Origins of ABA-NBA competition
In 1967 there were only ten teams in the NBA, and the league was resistant to expanding and charged very high prices ($1.5 million in a time before any significant NBA television contract; over $8 million in 2007 dollars) for expansion teams. As a result, businessmen in several cities decided to establish an alternative professional basketball league to compete with the NBA, with an eye toward an eventual merger with the NBA. The competition between the ABA and NBA included often-brutal fights to sign the best players. The ABA also made a bold move by signing the NBA's best officials (referees) to officiate ABA games.
Early attempts at merger
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. 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. 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. 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." The two leagues continued merger discussions and plans through the early and mid 1970s.
The Oscar Robertson lawsuit
The early attempts at merging the ABA and NBA were delayed for years by litigation known as the Oscar Robertson suit, styled Robertson v. National Basketball Association, 556 F.2d 682 (2d Cir. 1977). After the NBA owners voted in 1970 to merge with the ABA, the NBA Players Association filed a lawsuit in April 1970 to prevent the merger on antitrust grounds. The existence of the ABA resulted in increased salaries for players in both leagues as the ABA and NBA competed with each other to sign players. The Robertson suit was finally settled on February 3, 1976, but for the entirety of its pendency it presented an insurmountable obstacle to the desired merger of the two leagues.
Congressional action to allow the merger
In 1972, Congress came close to enacting legislation to enable a merger in spite of the Oscar Robertson suit. In September 1972 a merger bill was reported favorably out of a United States Senate committee. But the bill was put together to please the owners and ended up not pleasing the Senators or the players. The bill subsequently died without coming to a floor vote. When Congress reconvened in 1973 another merger bill was presented to the Senate, but did not advance. As a result of the legislation's failure the ABA installed a new commissioner, Mike Storen, with part of his focus being the eventual merger of the two leagues as equals. Alex Hannum, who coached in both the NBA and ABA, said at the time of Storen, "The most important problem he has is still the merger with the NBA. And I believe his approach is just right for us. Storen wants to build our league to be the strongest. Then he can negotiate with the NBA as an equal." Sports Illustrated noted at the time that "the tactics Storen says the ABA will employ sound a good deal more like those used by AFL Commissioner Al Davis in the last days of the football war than a plan for peaceful coexistence. The ABA has reinstituted its $300 million antitrust suit against the NBA. It also may move some franchises into better TV markets, an ill-advised maneuver that will mean going against established NBA teams on their home turf. And for the first time since 1970 the ABA will go after established NBA players. 'We will have exploratory contract talks with lots of their men,' Storen says. 'Whether we'll sign none, six or 10 of them will depend on how things work out. But you can be sure of one thing: we'll do this in a serious, orderly way.'" As a result of the merger legislation not being enacted and the Oscar Robertson suit continuing, the two leagues did not merge until 1976, after the Oscar Robertson suit had finally been settled.
Interleague competition in anticipation of merger
In the summer before the 1971-72 season the ABA and NBA met in an interleague All Star Game. The NBA won a close game, 125-120. In that same preseason, ABA and NBA teams began playing exhibition games against each other. The first such exhibition was played on September 21, 1971 with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and the Milwaukee Bucks barely defeating the Dallas Chaparrals, 106-103. Gradually, the ABA began to prove itself superior, going 15-10 against the NBA in 1973, 16-7 in 1974, and 31-17 in 1975. Overall, the ABA won more of these interleague games than the NBA did, and in every matchup of reigning champions from the two leagues, the ABA champion won, including in the final pre-merger season when the Kentucky Colonels defeated the Golden State Warriors. Boston Globe sportswriter Bob Ryan said of the ABA-NBA exhibition games: "When those exhibition games began, the view in the NBA was, 'Now we'll show those guys.' But then you know what happened - the ABA teams won nearly as often as the NBA did .... Those NBA-ABA games were intense." Longtime NBA coach Larry Brown said of the ABA vs. NBA games, "When some exhibition games were arranged in the 1970s to make some money and we (the ABA) beat them, the NBA said they weren't up for the games. Come on. When I coached Carolina, we played the Knicks after they won a championship. I looked at their guys shooting around and I looked at my guys and I didn't want my players to take off their warm-ups because they looked so scrawny next to the Knicks - and we went out and beat New York. We also played the Celtics a couple of times and beat them. (Celtics coach) Tommy Heinsohn would say that we were playing to win and they weren't, but I'd check the box score and see that Tommy played his regulars 35 to 40 minutes, so what does that tell you?"
Interest in ABA vs. NBA play extended beyond the two leagues' management. In 1976, CBS sought to establish a postseason playoff between the ABA and NBA, and to win the rights to broadcast those games.
ABA's final season
Denver Nuggets and New York Nets attempt to depart
Before the 1975-76 season the Denver Nuggets and New York Nets tried to join the NBA but were rebuffed. The owners of the Nets and Nuggets had approached John Y. Brown, Jr. in an attempt to get his Kentucky Colonels to join their attempted leap to the NBA, but Brown refused, saying he was staying loyal to the ABA. The Nuggets' and Nets' attempted move to the NBA created a great deal of ill will within the ABA, and brought attention to the emerging financial weakness of some of the league's lesser teams.
Baltimore Claws, San Diego Sails and Utah Stars collapse
The ABA's Baltimore Claws franchise, which had replaced the Memphis Sounds, was folded by the league after playing its preseason games but just before it took the court for its first regular season game. Shortly after the regular season began, the San Diego Sails, with a record of 3-8, folded on November 12, 1975 after their owner realized that the team would most likely be excluded from any upcoming ABA–NBA merger because Los Angeles Lakers owner Jack Kent Cooke wanted no competition in Southern California for either his team or their television coverage on the cable television system he owned. The Sails' players were put into a special dispersal draft.  Shortly afterward, the Utah Stars, once one of the league's longstanding and successful teams, folded as well on December 2, 1975 as a result of not making payroll. Bill Daniels, the Stars' owner, was out of money due to his unsuccessful campaign to become Governor of Colorado and difficulties with other business ventures. (Daniels eventually paid back all Stars season ticket holders in full plus 8% interest). There had been talks between the Stars and the Spirits of St. Louis about the two teams merging, but the Stars folded before it could happen. Most of the Stars players, including Moses Malone, were sold to the Spirits of St. Louis.
Virginia Squires struggle
Another ABA team, the Virginia Squires, struggled mightily in its final two years. Blessed with remarkable talent in previous years, the Squires had sold fan favorites such as Julius Erving, Rick Barry, George Gervin, Warren Armstrong, Billy Paultz and Swen Nater because of constant financial problems. In the 1974-75 season the once-successful Squires posted a league-worst record of 15-69. In the 1975-76 season the Squires tied their own record for the league's worst regular season record, and at the end of the regular season, the Squires, completely out of financial resources, were unable to pay a $75,000 league assessment and were folded by the league on May 11, 1976. As a result, the Squires, along with the Claws, Sails and Stars, were not a part of merger considerations with the NBA.
The Final Six
After the Squires folded, the Kentucky Colonels, led by Artis Gilmore, defeated the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the 1976 ABA Playoffs. The Colonels in turn lost a seven-game semifinal series to the Denver Nuggets, led by Dan Issel and David Thompson, who in turn lost the ABA Finals to the New York Nets with Julius Erving who had defeated George Gervin and the San Antonio Spurs to get there. The Spirits of St. Louis and their star Moses Malone had survived the regular season but missed the playoffs. All six teams were still standing as the ABA and NBA, with the Oscar Robertson suit settled, commenced their final merger negotiations. The merger was finally consummated on June 17, 1976, at the NBA league meetings in the Cape Cod Room at Dunfey's Hyannis Resort in Hyannis, Massachusetts.
The Colonels were one of the strongest franchises throughout the history of the ABA. In addition, the Kentucky Colonels-Indiana Pacers rivalry was the league's fiercest, and in all of professional basketball (NBA included), the Colonels were sixth in attendance. In spite of that history, the Colonels' final games came in the 1976 ABA Playoffs as the defending champions bested the Pacers to advance to the semifinals before bowing out to the Nuggets in a tight seven game series. John Y. Brown, Jr., the owner of the Colonels, preceded the 1975-76 season by selling star center Dan Issel for $500,000 and defensive standout Teddy McClain to the New York Nets for $150,000. Those transactions, especially the sale of former University of Kentucky star Issel to the Baltimore Claws, turned off many of the Colonels' fans. Though it was clear to everyone that the Colonels had the talent and the fan support to join the NBA for the 1976-77 season, in the face of various obstacles, Brown had other plans. The NBA's Chicago Bulls desperately wanted Colonels star Artis Gilmore, whose NBA rights the Bulls owned, so the Bulls fought hard to keep the Colonels out of the merger. During the the merger negotiations in June 1976, the NBA made it clear that it would accept only four ABA teams, not five, and, under pressure from the Bulls, that the Colonels were not to be included. With Denver, San Antonio, New York and Indiana thus being the clear front-runners to make the cut, John Y. Brown decided that it was better to fold the team for cash, instead of continuing to fight.
On June 17, 1976, Brown reached a financial agreement with the remaining teams in the ABA and folded the Colonels for $3 million. In addition to the $3 million that Brown received for agreeing to fold the Colonels and stay out of the ABA–NBA merger, he also sold the rights to star center Artis Gilmore to the Chicago Bulls for $1.1 million.
According to the terms of the ABA–NBA merger the Kentucky Colonels players were placed into a dispersal draft (along with the players from the Spirits of St. Louis). The Chicago Bulls took Gilmore for $1.1 million. The Portland Trail Blazers took Maurice Lucas for $300,000, the Buffalo Braves took Bird Averitt for $125,000, the Indiana Pacers took Wil Jones for $50,000, the New York Nets took Jan van Breda Kolff for $60,000, and the San Antonio Spurs took Louie Dampier for $20,000. With the funds he received from the agreement with the other ABA teams and Colonels players sold in the dispersal draft, Brown promptly turned around and bought the NBA's Buffalo Braves for $1.5 million, and parlayed the Braves into ownership of the Boston Celtics.
Spirits of St. Louis
Brothers Ozzie and Daniel Silna had made a fortune as pioneers in the manufacture of polyester, and they wanted to own an NBA team. After an attempt to purchase the Detroit Pistons fell short, the Silnas purchased the ABA's Carolina Cougars franchise with the expectation of moving it into the NBA with the impending merger of the two leagues. The Silna brothers moved the Cougars to St. Louis, Missouri because it was then the largest city in the United States without a professional basketball team, and they thought this would make their team more likely to join the NBA. In 1974 the Cougars, roster and all, were overhauled and became the ABA's Spirits of St. Louis from 1974 through 1976. The 1974–75 Spirits had upset the reigning ABA champion New York Nets in the 1975 Eastern Division Finals before losing to the eventual champion Kentucky Colonels, but in the 1975–76 season the Spirits' play was uneven and their attendance waned.
The 1975–76 season had not turned out so well in terms of either attendance or wins on the court. In May 1976, due to attendance problems in St. Louis, the Spirits announced that they were going to move to Salt Lake City, Utah to play as the Utah Rockies when a lease agreement for the Salt Palace was arranged. This followed an attempted merger of the Spirits and the Utah Stars franchise during the 1975–76 season, a merger that, had it occurred, contemplated the team leaving St. Louis for Utah. But the Stars folded before the merger could occur and instead, the Spirits bought the rights to some of the Stars' best players, including Moses Malone. In an effort to be included in the ABA–NBA merger, the Spirits' owners, the Silna brothers, proposed selling the Spirits to a Utah group, buying the Kentucky Colonels franchise, and moving the Colonels to Buffalo to replace the Buffalo Braves, who were then planning to move to Hollywood, Florida. The Spirits were not included in the merger, but the Silna brothers nonetheless managed to turn the merger, for them, into one of the greatest deals in the history of professional sports:
In June 1976, the remaining ABA owners agreed, in return for the Spirits folding, to pay the St. Louis owners $2.2 million in cash up front in addition to a 1/7 share of the four remaining teams' television revenues in perpetuity. As the NBA's popularity exploded in the 1980s and 1990s, the league's television rights were sold to CBS and then NBC, and additional deals were struck with the TNT and TBS cable networks; league television revenue soared into the hundreds of millions of dollars. The Silnas continue to receive checks from the NBA on a yearly basis, representing a 4/7 share of the television money that would normally go to any NBA franchise, or about two percent of the entire league's TV deal.
Thanks to their deal during the ABA–NBA merger, the Silnas made millions through the 1980s and at least $4.4 million per year through the 1990s. From 1999 through 2002 the deal netted the Spirits' owners at least $12.53 million per year; from 2003–2006 their take was at least $15.6 million per year. The two Silna brothers each get 45% of that television revenue per year and their attorney during the merger negotiations, Donald Schupak, receives 10%. They credit their terrific deal to careful planning: the Silnas had expected the Spirits and Colonels to enter the NBA but for the ailing Virginia Squires to be left out, and the Silnas thought up the television revenue deal as a way to treat the Squires' owners fairly if the Squires did not join the NBA with the other ABA teams. Over the past 34 years, the Silnas have collected over $200 million from the NBA, despite the fact that the Spirits never played an NBA game.
The ABA–NBA merger terms included the Spirits of St. Louis players being put into a special dispersal draft along with the Kentucky Colonels players. Marvin Barnes went to the Detroit Pistons for $500,000, Moses Malone went to the Portland Trail Blazers for $300,000, Ron Boone went to the Kansas City Kings for $250,000, Randy Denton went to the New York Knicks for $50,000 and Mike Barr went to the Kansas City Kings for $15,000.
The folding of the Spirits dissolved a very talented basketball team, one that likely would have competed successfully in the NBA. Twelve players from the final two Spirits of St. Louis rosters (1974–76) played in the NBA during the 1976–77 season and beyond: Maurice Lucas, Ron Boone, Marvin Barnes, Caldwell Jones, Lonnie Shelton, Steve Green, Gus Gerard, Moses Malone, Don Adams, Don Chaney, M. L. Carr and Freddie Lewis.
Merger terms for the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, New York Nets and San Antonio Spurs
The NBA set cripplingly harsh merger terms for the ABA teams that joined the merged league:
- Each remaining ABA team had to pay $3.2 million to the NBA by September 15, 1976.
- The New York Nets were to pay an additional $4.8 million directly to their in-town rival, the New York Knicks.
- The four ABA teams would receive no television money at all during their first three seasons in the NBA (1976–1979), and were to pay one seventh of their annual television revenues after that to the owners of the defunct Spirits of St. Louis in perpetuity.
- The four ABA teams would receive no votes related to the distribution of gate receipts or the alignment of NBA divisions for two years.
- The remaining players from the Kentucky Colonels and the Spirits of St. Louis would be made available to NBA teams through a dispersal draft, with superstars such as Artis Gilmore and Moses Malone going to teams other than the four ABA teams.
The indemnities and other penalties levied against the ABA teams were similar to those penalties that the former American Football League teams faced as a consequence of the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
The Nets offered their superstar forward Julius Erving to the Knicks in return for waiving the $4.8 million territorial penalty fee, but the Knicks declined the offer. Instead, Erving was sold to the Philadelphia 76ers for $3 million.
Immediate results of the ABA–NBA merger
In the first NBA All Star Game after the merger, 10 of the 24 NBA All Stars were former ABA players.
In the first post-merger season's NBA Finals between the Portland Trail Blazers and the Philadelphia 76ers, five of the ten starting players were former ABA players. (Those five starters from the ABA were Julius Erving, Caldwell Jones, George McGinnis, Dave Twardzik and Maurice Lucas).
Of the 84 players in the ABA at the time of the merger, 63 played in the NBA during the 1976–77 season. In that first post-merger season, four of the NBA's top ten scorers had come over from the ABA (Billy Knight, David Thompson, Dan Issel and George Gervin).
Don Buse, who joined the NBA with the Pacers, led the NBA in both steals and assists during that first post-merger season. The Spirits of St. Louis' Moses Malone finished third in rebounding; the Kentucky Colonels' Artis Gilmore was fourth. Gilmore and his former Colonels teammate Caldwell Jones were both among the top five in the NBA in blocked shots.
Tom Nissalke left the ABA to coach the NBA's Houston Rockets in the first post-merger season and won the Midwest Division; Nissalke was named NBA Coach of the Year. Former Kentucky Colonels coach Hubie Brown took over the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, and the four former ABA teams kept their coaches as they entered the NBA.
In their first NBA season the Nuggets - a team that had never won an ABA championship - finished with the league's second best record, 50-32, and won the Midwest Division. In their second NBA season the Nuggets repeated as Midwest Division champions, and in their third season the Nuggets missed a third consecutive division title by a single game. However, the financial and draft penalties began to take a toll on the franchise shortly thereafter.
San Antonio Spurs
The Spurs, who could never get past the first round of the ABA playoffs before the merger, won NBA division titles in five of their first six NBA seasons. This was in spite of the financial and draft penalties imposed on the team. The Spurs then went through a period of decline in the late 1980s, but rebounded in the 1990s, and in 1999 became the first (and to date, the only) former ABA team to win a NBA Championship. They have since won three more NBA titles, in 2003, 2005 and 2007. In 2003, the NBA Finals matched two former ABA teams, the Spurs and the New Jersey Nets.
The Pacers joined the NBA on very weak financial footing; they had been in worse financial shape than the Kentucky Colonels, who did not join the NBA. After their first NBA season the Pacers resorted to broadcasting a telethon in order to survive financially into their second NBA season. In part thanks to the telethon the Pacers' average attendance jumped from 7,615 during the 1976-77 season, their first in the NBA, to 10,982 during the 1977-78 season.
The Pacers finished their inaugural NBA season with a record of 36-46. Pacers Billy Knight and Don Buse represented Indiana in the NBA All-Star Game. During the Pacers' first 13 years in the NBA the team had only one winning season and only two playoff appearances. Finally overcoming the draft and financial penalties imposed in the merger, the Pacers won NBA division championships in 1994, 1995, 1998 and 1999 and reached the NBA Finals in 2000.
New York Nets
The Nets, severely handicapped by the onerous financial penalties placed upon the team, were forced to sell Julius Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers. Nate Archibald, the one bright spot left on the roster, broke his foot and the Nets finished their first NBA season at 22—60, the worst record in the league. After that first NBA season the Nets moved to New Jersey and had a few more weak seasons there before finally improving in the early 1980s as they overcame the financial penalties imposed during the merger. By 1984 the Nets were making the NBA playoffs and by 2002 the Nets finally made the NBA Finals, losing to the Los Angeles Lakers. They made it to the NBA Finals again in 2003, this time losing to the ABA's San Antonio Spurs.
Nets' owner Roy Boe said of the merger, "The merger agreement killed the Nets as an NBA franchise . . . . The merger agreement got us into the NBA, but it forced me to destroy the team by selling Erving to pay the bill."
ABA Dispersal Draft, 1976
The rosters of the Kentucky Colonels and Spirits of St. Louis were put into a special dispersal draft in 1976.
|= Hall of Fame|
|Pick||Player||Nationality||NBA Team||ABA Team||Purchase Price|
|1||Artis Gilmore (C)||Chicago Bulls||Kentucky Colonels||$1,100,000|
|2||Maurice Lucas (PF)||Portland Trail Blazers (from Atlanta)||Spirits of St. Louis||$300,000|
|3||Ron Boone (PG)||Kansas City Kings||Spirits of St. Louis||$250,000|
|4||Marvin Barnes (C)||Detroit Pistons||Spirits of St. Louis||$500,000|
|5||Moses Malone (C)||Portland Trail Blazers||Spirits of St. Louis||$350,000|
|6||Randy Denton (PG)||New York Knicks||Spirits of St. Louis||$50,000|
|7||William Averitt (PG)||Buffalo Braves (from Milwaukee)||Kentucky Colonels||$125,000|
|8||Wil Jones (PF)||Indiana Pacers||Kentucky Colonels||$50,000|
|9||Ron Thomas (SF)||Houston Rockets||Kentucky Colonels||$15,000|
|10||Louie Dampier (PG)||San Antonio Spurs||Kentucky Colonels||$20,000|
|11||Jan van Breda Kolff (SF)||New York Nets||Kentucky Colonels||$60,000|
ABA contributions to NBA play
3-point field goal
Angelo Drossos, owner of the San Antonio Spurs: "When the leagues merged, the NBA moguls didn't want the 3-point shot. Red Auerbach hated it and said the Celtics would never go along with it. He had everybody up in arms against the play. Of course, a few years later Red drafted Larry Bird and suddenly he was all for it. And suddenly one of the bigger attractions at the All-Star Game is the 3-point shootout."
Slam Dunk Contest
The ABA originated the idea of the slam dunk contest at the 1976 ABA All Star Game; the NBA subsequently adopted it. The slam dunk contest has ever since been a major part of the NBA's All Star Weekend (with the exception of 1998 and 1999).
Pressing and trapping defenses
Pressing and trapping defenses, not used in the slower-tempo NBA, were common in the ABA, and after the merger began to play a larger role in the NBA.
Billy Cunningham, Philadelphia 76ers star: "When the Knicks were pressing and shooting 3-pointers and all of that under Rick Pitino, people acted as if that was something new. Hey, half the teams in the ABA played like that."
Hubie Brown, former head coach of the Kentucky Colonels, Atlanta Hawks, New York Knicks and Memphis Grizzlies: "We (the ABA) were ahead of the NBA in so many different ways. We had the 3-point play. The NBA said it was a gimmick; now it's one of the most exciting parts of the pro game . . . . About everything we did in the ABA they do now in the NBA except they didn't take our red, white and blue ball."
Faster pace of play
The ABA had a far faster pace than the NBA, and this carried over into the NBA after the merger; today's NBA game is largely derived from the ABA. Longtime Denver Nuggets head coach and ABA alum Doug Moe, who also coached the Philadelphia 76ers, has commented, "The NBA now plays our (the ABA's) kind of basketball."
Drafting of underclassmen
Prior to the ABA, the NBA did not allow college underclassmen to enter the league. In 1969 the ABA's Denver Rockets signed Spencer Haywood, a sophomore star at the University of Detroit who had played on the 1968 United States Olympic basketball team. The NCAA sued, but Haywood and the ABA prevailed. Julius Erving and George Gervin also joined the ABA's Virginia Squires as underclassmen, as did Jim Chones going from Marquette University to the New York Nets, George McGinnis from Indiana University to the Indiana Pacers and Ralph Simpson from Michigan State to the Denver Rockets. Moses Malone joined the ABA's Utah Stars straight out of high school. Eventually after the merger the NBA followed suit and the drafting of college underclassmen became common in that league and high school players were also selected in subsequent NBA drafts.
- Basketball Hall of Fame member Julius Erving: "In my mind, the NBA has just become a bigger version of the ABA. They play the style of game that we did. They sell their stars like we did. The only difference is that they have more resources and can do it on a much grander scale than we in the ABA ever could."
- Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs and Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doug Moe: "One of the biggest disappointments in my life was going into the NBA after the merger. The NBA was a rinky-dink league - listen, I'm very serious about this. The league was run like garbage. There was no camaraderie; a lot of the NBA guys were aloof and thought they were too good to practice or play hard. The NBA All-Star Games were nothing - guys didn't even want to play in them and the fans could [sic] care less about the games. It wasn't until the 1980s, when David Stern became commissioner, that the NBA figured out what the hell they were doing, and what they did was a lot of stuff we had in the ABA - from the 3-point shot to All-Star weekend to the show biz stuff. Now the NBA is like the old ABA. Guys play hard, they show their enthusiasm and there is a closeness in the league. Hell, the ABA might have lost the battle, but we won the war. The NBA now plays our kind of basketball."
- Sportswriter Bob Ryan: "When writers such as Jim O'Brien and Peter Vescey wrote that the two leagues were very close, that some ABA teams were among the top five of all pro basketball teams, I thought they had no objectivity and that they were too close to the teams they were writing about to really understand pro basketball. Then came the merger, and Denver and San Antonio won division titles. What could I say? Guys like Jim O'Brien were right."
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