As a fan of basketball history, one of the things I’ve always been a bit annoyed about is how the NBA excludes ABA awards and records. After all, the NBA has incorporated the BAA (the predecessor of the NBA) and their records into the NBA, but then when the ABA merged with the NBA, the NBA said nope we’ll just take 4 of your teams (Pacers, Spurs, Nuggets, Nets), the 3 point line and the dunk contest and we’ll ignore all your history. That doesn’t sound right to me.
So as a fan of basketball history I really want to give ABA players some attention. I really do think these guys deserve more love in basketball discussions. So what if we counted ABA awards and records as part of NBA history? Where they rank all time? So I will take note of all the players who won ABA championships, MVPs, Finals MVPs, All-ABA, All-Def etc and add their awards and records together and combine it with the NBA list, as basketball-reference does. Here would be the ranking.
Julius Erving – by far he would be the highest ranked player on the combined list. Combined 16x All-Star, 2x All-Star Game MVP, 12x All-NBA/ABA, 1x All-Def, 3x Scoring champ, 3x Champion, 4x MVP, 2x Finals MVP. Career 24/8.5/4. 30k points, 10k rebounds. Dr J’s combined career easily puts him in the top 15, might even have a case for top 10 with that combined resume. He would go just ahead of KD and his teammate Moses, and it would be pretty close between him, Shaq and Hakeem all time.
Artis Gilmore – played most of his prime in the ABA. Combined 11x All-Star, 5x All-ABA, 5x All-Def, 4x Rebounding leader, 1x ROTY, 1x Champion, 1x MVP, 1x Finals MVP, career 18/12/2, 25k points, 16k rebounds. Gilmore achievements would rank him at about the same level as David Robinson all time – in the top 25 range.
Rick Barry – Barry played 4 years of his prime in the ABA. With that added, he now has a combined 12x All-Star, 1x All star game MVP, 10x All-NBA/ABA, 2x scoring champ, 1x ROTY, 1x Champion, 1x Finals MVP. career 25/7/5. 25k points. I would put Barry and Elgin Baylor about the same level – top 30.
George Gervin – Gervin played 4 years in the ABA. He has a combined 12x All-Star, 1x All star game MVP, 9x All-NBA/ABA, 4x Scoring champion. Career 25/5/3. 26k points. I rank him similar to Allen Iverson all time – top 40.
Mel Daniels – A player who is very forgotten because he barely played any games in the NBA. In the ABA he was a 7x All-Star, 1x All Star Game MVP, 5x All-ABA, 3x Rebounding leader, 3x Champion, 2x MVP, career 18/15/2. He is the all time ABA rebounder with 9.5k rebounds. He would rank about the same level as Willis Reed as his career is quite similar – in the top 50 range.
George McGinnis – played most of his prime in the ABA. 6x All-Star, 5x All-NBA/ABA, 1x Scoring champ, 2x Champion, 1x MVP, 1x Finals MVP. career 20/11/4. 17k points, 9k rebounds. He ranks roughly similar to Elvin Hayes – top 50.
Dan Issel – played most of his prime in the ABA. 6x All-Star, 1x All star game MVP, 5x All-ABA, 1x Scoring champ, 1x Champion. career 22/9/2. 27k points, 11k rebounds. I would put him right behind Kevin McHale and George McGinnis – top 50-60.
Connie Hawkins – He played 2 years of his prime in the ABA. Very precious years since he started late in the ABA to begin with. 5x All-Star, 3x All-ABA/NBA, 1x Scoring champ, 1x Champion, 1x MVP, 1x Finals MVP. career 18/9/4. I would put him slightly higher than Billy Cunningham and Jerry Lucas all time – top 75
Billy Cunningham – Kangaroo Kid played 2 seasons in the ABA. Combined he is a 5x All-Star, 5x All-NBA/ABA, 1x Champion, 1x MVP. career 21/10/4. 16k points, 8k rebounds. About the same level as Jerry Lucas all time – top 80
Spencer Haywood – He only played one year in the ABA but that year was very important because now he has a combined 5x All-Star, 1x All star game mvp, 5x All-NBA/ABA, 1x Scoring champ, 1x rebounding champ, 1x MVP. career 20/10/2. 17k points, 8k rebounds. He would rank about the same level as Chris Webber and Pau Gasol for me – top 80
Bobby Jones – he played 2 years in the ABA which gives him a combined 5x All-Star, 1x All-ABA, 11x All-Def, 1x Champion. career 12/6/3. I would put him very close to Dikembe Mutombo all time – top 80
Roger Brown – played his entire career in the ABA. 4x All-Star, 3x All-ABA, 3x Champion, 1x Finals MVP. career 17/6/4. Similar career to James Worthy – top 80
Zelmo Beaty – played 4 seasons in the ABA. Combined 5x All-Star, 2x All-ABA, 1x Champion, 1x Finals MVP. career 16/11/2. 15k points, 9k rebounds. Would put him slightly ahead of Bob Lanier and Walt Bellamy all time – top 100
These 13 players I think would get the biggest boost from having their ABA achievements recognized.
Also note that Moses Malone, Maurice Lucas and David Thompson all get 1 more all star appearance on their resumes.
There’s also a host of lesser ABA players that have cases for Hall of Fame but it’s more borderline:
Freddie Lewis – 4x All-Star, 3x Champ, 1x Finals MVP, career 16/4/4
Warren Jabali – 4x All-Star, 1x All-ABA, 1x Champ, 1x Finals MVP, career 17/7/5
Willie Wise – 3x All-Star, 2x All-ABA, 2x All-Def, 1x Champ, career 17/8/3
Jimmy Jones – 6x All-Star, 3x All-ABA, career 16/4/4
Mack Calvin – 5x All-Star, 4x All-ABA, career 16/2/5
Larry Jones – 4x All-Star, 3x All-ABA, career 19/5/4
Louie Dampier – 7x All-Star, 4x All-ABA, 1x Champ, career 17/3/5
Ron Boone – 4x All-Star, 2x All-ABA, 1x Champ, career 17/4/4
Charlie Scott – 5x All-Star, 2x All-ABA, 1x Scoring champ, 1x Champ, career 21/4/5
Bob Netolicky – 4x All-Star, 1x All-ABA, 2x Champ, career 16/9/2
Let me know what you guys think of these players, how high would they be on your personal all time lists? I think it’s unfair that the NBA excludes ABA stats and awards – undoubtedly Gilmore, Daniels, McGinnis, Issel and Hawkins would have made the NBA 75 list had they really respected ABA records and achievements.
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