, Spencer Haywood, Rick Barry, Billy Cunningham, Connie Hawkins, and Julius Erving. Famous coaches Hubie Brown and Larry Brown (no relation) played in the ABA. The league even set a new trend years before it hit the NBA hard when Utah drafted a player straight out of High School, a Virginian from Petersburg named Moses Malone, who went on to a Hall of Fame career.
And speaking of Virginia, we had a team. The Virginia Squires were here from 1971 to 1976. They were considered a regional team, regularly playing games in Hampton, Norfolk, Richmond, and Roanoke. Their infamous claim to fame has to be drafting Julius Erving, popularly known as Dr. J, and George Gervin, known as the Ice Man, but then selling Dr. J’s contract to the Nets after two seasons and then selling the Ice Man’s contract to the Spurs. Both players would go on to Hall of Fame careers with those new teams.
But never mind the Squires past, let’s focus on the future. So here’s my proposal; bring back a professional basketball team to Virginia. Virginia Beach could be a location, they may have been in the running for the Sacramento Kings, but that fell through. Richmond or Charlottesville could be other options. The NBA has enjoyed success with small market teams like the Oklahoma City Thunder, a team big enough to make two blockbuster trades and is now poised to win their first championship. It’s getting too crowded in the Western Conference right now, so one of those teams should pack it up for the east coast. The Kings, Clippers, T-Wolves, Nuggets, are all welcome and it’s not too far-fetched to think they could relocate. The Kings flirted with moving before, the Clippers play in the Lakers stadium, and the T-Wolves and Nuggets don’t get enough love at home, so it’s not hopeless.
For now, we’ll cheer for the Wiz (the team formerly known as the Bullets), watch Semi-Pro (a good film that’s kind of about the ABA and NBA merger), and hope for a return to the day that sees the Virginia Squires running around Virginia.