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43 years ago today...Kentucky Colonels en route to 1975 ABA Championship

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  • 43 years ago today...Kentucky Colonels en route to 1975 ABA Championship

    43 years ago today, on May 15, 1975, the Kentucky Colonels defeated the Indiana Pacers 95-93 at Freedom Hall to go up 2-0 in the best of seven ABA championship series. George McGinnis had 30 points for the Pacers. The Colonels had beaten the Pacers 120-94 in the opener in Louisville.

    Kentucky won at Indiana 109-101 on May 17 (Artis Gilmore had 41 points and 28 rebounds for the Colonels), then lost at Indiana 94-86 on May 19, with Dan Issel's 26 points leading all scorers.

    On May 22, Kentucky beat the Pacers at home 110-105 despite Billy Knight's 40 points for Indiana, to claim the 1975 ABA championship, 4-1 in the series.

    The NBA champion Golden State Warriors declined the ABA's offer of $1 million if they could play the Colonels and beat them. The Colonels and Warriors did play each other on October 8, 1975 in Louisville, in an exhibition game, though Dan Issel had been traded away by Colonels owner John Y. Brown Jr.. Artis Gilmore had 14 points and 11 rebounds; Marv Roberts had 20 points, and Rick Barry had 9 points on 3-11 shooting from the field and put up a 3 point shot that was an airball with 31 seconds left in the game. The ABA champion Colonels defeated the NBA champion Warriors 93-90. The same day, the ABA's Denver Nuggets played the first game ever in McNichols Arena, defeating the NBA's Seattle SuperSonics 115-110 behind David Thompson's 31 points; former ABA star Spencer Haywood had 41 points. That same night, the ABA's Nets beat the NBA's Knicks 110-104, and the ABA's Spurs defeated the NBA's Atlanta Hawks 109-107. The next night the ABA's Spirits of St. Louis defeated the NBA's Kansas City-Omaha Kings 95-90.

    All-time franchise win/loss records and winning percentage for the ten ABA teams that began the ABA's final 1975-76 season:

    Kentucky 448-296 .602
    Indiana 427-315 .574
    Denver 413-331 .555
    Utah 366-310 .541
    San Antonio 348-312 .527
    New York 374-370 .503
    St. Louis 334-410 .449
    Virginia 326-417 .439
    Memphis 275-385 .417
    San Diego 101-162 .384

  • #2
    Good memories. I was there for most Colonel games, and officiated a few exhibition games and scrimmages.
    John 3:3

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    • #3
      I listened to most of their games on WHAS or at least when that station would come in well at night. They were always around the top of the ABA even though they only won one championship. I never had a favorite pro team after they were disbanded. I followed Denver kinda closely for a while mainly because of Issell but never fully latched onto to a NBA team Now I never watch the pros.
      Kentucky fan since 1971.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by KevinHall View Post
        I listened to most of their games on WHAS or at least when that station would come in well at night. They were always around the top of the ABA even though they only won one championship. I never had a favorite pro team after they were disbanded. I followed Denver kinda closely for a while mainly because of Issell but never fully latched onto to a NBA team Now I never watch the pros.
        The Colonels were the ABA runner up in 1971 and 1973. They lost in game 7 both times, once to the Pacers and once to the Utah Stars. In 1971 they got to the ABA finals by the beating the Floridians in the Eastern Division semifinals and then the Virginia Squires in the Eastern Division finals. In 1973 they beat the Virginia Squires in the Eastern Division semifinals and the Carolina Cougars in the Eastern Division finals, in a 4-3 series that went down to game seven. In 1972 they finished the regular season with a record of 68-18, a .810 winner no percentage, but lost in the Eastern Division semifinals to the Nets. In 1974 they were 53-31 and got past the Carolina Cougars but lost to the Nets in the Eastern Division finals. In their first year in the league they beat the New Jersey Americans in a first round playoff, but then lost a five game series 3 games to two to the eventual champion Minnesota Muskies. In the league second year, the kernels lost the Eastern division semi finals three games to two to the Indiana Pacers. And in 1976 they beat the Pacers in the first round but lost a really tight semifinal series to the Denver Nuggets, 4 games to 3. Game 7, the Colonels’ final game, was in Denver.

        The Colonels were a very solid franchise throughout the ABA’s history. They were one of the leaders year after year in attendance out of all the ABA and NBA teams. They made the ABA playoffs every year. They made the ABA finals in three of the league’s nine years of existence. And they had a winning record against NBA teams in exhibition games that they played. I have no doubt that if the Colonels kept Issel and joined the NBA, they would’ve been championship contenders from day one. The ABA teams that did join the NBA were successful in their early years, despite the punitive measures the NBA imposed on them that forced the Nets to trade away Julius Erving to the 76ers, denied them television revenues in the first few years which starved them of cash, and denied them draft picks as well. Despite all of that, those teams generally made the playoffs in their first years in the NBA. The quality of talent and play in the ABA was superior to that of the NBA at the time. If the Colonels had joined the NBA with their championship roster intact, they probably would’ve been successful until the years when television revenue took over and separated the big market teams from the smaller market teams.

        I think for today, though, a Louisville team in the NBA would be a disaster. There’s no way that attendance or television revenues would allow that team enough revenue to be successful. And if you think the Yum Center and the $10 million a year it gets from taxpayers in subsidies is significant, just wait until an NBA team sticks its siphon into local government revenues. I know that so far the NBA to Louisville folks are saying that won’t happen, but that’s how it is in every other city and there’s no way that anyone is going to put an NBA team in any city, one the size of Louisville especially, without fat subsidies from taxpayers.

        There are some video clips of Colonels games on YouTube, and you can also listen to some old WHAS broadcasts of Van Vance calling Colonels games. I know that Caywood Ledford called some Colonels games on broadcasts in some of the earlier years, but I don’t know that I’ve ever seen any audio files of those online.

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        • #5
          There are a couple or so Kentucky Colonel games on youtube. There used to be more but I assume they have been pulled. ABA never had much of a TV contract so I didn't see them play much at all. I really can't remember any instance actually of watching a Colonel game.
          I agree with you I don't think a NBA team in Louisville would work. Not enough of a fan base for one thing and the college game is still way too popular. I suppose if you could guarantee a few ex UK and UL players on a team and they were a good team it might work. Also like you said there is lot more to having a successful franchise now than just putting fannies in seats.
          Kentucky fan since 1971.

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          • #6
            I have not followed the NBA in a long time, but I would guess you could probably build a championship contender out of former UK and U of L players alone. (Not that such a team would ever be put together.)

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Old School View Post
              I have not followed the NBA in a long time, but I would guess you could probably build a championship contender out of former UK and U of L players alone. (Not that such a team would ever be put together.)
              That idea would be the only way a NBA team would survive in Louisville, and an IU player or 2 wouldn't hurt. If they didn't win, the support would dwindle fast.
              John 3:3

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              43 years ago today...Kentucky Colonels en route to 1975 ABA Championship

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