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Top 10 Players in ABA History

The Top 10 Players in ABA History!
Publish Date: 05/22/2024
Fact checked by: Simon Briffa

The ABA didn’t even last a decade, but its impact is still being felt in the NBA today. The ABA began late in the 1960s and by 1977 they had achieved a partial merger with the NBA and gave us legends like the Doctor, The Ice Man and the Skywalker. Today we will take a look at the ten greatest players in ABA history.

Criteria

The ABA was an exciting league; it can be argued that it was more exciting than the NBA was. The amount of players who played in this league that went on to be ABA legends is amazing. This list will look at players who made a lasting impact on the ABA; NBA stats and achievements have nothing to do with this list. Check out our top betting sites for the NBA Playoffs.

10) Zelmo Beatty

The underrated vet was way too skilled and way too slick for so many inexperienced centers to make it a fair fight. Zelmo Beaty was also the first player to reach the 60-point mark in league history and a pivotal player in Utah’s first pro sports championship.

Zelmo Beaty earned the respect of basketball’s top stars for his physical play and tireless effort. Every team desired Beaty as one of their own for his toughness and willingness to do whatever was necessary to secure victory. Beginning its journey at Prairie View A&M – a small NAIA school located outside Houston in Texas. Beaty led his NAIA national championship team to victory, and although many overlooked him due to attending such a small school, he was selected third overall by St. Louis Hawks for their draft in 1962.

Beaty became a two-time All-Star with St. Louis/Atlanta Hawks. Beaty then transitioned to the American Basketball Association (ABA) in 1970 and quickly rose through its ranks, averaging 22.9 points per game and 15.7 rebounds for theUtah Stars his rookie season – helping win an ABA title as well as receiving playoff MVP honors in one. In an era where big centres ruled with impressive hairdos, Beaty proved that hard work and winning mattered more than flash or style.

Video: Zelmo Beaty Career Highlights

Zelmo Beaty Career Highlights

9) George Gervin

From finger rolls to bank shots and midrange jumpers, no one had more tricks in his bag than George Gervin. Gervin was one of the most unstoppable forces the game of basketball has ever seen on the offensive end of the floor. He could do it all: shoot from deep, take it to the hole or post his defender up.

When the ABA merged, Gervin continued on his tear, and he would rank much higher on this list had he played another couple of years in the ABA.

Video: Vintage George Gervin Highlights

Vintage George Gervin Highlights

8) Roger Brown

Brown was legendary in the 1970 ABA playoffs, winning MVP in the Finals. In the championship round that year, Roger Brown was on full blast with 53, 39, and 45 points in the final three games.

Roger Brown made his mark in basketball history through the American Basketball Association (ABA). Nicknamed “The Rajah,” his quick first step and unique one-on-one moves earned him one of the greatest individual player reputations in basketball—earning him the moniker “Man with a Thousand Moves.” Brown is one of the Top 10 Indiana Pacers of all-time.

 

Video: Remember The ABA: Roger Brown

Remember The ABA: Roger Brown

7) Jimmy Jones

The best ABA player who never won a championship, Jones was a six-time all-star. He also has a career shooting percentage of over 51 per cent, which is better than any other player in ABA history.

Jones could do it all, and he is in the top ten all-time in almost every career category for the NBA. Jones was a great passer and an excellent assist man who made every player around him better.

Video: Remember The ABA / NB70s: Jimmy Jones

Remember The ABA / NB70s: Jimmy Jones

 

6) Dan Issel

Issel was a Bluegrass legend and a tireless worker who averaged over 23 points per game during his ABA career. Issel made his mark at the University of Kentucky where he would become basketball royalty.

Issel was as tough as it gets, and that’s saying a lot for someone who played in the 70s, a decade that was known for its physicality. Issel went on to be an NBA All-Star also proving that he was an elite player.

Video: Remember The ABA: Dan

Remember The ABA: Dan “The Horse” Issel (1973-75)

5) George McGinnis

Big George was an absolute physical freak and would have been a star in any league. A lot of NFL scouts thought he had NFL potential. His stat line was pretty impressive at 25.2 PTS, 12.9/ REB, 3.5 AST, 2.2* STL, 0.6* BLK.

McGinnis is one of the greatest basketball players to ever come out of Indiana University; even though he only played one year at Indiana, he left an indelible mark on the program. McGinnis led the Pacers to deep playoff runs almost every season.

Video: Remember The ABA: George McGinnis (1973)

Remember The ABA: George McGinnis (1973)

4) Artis Gilmore

Gilmore ranks as the all-time ABA leader in minutes played, rebounds, and blocked shots per game, but in a league of so few established bigs, more than one critic believes that he should have done even more.

Gilmore would go on to become a star in the NBA also, but a sneaking suspicion always haunted him and that was the fact that he could have been even more dominant than he was.

Video: Artis Gilmore ABA Highlights

Artis Gilmore ABA Highlights

3) Mel Daniels

Daniels won three major awards during his time in the ABA — Most Valuable Player (twice), All-Star Game MVP, and Rookie of the Year. Mel Daniels is among the top 10 in virtually every major statistical category on the all-time list.

Daniels was the biggest reason why the Pacers in the ABA were a dynasty and one of the more popular teams in the entire league.

Video: Mel Daniels Career Highlights

Mel Daniels Career Highlights

2) Rick Barry

Barry was the first name player to sign with the ABA, he also averaged over 30 points per game and is the ABA’s greatest scorer. His biggest impact may have been just signing the contract to play in the ABA.

Barry added legitimacy to the league when the league was desperate for it. Barry was a legend with his seemingly unlimited range and fiery temper. He would go on to lead the Golden State Warriors to the greatest upset win in Finals history over the Washington Bullets in 1975.

Video: Remember The ABA: Rick Barry

Remember The ABA: Rick Barry

1) Julius Erving

The Good Doctor was basketball’s version of Babe Ruth, Erving’s stat line in his ABA career was amazing 28.7 PTS,12.1 REB, 4.8 AST, 2.4* STL, 2.0* BLK. But the most important thing he gave the ABA was credibility.

The Doctor was Michael Jordan before Michael Jordan ever was, unfortunately his prime was spent in the ABA so he never got the credit he deserved. Erving is ranked by most as one of the top 10 NBA players in the 1980s also.

Video: Julius Erving Game 1 1976 ABA Finals (45 Points and Game Winner)

Julius Erving Game 1 1976 ABA Finals (45 Points and Game Winner)

 

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