Greatest ABA Players of All Time

Greatest ABA Players of All Time

Greatest ABA Players of All Time

The American Basketball Association (ABA) stands as the last great legend in the realm of sports. The ABA was a spectacle of vibrant colors, reflecting the flamboyant spirit of the 1970s. Its signature elements — the colorful uniforms, the red-white-blue ball, the afros, the chains, and the memorable nicknames — all contributed to its iconic status. Beyond the aesthetics, the ABA was defined by its unique brand of basketball, characterized by high-scoring and fast-paced action.


The ABA was a trailblazer in many respects, introducing innovations that would shape the future of basketball. It hosted the inaugural dunk contest, showcasing the athleticism and creativity of its players in a thrilling spectacle that would become a staple of the sport. It was the first league to embrace the revolutionary three-point shot, forever altering the dynamics of the game and paving the way for modern perimeter-oriented play. Additionally, the ABA showcased a fast-breaking style of basketball that prioritized speed, setting the stage for the up-tempo, high-octane games that would captivate audiences for decades to come.

As we look back on the ABA, we not only celebrate its memorable moments and larger-than-life personalities but also recognize its lasting impact on basketball. In this article, we embark on a journey to honor the top 15 players who graced the hardwood during the ABA's storied tenure, paying homage to their contributions to the sport and their enduring legacy.


1) Julius "Dr. J" Erving

1971-1973 Virginia Squires, 1973-1976 New York Nets
Forward/6'9/225/UMass/Long Island, NY
5x ABA All-Star, 4x All-ABA 1st Team, 1x All-ABA 2nd Team, 1x All-Defensive 1st Team, 2x ABA Champion, 3x ABA MVP
Best Season:
31.9 PPG, 12.2 RPG, 4.2 APG, 2.5 SPG, 1.8 BPG, 49% FG
Player Comparison:
Giannis Antetokounmpo

Dr. Julius Erving was the most important player in the history of the ABA. Erving was the ABA, without him the league would have never survived past 1974. His above the rim style provided the newly formed ABA with an attraction the NBA didn’t have. Erving excelled around the basket and in transition where he was one of the best finishers in the history of basketball. The forward was also known as an elite defender and the best rebounding forward in pro basketball. His afro, gold chain, style and dunks are still the stuff of legends.

In 1971 Julius skipped his senior year of basketball at the University of Mass to sign with the Virginia Squires of the ABA. His 2 years with the Squires he averaged over 29 points per game and 14 rebounds. In Virginia he went largely unseen among basketball fans. He was traded to the New York Nets due to financial difficulty in Virginia. 

Erving returned home to play for the New York Nets, where he was named ABA MVP in each of his 3 seasons. For the Nets, Erving became known as one of the premier forwards in all of Pro Basketball. He led New York to a championship in his first season with the team, taking home the 1973-1974 Most Value Player award in the process. Always known as a clutch performer, Erving upped almost all of his statistical numbers during the postseason. Even posting a playoff average of over 20 rebounds per game one season. His clutch performances included a ABA Finals game winning shot over Bobby Jones. In the last game ever played in the ABA, Erving finished with 31 points and 19 rebounds in to lead New York to their second ABA Championship.

Julius finished as the ABA's career scoring average leader at 28.7 points per game. The 3 time winner of the ABA MVP award, the Doctor was able to lead the league in scoring 3 times. He finished with two ABA titles in which he was named playoff MVP. No doubt the greatest player in the history of the ABA.

2) Rick Barry

Forward/6'6/210/Miami/Elizabeth, NJ
1968-1969 Oakland Oaks, 1969-1970 Washington Capitols, 1970-1972 New York Nets
4x All-ABA 1st Team, 4x ABA All-Star
Best Season:
34 PPG, 9.4 RPG, 3.9 APG
Player Comparison:
Larry Bird

Rick Barry was the only man to lead the NCAA, NBA, and ABA in scoring, and the first star to defect to the ABA from the NBA. Barry's signing gave instant credibility to the fledgling league, which was desperate for notoriety. He was lured to the ABA by promises of playing for his father-in-law and college coach, Bruce Hale. In addition, he received a piece of ownership in the Oakland Oaks, completing his transition. Barry had to sit out one year before starring for Oakland, but his move opened the floodgates for other NBA stars to follow suit.

From day one, Barry dominated the ABA. In its earliest days, he was the league. The 6-6 forward, known for his intense competitiveness and surly nature, made an immediate impact. In his first season with Oakland, he teamed up with Doug Moe, Warren Jabali, and Larry Brown to form one of the best ABA teams ever. Unfortunately, a knee injury sidelined Barry before his team went on to win the championship. After the 1969 season, the Oakland team relocated to Washington. During his single season there, Barry averaged 27 points, 7 rebounds, and 3 assists per game.

Rick Barry was a scoring machine who could find the basket in a variety of ways. He was a tremendous pull-up and mid-range shooter with a high basketball IQ. Additionally, he was known for his elite passing skills and was a good rebounder for a small forward. In his last two ABA seasons, Barry played with New York, averaging over 30 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists per game. Throughout his ABA career, Barry finished second in scoring on three different occasions.

After four seasons in the ABA, Barry returned to the NBA in 1972, joining the Golden State Warriors. He continued to excel, eventually leading Golden State to an NBA championship in 1975. Rick Barry's impact on the game was profound, bridging the gap between the ABA and NBA and leaving a lasting legacy in both leagues.


Artis Gilmore ABA Kentucky

3) Artis "A-Train" Gilmore

Center/7'4/255/Jacksonville State/Chipley, FL
1971-1976 Kentucky Colonels
5x All-Star, 5x All-ABA 1st Team, 4x All-Defensive 1st Team, 1x ABA Champion, 1972 ABA Rookie of The Year, 1972 ABA MVP
Best Season:
23.8 PPG, 17.8 RPG, 5.0 BPG, 2.0 APG, 59% FG
Player Comparison:
Patrick Ewing

Artis Gilmore was one of the most physically imposing basketball players of all time. For a total of 5 seasons Gilmore intimidated the entire ABA, without a doubt the strongest player and the best defender to play in the ABA. Gilmore was the leagues strongest and most intimidating man. The 7-4 Center was the ABA version of Bill Russel. One of the greatest defensive Centers of all time, Gilmore came out of Jackson State to immediate success in the ABA. The 7’4 center came into the ABA with more hype than anyone. Defensively Gilmore was a man amongst boys, using his freakish wingspan and jumping ability to contest almost every shot at the rim. Gilmore possessed elite strength that is seldom seen in a player 7’4. 

Both leagues bid for his services with the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels winning the battle. Gilmore teamed with Louie Dampier and Dan Issell to immediately make them contenders for the ABA title. The Jacksonville State product anchored the paint for a Kentucky team that was one of pro absketballs best teams in the 1970's. His rookie season for Kentucky he averaged 23.8 ppt and 17.8 rebounds and 5 blocks. As a rookie he was named Rookie of the Year and League MVP for his regular season performance. The next two seasons the big mans average hovered around 20 points and 18 rebounds as Kentucky was eliminated in the playoffs his first three seasons. In 1975 Kentucky hired new coach Hubie Brown to take control of the team. Gilmore led the Colonels to their first ABA championship defeating the Pacers in 5 games as he was named Playoff MVP.

He finished as the ABA’s All-Time Career Field Goal Percentage Leader with .557 mark. ABA All-Time Leader for Blocked Shots in a career with 750 and in one season with 287.When the ABA folded it was Gilmore who went first in the dispersal draft. Perhaps it was Kentucky teammate Dan Issel who best summed up Gilmore "There's just no one else like him in the league,”. "He's devastating. He does devastating things.” Gilmore showcased his dominance as a player in the NBA, he entered at 26 and played another 10 years professionally.


Roger Brown ABA

4) Roger "The Rajah" Brown

Guard/6'5/200/Dayton/Brooklyn, NY
1967-1974 Indiana Pacers, 1974-1975 Utah Stars, 1975 Memphis Sounds, 1975 Indiana
4x All-Star, All-ABA 1st Team, 2x All-ABA 2nd Team, 3x ABA Champion
Best Season:
23 PPG, 7.4 RPG, 4.7 APG
Player Comparison:
Brandon Roy

Roger Brown is among the most underrated players in basketball history. Several notable scouts and coaches swear by his ability. The 6'5" guard was called "The Man with 1,000 Moves" for his unique repertoire of one-on-one maneuvers. A sharpshooter, Brown led the Indiana Pacers to three ABA Championships in the 1970s. Due to his ties to a gambling scandal in college, he was not allowed to enter the NBA draft, making him a prime target for the ABA in its inaugural year in 1967. The legendary NYC player had been blackballed by the NBA because of the betting scandal that was uncovered during his college years.

Brown set an Indiana Pacers playoff record with 53 points in a game. He was the first player ever signed by the Indiana Pacers and was known as a big-time playoff performer, often serving as the go-to player in clutch situations. Brown hit several crucial shots leading the Pacers to three ABA titles. Offensively, he had few peers, utilizing a variety of head and pump fakes. Brown was an excellent shooter and a three-point threat. The swingman averaged over 20 points per game in his first four seasons, peaking at 23 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 assists in 1970. During that championship campaign, he averaged 28.5 points per game, including a high of 53 in the series—an ABA record.

Indiana won another championship in the 1972 season, where Brown went head-to-head with New York’s Rick Barry, outscoring him 32 to 23 in the deciding Game 6. Following the 1972 season, Brown played a smaller role on the Pacers with the emergence of George McGinnis. Despite this, the Pacers captured the ABA crown once more, repeating as champions. Brown retired at the age of 32 after two more years in the ABA.

Often overlooked in the history books, Roger Brown might be the best player never to have played in the NBA, retiring from the ABA in 1975.



Connie Hawkins ABA


5) Connie "The Hawk" Hawkins

Forward/6'9/225/Iowa/Brooklyn, NY
1967-1968 Pittsburgh Pipers, 196801969 Minnesota Pipers
2x All-Star, 2x All-ABA 1st Team, 1x ABA Champion, 1x ABA MVP
Best Season:
30.2 PPG, 11.4 RPG, 3.9 APG, 51% FG
Player Comparison:
Amare Stoudemire

Connie Hawkins, the NYC schoolyard legend, was the ABA’s biggest target when the league started. "The Hawk" was blackballed by the NBA for a betting scandal that occurred at the University of Iowa. "He handles the ball like a guard," said Billy Cunningham of the 76ers, who once played against him in Brooklyn. "He has the biggest hands I've ever seen," remarked Dave DeBusschere. The ABA signed Hawkins, and he made an immediate impact, leading the Pittsburgh Pipers to a championship in his first season. As a rookie, he led the league in scoring with 26.8 points per game, while also averaging 13.5 rebounds and almost 5 assists per game, earning the league MVP award.

In his second year, the team moved to Minnesota in an effort to support league commissioner George Mikan. Despite the team's poor attendance record, Hawkins continued to excel, averaging over 30 points per game in his last season with the Pipers. He played just over 100 games in total in the ABA. Bill Russell included Hawkins in his second all-time all-pro team, stating, "If he hadn't got such a bad deal, you would mention Hawkins with Baylor and Pettit."

Like Roger Brown, Hawkins was barred from playing in the NBA due to an alleged gambling scandal in college. This made him a prime target for the ABA. In the league's first year, Hawkins showcased his above-the-rim abilities that had made him famous on the streets of New York City. He was the ABA's first MVP award winner and led his team to the inaugural ABA championship.

Connie Hawkins was head and shoulders above the competition in the ABA’s first season, easily claiming league MVP honors and leading his team to the initial ABA championship. Hawkins would have certainly ranked higher on our list if he had played longer in the ABA.

Mel Daniels ABA

6) Mel "Big D" Daniels

Center/6'9/230/New Mexico/Detroit, MI
1967-1968 Minnesota Muskies, 1968-1974 Indiana Pacers, 1974-1975 Memphis Sounds
7x All-Star, 4x All-ABA 1st Team, 1x All-ABA 2nd Team, 3x ABA Champion, ABA Rookie of The Year, 2x ABA MVP
Best Season:
21 PPG, 18 RPG, 2.2 APG, 51% FG
Player Comparison:
Alonzo Mourning

Mel Daniels not being ranked among the top 100 all-time players by Bill Simmons' Basketball Book is a crime. Daniels outclassed just about everyone he played against in his prime, including NBA talent. A physical player, Daniels would beat you up and out-rebound you. He had a reliable mid-range jump shot and was a tenacious competitor, also an underrated passer and athlete. Originally a member of the Minnesota Muskies, Daniels was the ABA Rookie of the Year in the 1967–68 season before being traded to the Indiana Pacers. He was a key component in three ABA championships with the Pacers, teaming with Roger Brown, Freddie Lewis, and George McGinnis to form perhaps the best team of the 1970s.

Daniels' best statistical year was his second season with the Pacers, averaging 22 points and 16.5 rebounds per game. He was the ABA Most Valuable Player in both 1969 and 1971. Daniels played in seven ABA All-Star Games and was named the ABA All-Star Game MVP in 1971. He led the ABA in rebounding three different seasons and averaged better than 18 points for six ABA seasons. Perhaps his most impressive marks are his ABA career-leading 9,494 rebounds and career rebounding average of 15.1 rebounds per game. "Slim" was one of the few players to spend the entirety of his professional basketball prime in the ABA.

A Detroit native, Daniels helped form the nucleus of Indiana's championship teams in the 1970s. He anchored the Pacers along with stars like Roger Brown, George McGinnis, and Freddie Lewis. If you question Daniels' toughness, just watch the clip of him restraining Ron Artest during the Malice at the Palace. Even past his prime, you can still sense Daniels' intensity.

David Thompson ABA

7) David  "Skywalker" Thompson

Guard/6'4/210/NC State/Shelby, NC
1975-1976 Denver Nuggets
1x All-Star, 1x All-ABA 1st Team, ABA Rookie of The Year, 2nd in ABA MVP Voting
Best Season:
26 PPG, 6.3 RPG, 3.7 APG, 1.6 SPG, 1.2 BPG, 52% FG
Player Comparison:
Michael Jordan

David Thompson, known as "Skywalker," was a polarizing talent who was drafted first overall by both the ABA and NBA after his stellar career at NC State. He only spent his rookie season in the ABA, but it was a spectacular one. Thompson scored 26 points per game on 51 percent shooting, along with 6 rebounds and 4 assists. He was named the ABA All-Star MVP after leading his Nuggets squad to victory over the ABA All-Stars. Thompson also led the Nuggets to the ABA Finals, losing in Game 6 to Dr. J and the New York Nets. He was All-ABA in his only season.

Thompson possessed a great mid-range jumper. If defenders played too far off him, he would drain the 15-20 foot jumper. If they got too close, he would blow by them and create memorable plays. It's largely forgotten now, but David Thompson was perhaps the greatest player in the game during his first two seasons, rivaling even Dr. J, before drugs destroyed his career. He was one of the first to popularize the 360 and alley-oop dunk.

The ABA featured a number of stars who only played one season in the league, such as Spencer Haywood and Charlie Scott, but Thompson was the greatest one-and-done talent in ABA history. Before injuries and drugs derailed his career, Thompson was the closest thing to Michael Jordan to play basketball. The shooting guard is considered one of the best in basketball history. A young Michael Jordan cited Thompson as his favorite player growing up, and it’s said that Jordan even patterned his game after Thompson.

George Gervin ABA Virginia Squires

8) George "Iceman" Gervin

Forward/6'9/195/Eastern Michigan/Detroit, MI
1972-1974 Virginia Squires, 1974-1976 San Antonio Spurs
3x All-Star, 2x All-ABA 2nd Team
Best Season:
25.4 PPG, 8.5 RPG, 2.0 APG, 1.5 SPG, 1.8 BPG, 47% FG
Player Comparison:
Kevin Durant

George "Iceman" Gervin was one of the original early entries into the league, joining the ABA after just one season at Eastern Michigan. The rail-thin Gervin was a scoring machine, routinely putting up 30 points without breaking a sweat. Remarkably, Gervin was just 23 when the ABA dissolved. Known for his iconic finger roll, Gervin made an immediate impact, averaging 14 points per game as a rookie with the Virginia Squires, a team that also featured Julius Erving.

After the 1973 season, Erving was traded, and Gervin took over the scoring load, averaging more than 25 points. Following his breakout second season, he was traded to the San Antonio Spurs, much to the dismay of Virginia fans. Gervin spent two ABA seasons with the Spurs, pairing with James Silas to form one of the most exciting duos in the league. Over those two seasons, he averaged 22 points and 7 rebounds. Despite his efforts, San Antonio was eliminated in the first round of the playoffs both seasons.

The three-time ABA All-Star was a bona fide scorer, using a variety of jump shots, pull-ups, bank shots, finger rolls, and clever maneuvers to evade defenders. An underrated rebounder, Gervin used his thin frame and sneaky athleticism to outmaneuver opponents, often finishing over the top with his superior length.

Gervin's NBA career was even more successful. He recorded a remarkable streak of scoring double figures in 407 consecutive games and twice finished second in MVP voting. NBA Hall of Famer Jerry West once commented, "He's the one player I would pay to see." Only Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan have won more league scoring championships than Gervin's four, and he was the first guard to win three titles in a row.

While Gervin had his best seasons in the NBA, his ABA career showcased his future potential as a prolific scorer. His time in the ABA was a precursor to the legendary career that would follow in the NBA.


Louie Dampier Kentucky Colonels ABA

9) Louie "King Louie" Dampier

Guard/6'0/170/Kentucky/Indianapolis, IN
1967-1976 Kentucky Colonels
7x All-Star, 4x All-ABA 2nd Team, 1x ABA Champion
Best Season: 26 PPG, 5.5 APG, 3.8 RPG,
Player Comparison:
Steve Nash

Louie Dampier was one of the best-kept secrets in ABA history. One of the few players to play in the ABA for all nine years of the league's existence, the two-time All-American from the University of Kentucky was a 6-foot guard with serious range. Dampier was a seven-time ABA All-Star and a four-time All-ABA Second Team member. Known for his outstanding long-range shooting, he made 500 three-pointers during a three-year stretch: a record 199 in the 1968-69 season, 198 in 1969-70, and 103 in 1970-71. During the 1971 season, Dampier made a pro record 57 free throws in a row, a record that still stands. He is the ABA's career leader in points and assists.

Dampier teamed with Artis Gilmore and Dan Issel to lead the Kentucky Colonels to the 1975 title. Adolph Rupp, his college coach, claimed Dampier was the best shooter he ever coached at the University of Kentucky. Often likened to the ABA's equivalent of Cal Ripken Jr. for his consistent excellence, Dampier was one of only three players to spend his entire ABA career with one franchise. After the ABA, he played three more seasons in the NBA with the San Antonio Spurs.

The 6'2" guard was a dynamite decision-maker and a deadly three-point shooter, reminiscent of Steve Nash. Dampier formed a lethal trio in Kentucky with Gilmore and Issel, leading the Colonels to their lone ABA Championship in 1975. He was one of the first lethal three-point shooters in professional basketball history.


George McGinnis ABA

10) George "The Hammer" McGinnis

Forward/6'8/235/Indiana/Indianapolis, IN
1971-1975 Indiana Pacers
3x All-Star, 2x All-ABA 1st Team, 1x All-ABA 2nd Team, 2x ABA Champion, 1x ABA MVP
Best Season:
29.8 PPG, 14.3 RPG, 6.3 APG, 2.6 SPG
Player Comparison:
Larry Johnson

The first player to leave Bobby Knight’s Hoosiers early, George McGinnis was drafted by the hometown Indiana Pacers in 1971, where Roger Brown and Mel Daniels were already on the roster. McGinnis made an immediate impact, averaging 17 points and 10 rebounds in his rookie season. He played a crucial role in the Pacers' championship run, contributing 15 points and 11 rebounds per game in the playoffs.

The following season, McGinnis took on a bigger offensive burden, averaging 27 points and 12 rebounds as the Pacers repeated as champions in 1972, the only ABA team to achieve this feat. By the 1975 season, speculation arose that McGinnis was the superior player to Julius Erving. Both forwards had spectacular seasons, sharing the 1975 MVP award. In the playoffs, McGinnis dominated with averages of 32 points, 16 rebounds, and 8.2 assists, although the Pacers fell to Kentucky in five games.

Known for his quickness, shooting ability, and physicality, McGinnis was a versatile forward who could also excel on the perimeter. A tremendous rebounder, he was once likened by Lou Carnasecca to a heavyweight contender. McGinnis was named to the All-ABA team five times before continuing his career in the NBA until retiring in 1985.

In the ABA, McGinnis was a force to be reckoned with, utilizing his chiseled 6'9" frame to overpower defenders and dominate the game. However, his impact in the NBA was diminished compared to his electrifying performances in the ABA.


Billy Cunningham Carolina Cougars ABA

11) Billy "Kangaroo Kid" Cunningham

Forward/6'6/210/North Carolina/Brooklyn, NY
1972-1974 Carolina Cougars
1x All-Star, All-ABA 1st Team, 1x ABA MVP
Best Season:
24.1 PPG, 12.0 RPG, 6.3 APG, 2.6 SPG
Player Comparison:
Bobby Jones

The Kangaroo Kid, Billy Cunningham, was a versatile swingman who made the leap from the NBA's Philadelphia 76ers to the ABA. Spending nearly a decade with Philadelphia, Cunningham brought his skills to the ABA for two seasons, though his time on the court was overshadowed by legal battles. Despite this, he made a significant impact, earning the title of the 1973 ABA MVP with an average of around 20 points per game.

In his only full season with the Carolina Cougars, Cunningham was named a 1973 ABA All-Star and was selected to the All-ABA team. His presence helped elevate the struggling Carolina franchise, positioning them among the league's elite teams. Reflecting on his ABA years, Cunningham later remarked that they were the most enjoyable of his basketball career.

Similar to Rick Barry, Cunningham's move to the ABA represented a significant acquisition for the league. Known as the "Kangaroo Kid" for his energetic style of play, Cunningham's up-tempo game was well-suited to the ABA's fast-paced style. Despite facing court disputes between the 76ers and the Cougars, Cunningham eventually joined Carolina for the 1972-1973 season after the resolution of contractual issues.

After two seasons in the ABA, Cunningham opted to return to the NBA due to the ABA's financial struggles, leaving behind a legacy as one of the greatest players in both ABA and NBA history.



Dan Issel ABA

12) Dan "The Horse" Issel

Forward/6'9/235/Kentucky/Batavia, IL
1970-1975 Kentucky Colonels, 1975-1976 Denver Nuggets
6x All-Star, 1x All-ABA 1st Team, 4x All-ABA 2nd Team, ABA Rookie of The Year, 1x ABA Champion
Best Season:
29.9 PPG, 13.2 RPG, 2.0 APG, 49% FG
Player Comparison:
Kevin Love

Dan Issel, known as "The Horse," was a star at the University of Kentucky, making his signing with the Kentucky Colonels in 1970 a homecoming of sorts. With Issel on board, the Colonels gained instant offense. Known for his furious work ethic and hard-nosed demeanor, Issel was a model of consistency, averaging over 20 points per game for more than 10 seasons in both the ABA and NBA.

Quickly proving himself a superstar, Issel shared Rookie of the Year honors in his first season as the ABA's leading scorer, averaging 29.9 points. He followed this up with a stellar second season, averaging 30.6 points after switching from center to forward to accommodate Artis Gilmore. In 1972, Issel set the league scoring record with 2,538 points and was named to the All-ABA 1st team.

Under the leadership of Hubie Brown, Issel helped lead the Colonels to a championship in 1975, merging his talents with Gilmore and Dampier. Traded to the Nuggets for the final season of the ABA, Issel continued to excel, averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds. Despite falling short in the championship against Dr. J and the Nets, Issel's impact was undeniable.

Following the ABA-NBA merger, Issel proved himself once again in the NBA, averaging a double-double four different times. His consistency and versatility earned him comparisons to NBA star Kevin Love, both known for their premium outside shooting and rugged inside play. Issel's longevity in both the ABA and NBA solidified his status as one of basketball's enduring talents.

Willie Wise ABA Utah Stars

13) Willie Wise

Forward/6'5/210/Drake/San Francisco, CA
1969-1974 Utah Stars, 1974-1976 Virginia Squires
3x All-Star, 2x All-ABA 2nd Team, 2x All-Defensive 1st Team, 1x ABA Champion
Best Season:
23.2 PPG, 10.6 RPG, 3.4 APG, 51% FG
Player Comparison:
Eddie Jones

Willie Wise's impact on the American Basketball Association (ABA) transcended his relatively understated presence in the league. Standing at 6'5", Wise possessed a rare combination of size, athleticism, and basketball IQ that made him a formidable force on both ends of the court. Renowned for his versatility, Wise was often tasked with guarding the opposing team's best player while consistently delivering on offense, averaging an impressive 20 points per game.

Wise's leadership qualities were instrumental in guiding his team, the Utah Stars, to success during his tenure in the ABA. Despite being one of the league's most underrated players, Wise's team-first mentality and dedication to winning helped foster a culture of excellence within the Stars' organization. His contributions extended beyond individual statistics, playing a pivotal role in propelling the team to multiple winning seasons and late playoff appearances.

On the court, Wise was a dynamic presence, utilizing his active nature and relentless playing style to excel in various facets of the game. His defensive prowess often saw him matched up against the opposing team's top offensive threats, showcasing his ability to make an impact on both ends of the floor. Offensively, Wise was a reliable scorer, known for his ability to create scoring opportunities and contribute consistently on the scoreboard.

Despite his remarkable contributions to the ABA, Wise's talents were often overlooked by many fans and analysts. However, alongside legendary figures like Louie Dampier, Roger Brown, and Mel Daniels, Wise remains among the most obscure yet influential players in the history of the ABA. His legacy serves as a testament to his undeniable skill, leadership, and impact on the game of basketball during his prime years in the league.



Marvin Barnes ABA

14) Marvin "Bad News" Barnes

Forward/6'8/210/Providence/Providence, RI
1974-1976 Spirits of St. Louis
2x All-Star, 1x All-ABA 2nd Team, ABA Rookie of the year
Best Season:
24 PPG, 15.6 RPG, 3.2 APG, 1.2 SPG, 1.8 BPG, 49% FG
Player Comparison:
Rashard Lewis

Marvin Barnes was a complex figure in the annals of basketball history—both mesmerizingly talented and notorious for his off-court antics.

His exploits, chronicled in ESPN’s "Spirits of St. Louis," painted a picture of a player who was as enigmatic as he was gifted. Barnes's on-court performances were nothing short of spectacular, earning him recognition as an ABA All-Pro twice during his three seasons with the team. Despite his off-court troubles, Barnes's raw talent was undeniable, averaging an impressive 24 points and 13 rebounds per game. In the playoffs, he elevated his game even further, showcasing his clutch prowess by upping his scoring average to an astonishing 30 points per game.

Drafted by both the Philadelphia 76ers and the Spirits of St. Louis, Barnes had hoped to challenge his idol, Julius Erving, in the playoffs—a series that saw him deliver standout performances despite his team's eventual defeat. Off the court, Barnes's antics often overshadowed his talent, with his unpredictable behavior and demands for more money causing friction within teams.

A standout at Providence College, Barnes's rise to stardom was marred by a series of off-court incidents, including involvement in criminal activities and probation violations. Despite his troubled past, Barnes's basketball prowess was undeniable, characterized by his unique blend of strength, quickness, and skill. He had a knack for scoring both inside and outside, often exploiting matchups to his advantage with his versatile scoring arsenal.

While Barnes's career was cut short due to his off-court troubles and struggles with substance abuse, his journey served as a cautionary tale. Following his retirement from basketball, Barnes embarked on a path of redemption, using his experiences to reach out to youth and advocate for a better path. Despite the controversies that surrounded him, Barnes's undeniable talent and resilience on the court cement his legacy as one of the most intriguing figures in basketball history.


Moses Malone ABA

15) Moses "Chairman of The Boards" Malone

Center/6'10/225/Petersburgh High School/Petersburgh, VA
1974-1975 Utah Stars, 1975-1976 Spirits of St. Louis
1x All-Star
Best Season:
18.8 PPG, 14.6 RPG, 1.8 BPG, 57% FG
Player Comparison:
Shaquille O'Neal

Moses Malone's entry into the professional basketball scene marked a historic moment, as he became the first player to make the leap directly from high school to the pros under the ABA's early entry rule. His impact was immediate, earning him a spot in the All-Star game during his rookie season. Despite his slender frame in his early years, Malone quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with, earning the moniker "Chairman of the Boards" for his prowess on the glass.

Spending his first three professional seasons in the ABA with the Utah Stars and the Spirits of St. Louis, Malone used this time to hone his skills and develop into one of the most dominant centers of the 1980s. His ABA tenure saw him averaging an impressive 17 points and 13 rebounds per game on 55 percent shooting—a testament to his burgeoning talent and potential.

The ABA's successful recruitment of Malone out of high school was a coup for the league, and despite his brief stint, Malone left an indelible mark, showcasing the mammoth potential that would define his career. Kentucky coach Hubie Brown was quick to recognize Malone's exceptional talent, prophesying that he would become the greatest offensive rebounder in basketball history—a prediction that has stood the test of time for over half a century.

Malone's dominance in the paint was unparalleled, striking fear into opponents with his formidable presence. His ability to dominate inside was reminiscent of legends like Shaquille O'Neal, solidifying his status as one of the most formidable big men to ever grace the hardwood.


ABA All-Time Honorable Mention Team:
Charlie Scott, Spencer Haywood, Ron Boone, Billy Knight, Bobby Jones, Jimmy Jones, Steve Jones, Donnie Freedman, Ralph Simpson, John Brisker, Freddie Lewis, Mack Calvin, James Silas, Billy Keller, Warren Jabali, Larry Brown, Mo Lucas, Doug Mo, Zelmo Beaty, Larry Kennon, Brian Taylor, John Williamson, Steve Jones, Cincy Powell, Darrel Carrier, John Beasley, Bill Paultz, Swen Nater, Red Robbins

ABA Stories:
Best ABA Teams of All Time - Coming Soon
Wild Times From The ABA - Coming Soon
NBA vs ABA - SuperGames - Coming Soon
Wildest Characters in ABA History - Coming Soon
The 5 NBA Stars The ABA Should Have Signed - Coming Soon

ABA Resources & References:
Loose Balls - The Wild History of The ABA By
Longshots The Life & Times of The ABA by HBO Sports
Free Spirits - ESPN 30 for 30
The Last Night of The ABA
The Doctor by NBA TV
Dr. J & The ABA ESPN Classic
David Skywalker Thompson

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