Viagra was supposed to be heart medication when during clinical trials men reported an interesting side-effect and the rest is history. It is not uncommon for pivotal moments to have quite simple explanations. The ABA ball follows in that line of quite prosaic stories. Sometimes the best decisions are made by accident.
ABA was founded in 1967 as a competitor to the NBA so it is reasonable to assume the color of the ABA ball was a branding strategy. Someone must’ve had meetings, brainstormed or whatnot and decided they needed to visually differentiate themselves from the NBA. It was flashy, had much more African-American players who brought moves from the street, it introduced the three-point line and dunking became a regular occurrence. A colourfull ball makes perfect sense.
Well, the explanation is much simpler than that. The first commissioner of the ABA was George Mikan, a powerhouse at the center position. You know someone was a badass when they had to install a rule to give other players a fighting chance. “The Mikan Rule” widened the lane from 6 to 12 feet so players would have a chance to deal with him. Mikan had all this influence despite having severe eye-sight issues. You see where this is going, right?
Yep, Mikan as the commissioner couldn’t really see the ball if he wasn’t on the field so he had the balls painted hoping that would help him see the ball. This was such an improv move the league never patented the color scheme so they couldn’t make money off it! Gotta love the ABA