The ABA-NBA merger resulted in “the greatest deal known to man.” A million-dollar investment in 1974 finished with an estimated $800 million profit in 2014. But not everyone got their fair share. 108 former ABA players, mostly African-American, still receive no pension from their playing days in the NBA.
“As far as this pension thing, the NBA is waiting for us to die off. Adam Silver and the board are waiting for us to die, so they don’t have to worry about it.”Frank Card, USA Today
Only four ABA teams joined the NBA – the San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets, and the New Jersey Nets. With them arrived a new identity that is the core of today’s NBA. The three-pointer, dunking, and emphasis on fast, flowing offense were are staples of the ABA. Its impact on the modern game is undeniable.
Maurice McHartley was an ABA player for four years, and he retired as a news truck driver. Frank Card played for the Denver Rockets and retired as a bus driver. These men led blue-collar lives if they found steady jobs at all. Card is one of the lucky ones; his bus driving job ensured a decent pension. Most of the 108 players were not that lucky. Poor, homeless, they’re asking for the NBA to provide a minimum pension for their contribution to the league. They’re not asking for a lot – $400 a month.
“The pawns in this whole thing are the Black players who were lured in to the ABA.”Scott Tarter, USA Today
Scott Tarter is the co-founder of the Dropping Dimes Foundation, a group trying to help the forgotten 108 ABA players. According to their calculations, it would cost the NBA $1.8 million a year to cover the $400 a month pension plan. That’s how much the Memphis Grizzlies are paying Mario Hezonja not to play for them. Time is of the essence here. Most of the 108 players are in the later stages of their life, from 68 to 84 years old, and the idea is to provide them a decent retirement.
“These guys are dying very quickly, and they are not going to be around much longer. It’s not a callous thing to say. It’s important to recognize. That $1.8 million? The NBA won’t even need to fund 10 years from now.”Scott Tarter, USA Today
The NBA confirmed they are working on a solution with the Dropping Dimes Foundation, and we hope an announcement will be coming shortly. This truly isn’t a large sum of money for the NBA, and it would show tremendous respect for men who helped build the league we all love.
As an apology for making them wait so long, why not introduce an ABA appreciation week, play with red/white/blue balls, and invite all former players to whose games? They deserve a standing ovation.