Basketball great George Carter died of throat cancer last November as the lights and life of Las Vegas carried on, unceasing, outside. He was 76, mostly alone, the cheering crowds of his youth a distant memory. He had only one friend nearby, a woman who helped him sort his things, including the fan letters he was still getting 44 years after his last professional game, as he faced eviction from his home. Carter’s death notice was the first time many basketball fans had heard his name in several decades. His former teammates memorialized him as an unforgettable athlete — a 6-foot-5 forward who led St. Bonaventure University in scoring for two of his three college seasons, a star who played seven seasons in the American Basketball Association until it dissolved and was partially taken over by the NBA in 1976.
At least for the moment, the NBA is not committing to extending pensions to the fewer than 150 former ABA players who are still alive, but Tim Frank, senior vice president of league operations communications for the NBA, says the league is in discussions with Dropping Dimes. “We are actively engaged with the Dropping Dimes Foundation to find a solution to help these former ABA players, particularly those in immediate need,” he said.
Since 2014, Dropping Dimes has proposed a pension that matches that of the pre-1965 players for all ABA veterans with three or more seasons of play: $400 per month for each season. Depending on eligibility requirements, between 100 and 143 surviving players could qualify. The estimated total cost is between $20 million and $28 million to cover the rest of the players’ lives. Put another way, it is the equivalent of a one-time contribution from each NBA team of $900,000, less than the league’s current minimum annual salary. “Given the clear contributions of the ABA and its players to today’s NBA game, even though there may be no legal obligation, there seems to be at least a moral and historical obligation to provide basic pensions to those pioneers, just like the pre-’65 pioneers,” Dropping Dimes co-founder and Indiana attorney Scott Tarter said.
Larry Coon: I think it’s pretty inevitable that there’s going to be expansion at some point, and we could see a 32-team league. There are certainly cities like Seattle ready to host an NBA franchise again. I was thinking expansion might’ve even been on the table this past year because of Covid. If you collected a couple of expansion fees, you put a lot of money into the league in a year when revenues were so far down… Eventually, you’re increasing the revenue that comes in with ticket sales, local cable revenue, everything around the game… The flipside of that coin is that you’re now splitting the profits more ways and your revenue sharing differently.
What kind of rule changes do you expect potentially in the next CBA? Larry Coon: I’d love to see some of the things we just talked about fixed. Extensions. I’d love to see them fixed. I’d love to see something happen with the super-max where it doesn’t hurt the small market teams as much as it does. I’d love to see restricted free agency be a little bit better. For the most part, the CBA has been getting progressively better over time… Right now, the system is set up to have teams cheat. We saw that a couple of years ago where they opened up free agency on July 1st, and within the first half-hour everybody was spoken for. How does that happen? It’s because everybody has been talking to everybody, even when they’re not supposed to.
According to Chinese journalist Jia Lei, next CBA season could be be played without foreign players, at least the first part of the year, sources say. The decision of CBA shareholders has been submitted to the General Administration of Sports for approval, as reported by Sina.