Skeeter Swift’s dying words: gratitude for a former ABA teammate’s unconditional support

By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (July 4, 2017)
Fourth in a series

The voice is haunting.

It’s an emotional call for gratitude.

It accentuates the brotherly bond between Harley “Skeeter” Swift and Bob Netolicky, former teammates with the Dallas Chaparrals and San Antonio Spurs during the 1972-73 and 1973-74 ABA seasons.

But it’s more than that, really.

It’s about the enduring legacy of the kinship shared by the tight fraternity of many former ABA players who competed during the avante-garde circuit’s memorable run (1967-1976).

The voice pulls at your heart’s strings.

Listen to Swift’s words in a voice mail to Netolicky only days before his death at age 70 on April 20.

Hey roomie, this is Skeeter. I got back from the hospital yesterday. I had to have knee replacement. I’m telling you it sure wore me out. And it’s not a macho thing but you’ve got to stay on top of the exercise and exercises.

“But anyway, I was just calling you and if you’ve a chance, give me a call. If not, I’ll just try to call you later. I hope you’re doing OK. You know, (my wife) Demetria and I, we were just talking last night and we could never (his voice cracks up with emotion) repay you for all that you’ve done for us. And I’ll just wait to hear from you. Bye-bye.

A bit of perspective and general background helps at this point.

Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star effectively summed up Swift’s post-ABA plight in a poignant column in May. Here’s a key passage: “Years ago Swift had turned to Netolicky to help track down his ABA pension. His pension was small but for whatever reason, perhaps an oversight, he’d never received a penny. Netolicky connected Swift with the San Antonio-based pension administrator, who sent Swift a check for back payments. These were hard years for Swift. He had lymphoma. And a stroke. Alzheimer’s. Three hip-replacement surgeries. One knee replaced, with another needing replacement when Skeeter Swift died…”

Like many of his ABA peers, Swift, a shooting guard out of George Washington High School in Alexandria, Virginia and East Tennessee State University, didn’t receive a steady, reasonable pension from the NBA in his latter years despite an agreement promised by the NBA in 1976, when the Indiana Pacers, New York Nets, San Antonio Spurs and Denver Nuggets were absorbed by the NBA and the ABA folded. The agreement said in part that ABA players who had three years or more of service in the league were eligible for the pension.

Swift was the 31st overall pick in the 1969 NBA Draft, selected by the Milwaukee Bucks. Instead, his pro career began with the ABA’s New Orleans Buccaneers, and he went on to also play for the Memphis Pros, Pittsburgh Condors, Chaparrals and Spurs. He averaged 11.6 points per game during his ABA years and retired in 1974. He was a 2010 inductee into the  Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. Years earlier, Swift had coached at Oak Hill Academy in Virginia and, according to published reports, compiled a 61-1 record at the prep hoop powerhouse. (Carmelo Anthony, Rod Strickland and Jerry Stackhouse are among the school’s basketball alumni.)

Listen to Swift once more.

I hope you’re doing OK. You know, Demetria and I, we were just talking last night and we could never (his voice cracks up with emotion) repay you for all that you’ve done for us.

It’s a call to action.

The National Basketball Players Association, led by newly re-elected president Chris Paul, ought to be the first to recognize this. Its (mostly) millionaire members have the ability to exert persistent pressure on owners and commissioner Adam Silver to change the Collective Bargaining Agreement to set aside some additional funds for former ABA players.

There are billions of dollars going to contemporary players for contracts, including Stephen Curry’s new five-year, $201 million deal with the Golden State Warriors. Billions more are guaranteed to the league’s owners for TV rights.

The league isn’t hurting; it’s thriving beyond anyone’s wildest expectations.

But the quality of life of former ABA players — men who helped pave the way for the NBA’s adoption of the fast-paced, run-and-gun, 3-point shooting style that thrived in the influential ABA — has not kept pace with ex-NBA players’, including pre-1965 NBA players who received a large pension increase in 2007. As reported on ESPN.com, “according to an NBA news release, the pre-1965 players will now receive $3,600 a per year of service, compared to the $2,400 per year of service they received under the previous pension program.”

A former ABA player with a minimum three years of service is still only eligible to receive $180 month in pension from the NBA.

Netolicky confirmed the financial figures this week.

“The current NBA pension for players playing after 1965 is, if you retire at age 62 you receive approximately $1,800 per month per year of service,” Netolicky wrote in an email. “A six-year player receives approximately $10,800 per month or $129,000 per year. The same six-year ABA player pension is only $360 per month or $4,320 per year. As part of the merger agreement we were promised the same pension as the NBA.
In the new collective bargaining agreement they are going to raise the NBA pension even higher.

“All we are asking is to receive at least what the old pre-65 players are getting.”

Common decency and fairness are the two pillars of the former ABA players’ proposal to the NBA.

As summarized in an April petition from the Retired ABA Players to the NBA and NPBA, the historic facts were stated as follows: “In the 1976 Stipulation and Settlement Agreement, the Spurs, Nets, Nuggets and Pacers promised to provide former ABA players the same pension rights and privileges equivalent to that provided to NBA players.

“As understood from the terms of the Settlement Agreement, the former ABA players would receive the benefits of a Pension Fund that would be equivalent to the NBA Pension Fund in all regards.”

That’s never been the case across the board — and explained in greater details in parts 1-3 of this article series below.

Which brings us back to Swift’s haunting voice.

Hey roomie, this is Skeeter. I got back from the hospital yesterday. I had to have knee replacement. I’m telling you it sure wore me out. And it’s not a macho thing but you’ve got to stay on top of the exercise and exercises.

“But anyway, I was just calling you and if you’ve a chance, give me a call. If not, I’ll just try to call you later. I hope you’re doing OK. You know, (my wife) Demetria and I, we were just talking last night and we could never (his voice cracks up with emotion) repay you for all that you’ve done for us. And I’ll just wait to hear from you. Bye-bye.

The NBA has an opportunity to improve the quality of life for the surviving members of a special fraternity: 149 ABA players at last count.

A modest increase of a few hundred bucks a month per person could go a long way to making this happen.

Recommended reading: http://www.expressnews.com/sports/columnists/roy-bragg/article/NBA-needs-to-do-the-right-thing-for-ABA-players-11257178.php

***
Related stories
Part 1: https://edodevenreporting.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/allen-berrebbis-moral-crusade-against-the-nba-2/

Part 2: https://edodevenreporting.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/former-aba-players-fighting-for-fairness-dignity/

Part 3: https://edodevenreporting.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/broken-promises-nba-never-fulfilled-settlement-agreement-with-aba/

 

Broken promises: NBA never fulfilled settlement agreement with ABA

Artis_Gilmore_1977.jpeg

Artis Gilmore was the No. 1 pick in the 1976 ABA Dispersal Draft, leaving the Kentucky Colonels to play for the Chicago Bulls. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (June 19, 2017)
Third in a series

When the NBA and ABA finalized merger proceedings in the summer of 1976, four teams (the San Antonio Spurs, New York Nets, Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers) were swallowed up by the NBA.

The ABA as an entity was finished. History. The other remaining teams, the Kentucky Colonels and Spirits of St. Louis, folded.

On the other hand, its legacy — and the impact of ex-ABA players that enriched the NBA — was just getting started.

Consider: During the 1977 NBA Finals, half of the 10 starters for the Portland Trail Blazers and Philadelphia 76ers had previously suited up for ABA teams.

An April document (Signed Petition For Benefits) submitted to the NBA and National Basketball Players Association by the Retired ABA Players presents numerous important facts about the value the absorbed ABA teams brought to the NBA.

“Of the 84 players in the ABA at the time of the merger, 63 played in the NBA during the 1976-77 season,” the petition stated. “Overall, at least 97 players played in both the ABA and NBA. Also, in the first season after the merger, four of the top ten scorers were former ABA players. Further, former ABA player Don Buse of the Indiana Pacers led the league in steals and assists. The Nuggets, a team that never won an ABA championship, finished with the NBA’s second-best record in the first season after the merger. The Spurs, a team that never got past the first round of the ABA playoffs, won division titles in five of their first six seasons in the NBA. In all, the Spurs, Nets, Nuggets and Pacers have won five NBA championships and appeared in the NBA Finals four other times. Countless former ABA players have competed for NBA teams in the NBA Finals.”

Indeed, those teams have helped expand the NBA’s global reach and increase its popularity.

“Essentially, these players were left to perish by a league and a system that did not value them, and which viewed them as fungible commodities — not human beings,” the petition stated. “To this day, former ABA players are still seeking benefits — decades after the ABA ceased to exist.”

Pause and reflect on the above paragraph for a few moments.

Then consider this: “Many of the former ABA players alive today are in poor health, poor financial condition, or both. The NBA has never taken care of them, despite numerous inquiries and proposals,” the petition stated.

“Contrast the ABA players’ situation to that of those who played in the NBA before 1965,” the petition stated. “About 10 years ago, the NBA gratuitously paid pre-1965 NBA players pensions equal to $300 per year of service, per month, along with a lump-sum retroactive payments. According to a Chicago Tribune story about the arrangement, the ‘relatively paltry amounts for the older retired players had become an embarrassing issue for the NBA given that current players average more than $4 million in salary per season and how little the league set aside for the pioneers.’ ”

Now, let’s take a step back and revisit the court proceedings in July 1976, which set the stage, in fact, for this issue to be brought to the public’s attention and the court of public opinion in 2017.

“The Settlement Agreement provided numerous individuals that played professional basketball in the ABA, including a pension fund equivalent to that provided to NBA players,” the petition reads. “In the 1976 Stipulation and Settlement Agreement, the Spurs, Nets, Nuggets and Pacers promised to provide former ABA players the same pension rights and privileges equivalent to that provided to NBA players.

“As understood from the terms of the Settlement Agreement, the former ABA players would receive the benefits of a Pension Fund that would be equivalent to the NBA Pension Fund in all regards. The United States District Court sitting in the Southern District of New York (Manhattan) approved the Settlement Agreement, and in doing so, provided that the Settlement Agreement ensured ‘pension rights’ and privileges for ABA players equivalent to that provided NBA players.’ The Settlement Agreement required the pension payable from the Pension Fund for the ABA Players to include the same benefits and privileges that were provided to NBA players, pursuant to the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement.

“The NBA’s CBA was to govern the ABA Pension Fund. The purpose of using the NBA’s CBA was to provide equality between the ABA players and NBA players. The purpose of the Settlement Agreement was to resolve an antitrust lawsuit brought on behalf of the  ABA Players Association, against the NBA, NBA teams, Spurs, Nets, Nuggets, Pacers, and the ABA. Consequently, the promises made as part of the Settlement Agreement, specifically the promise of equality, compelled the ABAPA to settle its antitrust lawsuit.

“The Settlement Agreement allowed the Spurs, Nets, Nuggets, and Pacers to join the NBA, and the NBA and its member teams  to reap numerous and substantial benefits from the ABA, including the talents of the many ABA players in the NBA after the ‘merger’ between the leagues.”

What else was included in the settlement?

“The Spurs, Nets, Nuggets, and Pacers also directly paid the NBA a $3.2 million entry fee as a condition of the settlement,” the petition reads. “The ABA players were not integrated, they were discarded. Their promised pension integration never occurred, they received no payments, and in fact, promised payments in player contracts were never made. The ‘merger’ was anything but a ‘merger’ for the vast majority of ABA players. It amounted to an unceremonious pink slip without a pat on the backside.”

Keeping The Nostalgia Alive, an online radio program, introduced the issue this way in a written summary before a recent program: “The ABA players from the past have been left behind by the NBA! The ABA (American Basketball Association) turned the NBA into the success it is today. $60 per year of service for pension, so if you played three years, that’s $180 per month for your pension! I don’t know about you but that doesn’t cover very much! The NBA gets $2,000 (per month) per year of service! This is wrong. … As of today, May 15th, the NBA responded that they were not interested in helping these players. there are 149 ABA players left who are in bad health and poor financial situations! The NBA has dropped the ball!

“You have to remember that the guys that played back in those days, when they got out of basketball they didn’t have $300,000 a year jobs waiting for them,” former ABA power forward/center Bob Netolicky said on the program. “And most of the guys were making twenty, thirty, forty thousand dollars a year back then when they played, they played three or four years.

“So there’s a lot of guys that are really hurting. We found guys that were literally dead broke, living with their parents, living in nursing homes, and it’s just a darn shame that these guys who were pioneers of the game today; I mean, the NBA turned around and there’s a new book out by a guy named Adam Criblez, and (in “Tall Tales and Short Shorts: Dr. J, Pistol Pete, and the Birth of the Modern NBA” — https://www.amazon.com/Tall-Tales-Short-Shorts-Popular/dp/144227767X/ref=sr_1_1/144-3823869-6005168?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1497864544&sr=1-1) — he basically states in there that it’s a very misnomer that Bird, Magic and Jordan changed the game. That’s not right. The NBA, the modern NBA, began when the merger with the NBA came and they adopted all of those rules, the fast run, the 3-pointer. How exciting would San Francisco (Golden State Warriors) be to watch if there wasn’t a 3-point shot? Think about that.”

Listen to the full interview with Netolicky, an All-American at Drake, and Larry Cannon, an All-American at La Salle, here:
https://www.mixcloud.com/keepingthenostalgiaaliveshow/college-all-americans-and-aba-champions-cannon-and-netolicky-discuss-the-aba-pension-crisis/

“I’m being treated like a second-class basketball player,” said Cannon, the No. 5 pick in the 1969 NBA Draft by the Chicago Bulls who began his pro career that year with the ABA’s Miami Floridians, on the podcast.

“NBA players that mirrored my career are getting 30 times more money than I am in terms of pension money,” added Cannon, now 70 years old. “And the fact is, the money that we are talking about is change, it’s so small. I could use the money like anybody else, but I don’t care about the money. I want the respect. I want that league (the ABA) to be legitimized and providing the pension is the only thing that’s truly going to legitimize that league, and what its done and the players that were involved. That’s what will do it. The NBA needs to recognize that.”

He added:  “…What we are asking will never happen again. There’s never going to be any more petitions for pensions because we’re the last of the pioneers and we’re being ignored, and this is the problem. This is what we want. We want a public debate. We want people to understand our position and we want to get their opinion: Do they think the NBA should be giving us some consideration? Or do they think that we should just step aside? And that’s what we’re asking, for the public to take the issue up and talk about it, think about it.”

The petition hammers home the point, too, about this grave injustice.

“Very simply, the promises made to the ABA players to finalize the ‘merger’ have been broken time and again,” it stated. “ABA players were told they would be treated the same as NBA players; they weren’t. ABA players were told that their pension fund would be equal to the NBA pension fund; it wasn’t.

“In the meantime, ABA players have had to scratch and claw for their benefits, as they live their golden years. Some ABA players have only recently been able to obtain long-sought pension benefits. Others have not been so lucky.”

The petition lists the names of 36 former ABA players who have died in recent years:

Marvin Barnes (2014)
Zelmo Beatty (2013)
Caldwell Jones (2014)
Maurice Lucas (2010)
Ed Manning (2011)
Chico Vaughn (2013)
John Barnhill (2013)
Mike Barrett (2011)
Bob Bedell (2015)
Wes Bialosuknia (2013)
Mel Daniels (2015)
Dwaine Dillard (2008)
Roy Ebron (2014)
Larry Finch (2011)
Billy Harris (2010)
Jim Hayes (2009)
Simmie Hill (2013)
Warren Jabali (2012)
Merv Jackson (2012)
Edgar Lacey (2011)
Jonnie Lynn (2014)
Mike Malloy (2009)
Eltron McGriff (2011)
Dewitt Menyard (2009)
Leland Mitchell (2013)
Marlbert Pradd (2014)
Red Robbins (2009)
Reggie Royals (2009)
Erv Staggs (2012)
Red Stroud (2008)
George Sutor (2011)
Lavern Tart (2010)
Bob Warren (2014)
Al Williams (2007)
Lonnie Wright (2012)
Moses Malone (2015)

Of these 36 men, only Beatty, Vaughn, Barnhill, Bedell, Daniels, Lynn and Mitchell lived to be 70.

As of May, there were only 149 former ABA players who had played three or more years in the league who are still alive. (Harley “Skeeter” Swift died in April and George Irvine passed away in May.)

Indianapolis Star columnist Gregg Doyel wrote about the plight of former ABA players in May, noting fairness was at the root of their fight. Their reasonable request? To be given the same pension plan that exists for pre-1965 NBA players — that is, to be given $300 monthly for every year of service.

Doyel explained it in simple terms: “In other words, a six-year NBA veteran from the 1950s receives a pension of $1,800 a month,” he wrote. “A six-year player from the ABA still gets $360 a month.”

Indeed, a huge difference. The former ABA player’s pension is still $60 a month for each year of service.

If the pension were adjusted and increased to $300 a month, as the petition asks for, Netolicky’s estimation is that this would cost the NBA $1.7 million a year, Doyel wrote.

In other words, a drop in the bucket.

“It would cost them, the NBA,” Netolicky told the podcast, “if they just funded it out of their pocket …. it would cost them, oh, maybe for 151 guys …. it would cost them less than a max player that some of these players are going to make next year in four games. I mean, think about that. Four games would take care of 151 guys.”

For the 2016-17 season, the average NBA player salary was $4.58 million. 

“I think you’ve got a lot of politics involved in the league and I think somebody’s got to quit all this political crap and do what is right. Everybody’s sitting there, looking over their shoulder thinking, Oh, should I do this? Should I do that?  That’s totally wrong,” Netolicky said on Keeping The Nostalgia Alive.

“I think if the NBA did this, it would be one of the most positive PR moves they’ve ever made in the last 10-20 years.”

Related reading
Part 1: https://edodevenreporting.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/allen-berrebbis-moral-crusade-against-the-nba-2/
Part 2: https://edodevenreporting.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/former-aba-players-fighting-for-fairness-dignity/

 

 

Former ABA players fighting for fairness, dignity

Connie_Hawkins_ABA_MVP

ABA legend Connie Hawkins  WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (June 16, 2017)
Second in a series

The April petition sent by the Retired ABA Players to the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association contains powerful statements, bold truths and facts that have been conveniently ignored by the overwhelming majority of the mainstream media.

Now is an appropriate time to continue reporting and analyzing this issue.

Here is an important expanded snippet from the introduction: “The sad truth is that the ABA players were largely forgotten. Their pension plan was never integrated. The NBA has done anything but take care of these ABA legacy players. The NBA simply pillaged the best rules, playing style, and players and left the others without jobs and ultimately their dignity. To make matters worse, the NBA gratuitously took care of the pre-1965 players, but left the other pioneers of the game uncompensated and disenfranchised. This cherry picking of reparations is not in the spirit of the league and what it claims to stand for. In the era of big bucks and showtime, the forefathers who were promised much but given little should not be left forgotten and largely in poverty. We respectfully ask for a remedy. We ask for a showing of humanity, of community and of equity that the NBA so boasts as core principles of its billion dollar league enterprise.”

Why was this petition submitted in 2017, decades after the final ABA game?

Well, issues remain unresolved for the ABA’s legends and its countless pioneers of the modern game.

“The whole thing is unreal,” legendary basketball journalist Peter Vecsey said. “For years, the ABA players hadn’t realized they were due money per merger agreement. The Spurs were in charge of distribution, but kept it hidden until (former ABA big man Robert) Netolicky hired a Chicago firm to look into it. So many players died without getting a penny.”

Like many of his contemporaries, Joe Caldwell’s career bridged the NBA and the ABA. The former Arizona State Sun Devils standout was a two-time NBA All-Star and a two-time ABA All-Star during his pro career (1964-75). He suited up for the Detroit Pistons and St. Louis/Atlanta Haws, then moved on to the ABA with the Carolina Cougars and Spirits of St. Louis.

“I have been fighting for my pension for 48 years,” Caldwell, now 75, a member of the U.S. gold medal-winning squad at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics, told me.

As the petition correctly noted, the ABA, established in 1967, was a catalyst for the game’s growth and evolution and future global fame and popularity.

Consider: There were 10 NBA teams in 1967; that season, the ABA began with 11, clearing the path for more players — more than double — to showcase their skills in U.S. pro ball.

What’s more, the petition pointed out this: “The ABA’s existence resulted in increased salaries for players in both leagues as the ABA and NBA competed with each other to sign players.”

According to the Association for Professional Basketball Research, the minimum rookie salary for the 1968-69 season was $10,000 and the minimum pensioned veteran’s salary was $12,500.

Let’s fast forward to the recently completed 2016-17 season, when the average NBA salary was $4.58 million.

Businessinsider.com summed up the NBA’s thriving economy this way: “Of the 360 active-roster players during the 2016-17 season, half will make at least $3.75 million, more than $1.0 ahead of any other sports league.”

Additionally, the vast wealth that the NBA and its 30 teams share is effectively understood when it’s viewed from a broad perspective in comparison to other major pro sports. See this: http://www.sportingintelligence.com/2016/11/13/cavaliers-no1-in-world-sports-pay-man-utd-highest-in-football-131101/

But let’s take a step back. What did the ABA prove in the 1960s and ’70s?

“The ABA’s caliber of play was more than competitive with the NBA, as the ABA proved itself superior to the NBA in exhibition matches between the leagues’ teams,” the petition correctly noted.

In exhibition matches in 1973, ABA teams went 15-10 against NBA foes. A year later, the ABA clubs went 16-7. In 1975, ABA squads triumphed in 31 of 48 games.

The simple math produced these results: 62 wins and 34 losses in those 96 games for ABA teams.

Harold_Fox_and_Roland_Taylor

Harold Fox of the NBA’s Buffalo Braves (left) and Roland “Fatty” Taylor of the ABA’s Virginia Squires square off in a 1972 exhibition game. WIKIMEDIA COMMONS

It demonstrated the extensive talent, skills and pride of ABA players and coaches, and it proved that their style of play was, well, winning basketball against the old-guard NBA.

“The ABA was all about style,” the petition stated. “With its red, white, and blue ball, the ABA popularized a much more free-flowing and exciting style of play than the NBA was featuring in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The ABA featured the three-point shot when the NBA did not, and the ABA teams played at a faster pace with an increased emphasis on playing above the rim. The pre-merger ABA resembled the modern NBA much more than the pre-merger NBA did. The ABA also popularized All-Star Weekend, including the slam dunk contest and three-point shootout.”

Editor’s note: Below is Part I in this ongoing series, with several exclusive interviews to be showcased in future installments.

https://edodevenreporting.wordpress.com/2017/05/27/allen-berrebbis-moral-crusade-against-the-nba-2/

 

 

Allen Berrebbi’s moral crusade against the NBA

IMG_1339

Allen Berrebbi

By ED ODEVEN
TOKYO (May 26, 2017)
First in a series

Editor’s note: Over the next few months, this website will features various articles about the NBA’s disgraceful treatment of former ABA players. The series-opening article features my interview with Allen Berrebbi, a Tampa-based tech entrepreneur, who wants to see his campaign go viral. Upcoming installments will include  exclusive interviews with former ABA players, among others.

You may not know this — or care — but former ABA players, many of whom have been desperate and destitute, are being screwed by the NBA. So says Allen Berrebbi.

Fearless and passionate about raising awareness about the issue and building a social movement, Berrebbi is taking the initiative to confront the NBA.

That’s his self-defined mission.

“The history of the NBA’s greed when it comes to paying and doing the right thing is long and sordid,” he tweeted.

In another Twitter missive, he wrote this: “Sign petition to tell Adam Silver and NBA to do the right thing. Please share.”

Here’s his petition:

https://www.change.org/p/adam-silver-and-the-nba-justice-for-the-retired-aba-players-many-of-who-are-dying-penniless?recruiter=653007752&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_twitter_responsive

Here’s Berrebbi’s explanation for his involvement in this issue:

“This issue has been bothering me for quite some time. The recognition and trademarks’ issues have been front and center for me for several years however the pension issue became known to me about 3-4 years ago, when I became friends with several players. I recognized the power of social media to raise awareness and would have liked to have planned a little better, but when I came to acquire a copy of the ‘kiss-off’ letter from the NBA, and after begging the players to cause their own storm, I had enough and started my campaign. I wanted this to hopefully come out during the playoffs, which is why it was rushed.

“Too many players are afraid of upsetting the NBA and the same with some wonderful people doing charity work on the players’ behalf. I could care less about pissing anyone off so here I am. These players are the founding fathers of the modern game, heck the Golden State Warriors owe them their very success, and they do nothing to not only pay them what is due, but acknowledge their place in history.

“NBA Cares is a joke, only caring about PR. Take some snapshots with some kids so you look good and sell more merchandise. Terrific. Or take a stance on politics to make you look like you care, again for popularity sake, but actually tell the NBA to take a little money out of everyone’s pocket to help the players who gave you all these opportunities and they are silent.

“For example, (NBA Players Association executive director) Michelle Roberts talked a big game, BEFORE. After they came up with a new CBA, she’s been just as quiet and ineffective as every other head of the players union. No one wants to upset the cart and their money train. Cowards, all of them.”

By reading the Retired ABA Players signed petition for benefits, which was sent to the NBA and NBPA early last month, one clearly sees that the NBA has done a great injustice to former ABA players for … decades. (This will be explained in greater clarity in upcoming articles, with background on the daily struggles of former ABA players, personalized stories and ample facts to explain how what’s addressed in the petition needs to enter the court of public opinion ASAP.)

Here’s the Retired ABA Players petition:

Petition without Tables 1-22 (1)

My interview with Berrebbi continues.

***

What is your tie-in to the ABA? Were you a big fan during its years of competition?

Started as a fan, grew up loving the ABA and my old Nets as kid, often going to Nassau Coliseum to watch the Doctor (Julius Erving) operate, as well as my other fave, Super John Williamson. Big basketball fan, but as a lover of underdog, always preferred the ABA.

Did you meet many of the players over the years after the ABA ended and become personally interested in their plight (now) because of your relationships with them?

Yes. I have reached out over the years and been involved in some things that brought me into contact with many of them. I was briefly involved in the current “league” calling themselves the ABA; due to my thinking they were connected in some way (they’re not). I also got to become friends with many of the ABA Pacers when they invited me to be at the Roger Brown day in Indiana, through my reaching out to filmmaker Ted Green, who did a wonderful documentary http://tedgreenfilms.com/Film4.html on Roger.

Having drinks with the Pacers, I learned a lot of things. Some great and funny stories, but many heartbreaking things on what has become of some of these players who brought me such joy as a kid. I also reached out to the Dropping Dimes charity and offered to help in any way. Let me be very clear, however. While I have friends within the ABA players and care a great deal about the wonderful work the Dropping Dimes charity is doing and admire their board members a great deal, I am doing this completely 100 percent on my own.

In fact, I’ve received resistance about my actions as both the players and the charity want to continue to work with the NBA in a peaceful manner and don’t want to stir up trouble. Well to me, they’ve been nice far too long. I’ve begged them to do this for years and been stymied. But after catching the recent kiss-off letter from the NBA, I had enough and said I would do it with or without any help. I have made it very clear I am doing this strictly as an outraged super-fan.

How are you strategizing the tweets to publicize the campaign? Is it simply trying to keep repeating the same message often?

This came about very recently so it is not as well strategized as it would be if I had months to plan. But when yet another player (Skeeter Swift) died with no justice, plus the NBA’s kiss-off letter, I couldn’t wait anymore. Right now I’m hoping to repeat the message to the point of others taking the message and going viral with it.

NBA-Kiss-Off-letter

The kiss-off letter

How did you outline what you want the petition to become? Was there a lot of scribbling on paper and multiple drafts? Or a pretty straight-forward message to get people talking and thinking about the NBA’s stance on this issue? Is it moral outrage?

Yes, moral outrage for sure. And I’ve known in my heart what I want for the players from day one. First and foremost, they should be paid like any other player of that era. It was a MERGER and everyone knows what that means. And they were promised to be treated that way. Shame on the NBA for taking advantage of poor players, many of them uneducated in the ways of business, for their gain. However, speaking to the players confidentially, they would settle for even pre-1965 money, and cost of living increases. $300 lousy bucks per month, per year of eligibility.

The second thing I want, probably a lot more than the players themselves, is the trademarks of the ABA, outside of the four teams in the NBA now, to be given to the players so they can at the very least, hold on to their legacy without outsiders diminishing the brand and therefore the memory and history. For example, the more time passes, the more people will think the current ABA is what the REAL ABA was, which is an outrage. The original ABA was on par, talent-wise, with the NBA. They invented the modern game; they should have control of their likeness. So them and their children can bask in and enjoy their accomplishments.

How would you sum up your views on the multi-billion-dollar industry stiffing these pioneers?

Greed and perhaps racially biased. For sure there is an inbred ABA bias, inherent hatred against the upstart ABA for what they did to the game and forcing the merger. It is the ONLY explanation for why they would allow the marks to be used willy-nilly now.

Let me ask you this, if I was to use the NBA marks or one of their teams or even one of their players without permission or in a negative fashion, how soon would the office come down on me with a cease and desist? And they bragged recently about how they did the right thing with the pre-1965 players, who by sheer coincidence are predominantly white, and yet the more modern players from the ABA, who by sheer coincidence predominantly African American, are ignored and dying without justice. Smells bad to me and anyone who knows me knows I usually hate when people use the race card quickly but here, I don’t know what else to think. Maybe it is greed alone, but the bottom line is players are suffering. PERIOD. To satisfy the players, it would cost so little.

The NBA just signed a $24 BILLION contract, are you telling me they can’t afford to have each team contribute ONE TIME, a million dollars, to a fund in which the interest alone can fund the pension? And to give them the marks to a league they have no use for that was operational 40 years ago? BS.

You must be a busy guy with the jobs listed on your Twitter profile. So how much time are you currently planning/trying to spend for this crusade, for this petition?

It’s become a big part of my non-work time. No specific plan on how much time, just squeezing it in as much as possible.

And what is your target, signatures for the petition? How many names do you want to collect to throw it back at Adam Silver and basically put him in a corner that he has only one way to get out of? Do you have a targeted timetable for this campaign? To complete it this summer? This year?

My goal is one thing and one thing only. To show the world what the NBA has done to these players for no good reason other than greed and perhaps bias, and maybe let the NBA realize that in this internet age, you can’t get away with anything anymore, especially keeping secrets of your bad behavior. And hopefully they will realize this is plain bad business and bad PR and they can look like heroes very cheaply. NBA Cares? Prove it. That’s my goal.

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Follow Allen Berrebbi on Twitter: @krbmedia

Recommended reading

http://www.indystar.com/story/sports/2015/08/21/life-struggle-charlie-jordan-wants-new-suit/32159455/

https://droppingdimes.org/2016/07/slam-magazine-aba-players-get-back-feet/

Before Steve Nash’s two MVP seasons

This feature on Steve Nash appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun on Oct. 9, 2004.

A legitimate leader

By Ed Odeven

When the Phoenix Suns drafted Steve Nash in 1996, fans had mixed reactions: many booed, some cheered. Kevin Johnson was a well-established star then and many wondered why the Suns would spend the 15th pick in the draft on a point guard.

Nash didn’t spend a lot of time in a Suns uniform. In July 1998, when Jason Kidd was the undisputed floor leader of the Suns, Nash was deemed expendable and was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for Pat Garrity, Bubba Wells, Martin Muursepp and a future first-round draft pick, which turned out to be Shawn Marion in the 1999 draft.

Over the next six seasons, Nash transformed himself from a capable backup into one of the NBA’s top point guards. He made All-Star appearances in each of the last two seasons.

Nash became a free agent last offseason and signed a four-year deal with the Suns during the summer. It surprised many that Mavericks owner Mark Cuban did not match the Suns’ offer (a $65 million contract) or make a serious bid to re-sign him.

“I left pretty green and in many ways unproven, and to come back having gone through a lot of the battles (I have been a part of) I have a lot more confidence and legitimacy. My teammates have been great. They’ve respected me and welcomed me,” Nash said Tuesday, the first day of the Suns’ weeklong preseason training camp in Flagstaff.

Indeed, the Suns, who went 29-53 last season, welcome the 30-year-old Nash back to the Valley with open arms.

First and foremost, Suns coach Mike D’Antoni is cognizant of Nash’s leadership skills.

“The guy’s a winner, obviously, and his intensity and excellent work ethic and everything else (are valuable),” D’Antoni said. “He just brings so much to the table.”

After Stephon Marbury was traded to his hometown New York Knicks in early January, the Suns did not have an experienced point guard. They lost 18 games by five points or less last season, a telltale sign of a team lacking leadership.

Enter Steve Nash.

“I think they felt like I was a perfect fit for this team,” he said. “They have a lot of great talent, and I think for me my attributes are my experience and making my teammates better.

“If I can help these guys improve and help this team reach its potential … that’s why they brought me here.”

The Suns already field a young, athletic nucleus of players, including guards Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson, who signed a free-agent deal after playing for four years with the Los Angeles Clippers, and forwards Shawn Marion and Amar’e Stoudemire.

Now, Nash will be expected to mold this team into a winner.

“I think he just brings his veteran (leadership) and experience,” said Marion, who was one of only two NBA players (Kevin Garnett was the other) to be in the top 30 in points, rebounds, steals, blocks and minutes last year.

“He’s been in the playoffs on a consistent basis (six straight years with Dallas) and we were lacking experience at point guard, so that’s going to help us become a more seasoned team.”

The Suns want to be a higher-scoring team this year after averaging just 94.2 points a game last season. Nash’s former team led the league with 105.2 ppg compared with the league’s worst-scoring team, Toronto (85.4 ppg).

With Nash running the show, expect the Suns to stick to D’Antoni’s plan of being one of the league’s quicker teams.

 

“His style is to run up and down,” D’Antoni said. “We always want to do that. We’ll just run a little smarter now with him.”

As a result, the Suns should make better decisions with the basketball.

“He’s a great passer,” Marion said. “He’s an elite-five (player) in the NBA in passing. That says it all right there.”

Added Nash, “I think this is a very talented group, a very athletic team. We have some definite strengths. We are going to be able to score.”

Nash has averaged 7.3 or more assists per game in each of the last four seasons, including a career-high 8.8 apg in 2003-04. In addition, he’s a terrific free-throw shooter (a career average of 89.3 percent) and a dependable 3-point shooter. He’s averaged 12.5 ppg in his career.

Statistics don’t interest Nash, however. Only winning does.

“(Making) the playoffs is the only real goal,” Nash said. “Any other goal, if you don’t make the playoffs, what good is that? So that’s the only goal.”

Along the way, the ex-Santa Clara University standout who now considers himself a “grizzled veteran” will be a mentor to young Suns guards, including Leandro Barbosa, the second-year pro from Brazil, and rookie Yuta Tabuse, a former BYU-Hawaii player who is trying to become the first Japanese-born player to make an NBA roster.

“He always moves the ball and he never stays still on the court,” Barbosa observed. “I think this is different than other point guards. I think (seeing this) has helped me a lot.

“I can learn a lot of things when he moves the ball and I defend him (in practice).”

As Tabuse is surrounded by a throng of Japanese media members on a daily basis, Nash has become his most vocal supporter. After Tuesday’s evening practice concluded, Nash chatted briefly with Tabuse before speaking to the media.

“I told him he should never feel uncomfortable or embarrassed if there’s so much attention here,” Nash said. “I think it’s a difficult situation to be a rookie and be from a different culture and have all this attention.”

On and off the court, Nash knows how to be a leader.

Remembering Howard Garfinkel

By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (May 13, 2016) – As the basketball world mourns the passing of Howard Garfinkel, who died at age 86 last weekend, tributes have poured in from all over, and rightfully so.

The one-of-a-kind hoop talent evaluator and co-founder of the Five-Star Basketball Camps made a profound impact on the game, from his native New York to the West Coast, where a coach named John Wooden famously read Garfinkel’s typed analysis of a high school phenom named Lew Alcindor back in the 1960s. (Wooden, like many coaches of that era, relied on Garfinkel’s vast East Coast scouting and beyond and paid for his scouting reports, The New York Times and other media outlets have written.)

Of course, Alcindor, the future Hall of Famer who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, wound up at UCLA, and the rest is history.

In its obituary, The New York Times correctly noted that Garfinkel “changed the landscape of college and professional basketball through an innovative high school scouting service and a celebrated instructional camp that helped groom top young players like Michael Jordan and LeBron James.”

ESPN college analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted, “…One of the most important people in basketball in the last 50 years. RIP Garf.”

Those with a deep knowledge of the game and real respect for its history will tell you this: Garfinkel should be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of a Fame as a contributor. He contributed to the game’s growth and success for decades.

What’s more, Five-Star Basketball Camp, started in 1966 in New York and set up afterward in Pennsylvania, created countless opportunities for coaches to gain experience and further their careers.

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Reaching out to many individuals in basketball circles with close ties to Garfinkel, I’ve learned a little bit about his deep personal ties to those spanning several generations. Basketball was their common bond. A shared love of the game.

By all accounts, Garfinkel will be greatly missed.

Legendary college basketball scribe Dick “Hoops” Weiss penned a detailed look at Garfinkel’s life after he passed away. The article was posted on George Raveling’s Coaches for Success website.

Weiss wrote, “Garfinkel died peacefully Saturday morning and there was an outpouring of grief in the basketball community for an American original who lived in an apartment just this side of Broadway, was a fixture at the Garden and used to talk all things basketball during late night meals at the Carnegie Deli. He loved the horses and Broadway show tunes sung by Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland.

“But most of all, this beloved Damon Runyonesque character loved basketball and gave up the chance to become rich in his father’s textile business to devote his life to scouting high school talent for a recruiting service he ran and running summer camps for 40 years in the Poconos, Virginia and Pittsburgh that attracted some of the best high school prospects in America. ‘He was the godfather of college basketball recruiting and summer basketball,’ said Tom Konchalski, the legendary talent evaluator from New York City and one of Garfinkel’s two closest friends, along with 89-year old guru Larry ‘The Scout’ Pearlstein.

“I can’t think of six other individuals who had a bigger impact on the game.”

Weiss also delivered this insight in the obituary: “During its heyday, the camp was a proving ground for future legends like Moses Malone, Jeff Ruland, Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin, Pearl Washington, Len Bias, Christian Laettner, Bobby Hurley, Dominique Wilkins, Grant Hill, Alonzo Mourning, Steph Marbury, Carmelo Anthony, LeBron James and Kevin Durant. It was a magnet for the best college recruiters in the country who made the pilgrimage to out-of-the-way Camp Bryn Mawr in Honesdale, Radford and Robert Morris College every summer to evaluate hundreds of campers, who played shirts and skins games on outdoor courts and listened to Hall of Fame speakers like Bob Knight, Hubie Brown, Chuck Daly, Herb Magee and Dick Vitale before afternoon and evening sessions. There were no free rides, even for the best players, who had to bus tables in the dining hall if they couldn’t afford full tuition.

“Five-Star was worth the price of admission. It was the best teaching camp of its kind, a place where campers actually got better and learned how to play the right way at a series of teaching stations that were developed by Knight to give them the best instruction possible.

“It also an incubator for great young coaches like Rick Pitino, Mike Fratello and John Calipari, who used Five-Star as a giant think tank.

“Calipari was a camper at Five-Star in 1976 and returned to be a counselor and coach when he was a college player at UNC-Wilmington and Clarion State. ‘Without him, I’m not the coach at Kentucky and I’m not able to pay it forward to my kids,’ he wrote in a powerful tribute to Garfinkel on his website. ‘The things that happened to me in my life can all be traced back to Five-Star when I was a camper and a bespectacled man came up to me and said, ‘What’s your name kid? Where are you from?’ I love you Garf’.”

What’s more, Weiss observed, “Five-Star was the birthplace of stars like Michael Jordan.”

Don DiJulia, the director of athletics at Saint Joseph’s University, in Philadelphia, reflected on his friend’s life and legacy via email.

DiJulia said Garfinkel was “one of a kind. A man for all seasons. Kind, gentle, purposeful, altruistic, and passionate. Covered more miles in more states than anyone who never drove a car!

“The Master of one-liners…keen eye for talent and champions, on and off the court. He was in sport terms ‘an impact player.’ ”

In closing, DiJulia had this to say: “Mr Howard, thanks for your friendship and the many fond memories!”

New York native Herb Brown, Larry’s big brother, whose coaching career includes college, NBA and international jobs spanning six decades, added this: “He was a great resource for players seeking exposure and scholarships as well as a networker for coaches who worked at his camp.”

Former Philadelphia 76ers GM Brad Greenberg, who drafted future Hall of Famer Allen Iverson, admitted that Garfinkel helped him early in his career.

“Garf certainly impacted my life in a dramatic way,” Greenberg told me. “If not for him, I would not have connected with Jim Lynam when I transferred from Washington State after playing my freshman year for George Raveling to go play for Jim at American University. Jim became my mentor. I played for him and worked for him as well in both college and the NBA. (St. Joe’s AD) Don (DiJulia) was an assistant at American U. and Jim Lynam’s brother-in-law and I also count Don among the people I most admire. I attended 5 Star as a camper and played in 2 Orange-White All-Star Games, and then worked the camp for 10 years.

“The last summer I worked I was the head coach in Pittsburgh and had to leave in the middle of the camp to go to California and meet with Jim Lynam before becoming his assistant with the L.A. Clippers.”

Regarding Garf’s legacy, Greenberg, a longtime coach with stints in the NBA, college and overseas leagues, offered this perspective: “Garf was uniquely special and among the most influential people college basketball has ever had. And he certainly impacted my life as well as my brother Seth. Five Star was a big part of our coaching education. For a young college player with the goal of becoming a coach, Five Star was as good as it gets. Every day was a world-class ‘living clinic’ where you got to rub shoulders with the best in the business. And Garf orchestrated it all.

“He is certainly deserving of Naismith Hall of Fame consideration as he had a direct hand in helping shape so many of the players and coaches already inducted in Springfield. There will never be someone so unique to the game as Garf.”

Former University of Mississippi and Arizona State bench boss Rob Evans, who now works as the University of North Texas associate head coach, has fond memories of his times crossing paths with Garfinkel.

“I went to Garf’s camps in the 80s at both Honesdale, Pa. and Pittsburgh,” Evans told me. “His camps were always so well run and he would take time to give you any information that you asked. He was always moving around watching every kid in the camp. This was back when we had no dead periods. I was fortunate to see him at the Final Four in Houston a few months ago and visit with him. He will certainly be missed.”

Returning to Weiss’ article, Garfinkel’s remarkable impact is clearly defined in the words that follow. “The day Garfinkel died, the Five-Star organization published a testimonial in which they referred to him as a visionary who pioneered the basketball specialty camp and innovated the scouting and evaluation process.

” ‘Garf’ also represents the unmistakable tree in the basketball landscape, one in which every player or coach could trace their roots back to. His eye for talent and evaluation took both prospects and coaches to unprecedented highs and will never be rivaled,’ “it said.

More than 300 coaches employed at the Five Star camp went on to get college coaching jobs, Weiss noted.

“…His legacy lives on in this, the 50th anniversary of the storied camp, which touched so many lives and showcased the talents of thousands of campers, who earned Division I scholarships,” Weiss declared.
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Recommended reading: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/23/sports/scout-is-a-five-star-original-in-basketball.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

http://coachgeorgeraveling.com/articles/garfalltimehs/

NCAA alumni in Japan’s Final Four

The upcoming Basketball Japan League (bj-league) Final Four, set for May 14-15 at Tokyo’s Ariake Colosseum、will include numerous former NCAA players.

Here’s a quick rundown:

EAST SQUADS
Akita Northern Happinets
– C Scott Morrison (Portland State), PF Ray Turner (Texas A&M) and F Richard Roby (Colorado)

Toyama Grouses# – F Duke Crews (Bowie State), F Drew Viney (Loyola Marymount) and  C/F Sam Willard C/F (Pacific)

WEST SQUADS
Kyoto Hannaryz – F Tyren Johnson (Louisiana-Lafayette), F Moses Ehambe (Oral Roberts) and F Kevin Kotzur (St. Mary’s University, Texas)

Ryukyu Golden Kings – F Draelon Burns (DePaul), F Anthony McHenry (Georgia Tech) and Evan Ravenel (Ohio State)

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#Coach of the Year Bob Nash, the Toyama sideline boss, starred at the University of Hawaii during the early 1970s before being drafted by the Detroit Pistons with the No. 9 pick in the 1972 NBA Draft.