An Associated Press story about a new basketball league was picked up by dozens of outlets today. The AP quoted Anaheim sports management figure John McShain saying that he and his partners had been working the past two years on planning the new league, the American Basketball Association. He said the league would play in twelve cities: Anaheim, Atlanta, Cleveland, Dallas, Indianapolis, Houston, Los Angeles, Louisville, Memphis, New York, Phoenix, and Seattle.
Franchises would be required to have a net worth of at least $1.5 million, with a minimum of $500,000 in ready cash. Each team would have to post a $250,000 bond upon joining.
“We’re going to have a solid product,” said McShain. “This is the first time a major professional league in any sport has ever been organized by professional management.” McShain added that NBA players would not be off limits and that there would be a draft of collegiate players prior to the first season.
Coincidentally (or not), the NBA announced they would be adding eight teams over the next four years, with many of the same cities under consideration.
For the first half-century after the invention of basketball, the pro version of the sport remained a regional affair. It wasn’t until the creation of the Basketball Association of America in 1946 and the league’s merger with the National Basketball League three years later that a single organization had anything close to a nationwide scope.
For the first decade after the merger, the new National Basketball Association was a somewhat unstable affair as franchises moved in search of a reliable fanbase. By the end of the 1950s the league had settled in at eight teams and it looked as though the NBA was there for the long haul. But as in pro football and major league baseball there were unserved markets that wanted a piece of the action. To that end, a new circuit using an old name, the American Basketball League, formed and began play in 1961, but it fell apart soon into its second season.
By 1966, Major League Baseball and the two pro football leagues had spread across the land with 20 and 23 teams, respectively. Meanwhile, there were still just nine teams in the NBA and clearly, with the right leadership, a new organization might well succeed where the ABL had failed.