A BASKETBALL REVOLUTION
FROM A BLANK slate in 1967, the American Basketball Association became a canvas of free-form expression. The ABA's racehorse basketball was a stylish complement to the disco age of tube socks, bell-bottoms, Afros and sideburns. Its legacy endures in the three-point shot, the slam-dunk contest and the four teams, including the Spurs (the others were the New Jersey Nets, Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers), that merged with the NBA after the ABA folded, in 1976.
The Spurs, who entered the league as the Dallas Chaparrals, never reached the ABA finals, though they did boast George Gervin, a superstar with one of the game's most distinctive shots, the finger roll, and most recognizable nicknames, Iceman. The Spurs bought Gervin from the financially troubled Virginia Squires for $250,000 after ABA commissioner Mike Storen froze Virginia's roster to protect the franchise. In 12 seasons with San Antonio, Gervin scored 23,602 points.
CHAPARRALS general manager Max Williams hired former NBA All-Star Cliff Hagan as the team's player-coach for its inaugural season despite the fact that Hagan once bloodied Williams with a forearm in an off-season pickup game. The team finished a respectable 46-32, but it was Hagan's incessant berating of his own players during games that got him fired by 1970 and replaced by Williams (above), who resigned as coach midway through his second season. Bob Briner assumed general manager duties in 1972, even though basketball wasn't his game. At least Briner knew about balls and nets; he had been an executive with the World Championship Tennis circuit.
WHERE IS WILLIE SCOTT?
WHY CHAPARRALS? When the franchise's investors sat down over drinks in the Dallas Sheraton, they were in the Chaparral Room. Unable to choose a name, they went with the Chaparrals. There was a lot of that in the early days: Before the first draft in 1967, G.M. Max Williams gave a list of alphabetized prospects to co-owner Roland Seth, who mistook the list as an order of preference. So with his first five picks he chose Matt Aitch, Jim Burns, Gary Gray, Pat Riley and Jamie Thompson. In 1969 the Chaps gave Willie Scott, a 10th-round pick out of Troy State, a car as a signing bonus. Scott could not drive, however, and he soon hit a fire hydrant and a telephone pole. A year later he failed to show up for training camp, prompting local headlines to ask WHERE IS WILLIE SCOTT? A skycap called the team to say that Scott had enlisted in the Army and that he'd arranged his flight to boot camp.
THE NAME GAME
IN THE funkadelic era of plaid pants and multicolored basketballs, the Spurs also had a colorful roster of names, including Spider Bennett, Skeeter Swift, Goo Kennedy, and Toothpick McHartley. Others had a quick peek, including Bob Quick and Richard Peek. Spurs fans, known as Baseline Bums, were just as entertaining. In February 1975 the Spurs broke Denver's 26 home-game winning streak in a fight-filled game, prompting Nuggets coach Larry Brown to snicker, "I don't like anything about San Antonio, their coaching staff or their city. The only thing I like is the guacamole salad." At the Nuggets' next game in San Antonio, the Bums pelted Brown with avocados.