More good press on the ABA
Today's ABA not like the old one
By Brad Rock
Deseret Morning News
So someone noticed Ron Boone after all.
Even if it was after the fact.
Boone was in the news this week, thanks to a unique recognition.
The American Basketball Association — the newfangled version, not the original — named one of its divisions after him. Starting in November, people in Bellingham, Wash., for instance, can say, "Look at that! The Slam are leading the Ron Boone Division."
There are also divisions named after other ABA legends such as Moses Malone, Spencer Haywood, Connie Hawkins and Louie Dampier.
This, of course, isn't the first honor for the former Utah Jazz and Utah Stars guard. He is listed in the NBA Register among the league's all-time best. However, he was never noted in the record books for what some consider his greatest accomplishment: playing in 1,041 consecutive games which, at one point, was more than any player in history.
And you thought Cal Ripken was the only iron man. Ripken did play in 2,632 consecutive games. But that's baseball, where some days the ball isn't even hit your way. In basketball there are jammed fingers, twisted ankles and dislodged teeth at every turn.
Compared to basketball, baseball is an ice cream break.
To Boone's dismay, the NBA always acted as though Boone's 1,041-game streak never happened. The reason: He played 662 of those games in the ABA, before moving on to the NBA. But whatever league he played in, he was as dependable as the mail. In the 1990s, A.C. Green passed Boone anyway, reaching 1,192 consecutive games.
Although the ABA's recent gesture is surely appreciated by Boone, one shouldn't confuse the current league with the one in which he played. The old ABA was famous for superstars waiting to be discovered, such as Julius Erving, Artis Gilmore, David Thompson and George Gervin. The new league's claims to fame are rapper Master P. and has-been Dennis Rodman.
The old ABA was a major professional league, challenging the stodgy NBA. The new ABA is a no-frills minor league, which lists teams in 62 markets, ranging from Los Angeles, Atlanta and Detroit to Duluth, Ga., and Greenville, Miss.
For further perspective, consider this: New Mexico has TWO teams listed on the league Web site (Santa Fe and Gallup).
Unlike the old ABA, the new one isn't a league of stars, either. This ABA considers itself a developmental league. Predictably, it's had its share of troubles. Last season, for example, Utah had a team called the Snowbears. Former Jazz center Ike Austin's club went 27-1 but folded after winning the quarterfinal round of the playoffs. Austin claimed the league was jerking the Snowbears around about scheduling and travel costs.
Before you could say "the check's in the mail," the Snowbears were in hibernation.
Although the new ABA works diligently to tie itself to the wild and woolly original league, it's not a direct comparison. It does have a red, white and blue ball and 3-point shot.
And just like the old ABA, it has financial worries, too.
But what it doesn't have is Moses Malone, Julius Erving or Dan Issel playing in the games.
The old league had players on every team good enough to compete — and sometimes star — in the NBA. The new league has Lou Kelly of the Las Vegas Rattlers. Doesn't ring a bell? Small wonder.
The current league is in a constant state of flux, with host towns changing frequently. Which begs the question: Isn't having an ABA division named after you sort of like having your name on the passenger list of the Hindenburg?
Owners from Lake Charles to Newark to Tijuana would disagree.
They have the colorful ball. And they certainly have the hard-to-reach road games.
And now they have one more thing to tie them to the lovable old ABA: Ron Boone's name up in lights.