SI Vault
Edited by Jerry Kirshenbaum
November 10, 1980
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November 10, 1980


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Utah Jazz Guard Ron Boone played his 1,000th consecutive game Friday night, the longest iron-man streak in pro basketball history. The 34-year-old Boone was honored at halftime of the 144-122 win over Dallas—he started and scored five points—with a ceremony that included tributes from just about everybody in the NBA but, curiously, not the NBA itself. Boone's achievement was officially ignored by the league because 662 of the games in his streak were played in the ABA. "It's a tremendous feat," said NBA publicist Matt Winick of the streak, "but NBA records can only be set in NBA games."

The ABA expired in 1976 when four of its teams and dozens of its players were absorbed into the older league. The NBA then decided that ABA records wouldn't be officially recognized. Behind the decision to leave ABA stars out in the statistical cold was a feeling in the NBA that the ABA was a soft-touch league whose stats and records would dilute and cheapen the NBA's.

This week Dan Issel of the Denver Nuggets will probably get his 20,000th point, a milestone the NBA won't recognize because 12,823 of them were scored in the ABA. Julius Erving will probably score his 20,000th point later this season, but this achievement won't be acknowledged by the NBA, either. Issel and Erving can comfort themselves with the knowledge they've nevertheless achieved something special, just as Boone consoles himself when he says of his streak, "What is most important to me is I did it. No asterisk or footnote can take that away."

Though Boone appears admirably unbothered by it all, it should be pointed out that there's ample precedent for the NBA to recognize more fully the accomplishments of ABA players. Major league baseball recognizes the statistics of players in the Federal League, the original American Association and other leagues it absorbed over the years. Similarly, when the NFL and AFL got together in 1970, the NFL accepted the upstart AFL's stats. What seems painfully obvious is that if the ABA was worth absorbing, so are its records.

Detroit Lion Defensive Tackle John Woodcock walked out on the club last week as the result of a contract dispute. The Lions got their first clue that Woodcock was quitting when he failed to show up for scheduled treatment in the training room. They got their second clue when they found his football shoes in a garbage can. Coach Monte Clark later allowed, "I took that as a bad sign."


Designated hitters aside, how can you tell baseball's two leagues apart? Easy. The American League is the one whose owners two weeks ago vetoed the proposed sale of the Chicago White Sox to Ohio-based Edward J. DeBartolo Sr., ostensibly because 1) he's an out-of-towner and 2) as a racetrack owner, he's involved in legalized gambling. The National League is the one that was rocked last week when the Houston Astros' principal owner, New York naval architect John J. McMullen, fired General Manager Tal Smith and replaced him with Al Rosen, until four weeks ago the executive vice-president of an Atlantic City casino. That's right, the Astros' out-of-town owner turned the club over to somebody who had been recently and intimately involved in legalized gambling.

There's a further difference between the two leagues. Given the fact that the American League already had owners of its own involved in legalized gambling(the Yankees' George Steinbrenner, for instance, breeds and races thoroughbreds) and no shortage of present or prospective absentee owners (New Yorker James Nederlander and Californian Neil Papiano head a group that agreed only last week to buy the Cleveland Indians), there was speculation some American League owners really objected to DeBartolo for other reasons. Some were even said to be afraid he'd spend a lot of money to make the White Sox more competitive. At any rate, National League owners needn't entertain such thoughts about McMullen. By firing Smith, who deserves much of the credit for building the Astros into a division champion, McMullen was taking a step likely to make his team less competitive.


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