ABA–NBA merger

Cities that hosted NBA (black) and ABA (red) teams at the time of the merger in 1976. The ABA teams in Indianapolis, San Antonio, Denver, and New York (which also hosted the Knicks) joined the NBA, while the remaining ABA teams went defunct.

The ABA–NBA merger was the merger of the American Basketball Association (ABA) with the National Basketball Association (NBA), which after multiple attempts over several years occurred in 1976. The NBA and ABA had entered merger talks as early as 1970, but an antitrust suit filed by the head of the NBA players union, Robertson v. National Basketball Ass'n, blocked the merger until 1976.

As part of the merger agreement, the NBA agreed to accept four of the remaining six ABA teams: the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, New York Nets and San Antonio Spurs. The remaining two ABA teams, the Kentucky Colonels and the Spirits of St. Louis, folded, with their players entering a dispersal draft.

Early attempts at merger

From the very beginning, the ABA hoped to force a merger with the NBA, thus repeating the American Football League (AFL)'s successful effort to force a merger with the National Football League (NFL). According to The NBA Encyclopedia, ABA officials told prospective owners that they could get an ABA team for half of what it cost to get an NBA expansion team at the time. The upstart league's officials confidently predicted that if and when a merger occurred, any surviving owners would see their investment more than double.

In June 1970, only three years after the ABA began play, the NBA owners voted 13–4 to work toward a merger with the ABA.[1][2] Seattle SuperSonics owner Sam Schulman, a member of the ABA–NBA merger committee in 1970, was so ardently eager to merge the leagues that he publicly announced that if the NBA did not accept the merger agreement worked out with the ABA, he would move the SuperSonics from the NBA to the ABA. Schulman also threatened to move his soon-to-be ABA team to Los Angeles to compete directly with the Lakers.[3] The owners of the Dallas Chaparrals (now the NBA's San Antonio Spurs) were so confident of the impending merger that they suggested that the ABA hold off on scheduling and playing a regular season schedule for the 1971–72 season.[4] After the 1970–71 season Basketball Weekly wrote "The American basketball public is clamoring for a merger. So are the NBA and ABA owners, the two commissioners, and every college coach. The war is over. The Armistice will be signed soon".[5][6] The two leagues continued merger discussions and plans through the early and mid-1970s.[7]

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