BAY OF BIGS
Despite the fact that Lou Hudson has changed his mind and returned to the St. Louis Hawks of the NBA, the success of the new rival American Basketball Association continues to depend upon the eventual decisions of just two players. They are the established stars of the San Francisco Warriors, Nate Thurmond and Rick Barry. In a word, if Thurmond and Barry reject the offer of Oakland Owner Pat Boone and his coach, Bruce Hale, who is Barry's father-in-law, the ABA will be, in all reality, quite dead as viable major league competition. A slower, complete death would almost surely follow.
The defection of a few NBA players—like San Francisco's Clyde Lee to New Orleans—obscures great ABA shortcomings. Several of the 11 teams have yet to hire a coach or any players of professional competence; not a single outstanding draft choice has been signed; arenas in many cities, New York included, would better serve as garages; and some of the teams still appear to exist only in somebody's hat. Last week the Warriors could not locate some ABA franchises when they sought to officially protest the wooing of their players. The National Basketball Association believes that the ABA's strategy is to break up the Warriors and gain, with Oakland, a toehold in at least one of the nation's three prestige sports centers—New York, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area.
If Barry and Thurmond remain with San Francisco, Oakland would be doomed in the competitive market. If they sign with the Ail-Americans (as Boone wants to call his team), the ABA would still not be guaranteed success, but national and TV acceptance would become a possibility. At the least, Oakland could create so much havoc and embarrassment for the NBA that the older league might try to make a deal for the Bay and perhaps accept one or two other ABA franchises ( Pittsburgh, Minnesota). No two athletes have ever so completely controlled the destiny of one whole league and such a vast sports market.
GETTING THEIR KICKS
The Chelsea Football Club, the laughingstock of British soccer for half a century and the Met-like delight of masochistic losers through all those years, has become, because of its uncharacteristic near-success in the Football Association Cup (SI, June 5), unconscionably uppity. After being beaten by Tottenham in the final at Wembley, the team set out on a tour of Canada, accompanied by the Viscount Chelsea, and since it arrived it has been lording it over the provinces.
In Vancouver it defeated a team of all-stars 5-2; whereupon Chelsea Manager Tommy Docherty told his hosts, "I don't think Vancouver would be in England's fourth division—and we don't have a fifth division."
A few days later after a 3-2 win over the Victoria O'Keefes, Docherty observed, "We could have had eight or nine more goals. It was the most one-sided match of the tour. Vancouver is a better team."
Ah, the heady scent of success.