ABA Rumors

Now Swift’s voice is back and he is crying, not from self-pity — although my Lord, who would blame him? — but from gratitude. 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 at age 70 on April 20, six days after leaving the message that Bob Netolicky is playing for me. “We can never … repay you for all that you’ve done for us,” Swift says in stops and starts before dissolving in a rush at the end. “And uh … I’ll just wait to hear from you. Bye-bye.”
Shortly after leaving Netolicky, I’m talking to an attorney in Chicago, an attorney who represents ABA players. His name is Steven A. Hart. ABA players want the NBA, which absorbed their league in 1976, to increase their pensions. That’s what Hart and I are talking about. Well, I’m talking. Hart is yelling. “NBA cares, right? NBA cares?” the attorney says, booming out an NBA slogan. “Well, care about whom? I’ll tell you who they don’t care about: legacy ABA players.”
For the Wednesday Oklahoman, I wrote about David Vance and the birth of the blocked shot as an official statistic. You can read that column here. But the occasion gave Vance and I reason to look at all kinds of great memories about the ABA. The American Basketball Association spent nine years as an upstart league before finally merging with the NBA in 1976. Merge is not really accurate. The NBA absorbed four ABA franchises; 10 started that 1975-76 season. Three folded before the year was over, and three didn’t make the cut.