The NBA and the National Basketball Players Association announced a jointly-funded program to provide former players from the American Basketball Association (ABA) with "recognition payments," reports the Athletic. The payments to all eligible players will total $24.5 Million.
Around 115 players who played for at least three seasons in the ABA but did not qualify for the NBA players' pension plan are now eligible to receive payments. Players will receive an annual payment of $3,828 for each year of service.
"Our players have a genuine sense of appreciation for those who paved the way and helped us achieve the success we enjoy today," NBPA Executive Director Tamika Tremaglio said in a statement. "We have always considered the ABA players a part of our brotherhood and we are proud to finally recognize them with this benefit."
“Both our current players and team governors felt a need to act on behalf of these former ABA players who are aging and, in many cases, facing difficult economic circumstances,” said NBA Commissioner Adam Silver. “These pioneers made meaningful contributions to help grow the game of professional basketball and we all believe it’s appropriate to provide financial recognition to this group for their impact.”
According to a study conducted by IndyStar.com, approximately 80% of former ABA players who are experiencing financial difficulties are Black. Several are “in their late 60s, 70s, and 80s, with some experiencing homelessness, and medical issues including an inability to afford new dentures.”
Scott Tarter, CEO and founder of Dropping Dimes, an organzation that provides financial assistance to former ABA players, expressed his gratitude that former ABA players will receive some much-needed assistance.
‘In some ways, we feel these aging ABA players, who broke so many barriers in the 1960s and 70s, deserve even more recognition," said Tarter. "But I can’t overstate how much it means to them to have the NBA and NBPA recognize their tremendous contributions to today’s NBA game."
From 1967 to 1976, the ABA was an innovative and rival league to the NBA. Many of the current features of the NBA game such as the 3-point shot, the slam dunk contest, and the offensive-minded, fast-breaking style of basketball first originated in the ABA. In 1976, the ABA’s four teams, the New York Nets, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, and Denver Nuggets, formally merged with the NBA.
Some of the greatest players of all time including Julius “Dr. J." Erving, Moses Malone, George Gervin, David Thompson, Artist Gilmore, Spencer Haywood, and Connie Hawkins all begin their careers in the ABA.