Four Teams, One Giant Leap: The ABA-NBA Merger Turns 48 Years Old Today


On June 17th, 1976, a significant development shook the world of professional basketball. The National Basketball Association (NBA) and its rival league, the American Basketball Association (ABA), officially merged. This merger, announced publicly after months of negotiations, saw four ABA franchises – the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, New York Nets (now Brooklyn Nets), and San Antonio Spurs – join the established NBA, expanding the league from 18 to 22 teams.

The ABA, founded in 1967, had challenged the NBA’s dominance with its innovative red, white, and blue basketball, a more physical style of play, and the introduction of the now-ubiquitous three-point line. However, financial struggles and a smaller fanbase ultimately led to the merger talks.

The inclusion of these four ABA teams brought a wealth of talent and fresh energy to the NBA. Future Hall of Famers like Julius Erving (who joined the Philadelphia 76ers in a separate deal) and David Thompson (Denver Nuggets) found a new stage to showcase their skills. The merger also solidified the three-point line as a permanent fixture in basketball, forever altering the game’s strategy and scoring landscape.

The impact of the ABA-NBA merger continues to be felt today. The Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, Brooklyn Nets, and San Antonio Spurs have all become established NBA franchises, boasting passionate fanbases and championship aspirations. The three-point line has become a fundamental aspect of modern basketball, adding a layer of excitement and offensive dynamism.

Looking back 48 years later, the merger represents a pivotal moment in basketball history. It marked the end of an era for the ABA but ushered in a new era of growth and innovation for the NBA. With the addition of these talented teams and a revolutionary rule change, the stage was set for the NBA’s rise to global prominence.

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