Wednesday, March 29, 2023 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

Old ABA Team Says NBA Welshed on the Deal

MANHATTAN (CN) - The Spirits of St. Louis sued the Denver Nuggets, the Indiana Pacers, New Jersey Nets, and San Antonio Spurs and the NBA in a long-running dispute over the expansion that effectively destroyed the American Basketball Association. The Spirits claim the NBA breached a deal made when the ABA dissolved in 1976.

In the original dispute, the ABA claimed that several teams conspired to withdraw from the ABA and join the NBA - enhancing the strength of the NBA but effectively destroying the ABA. In exchange for dropping their claims, the plaintiffs say they were promised a portion of the economic benefit - including TV revenue - they would have earned had they been allowed to join the NBA.

The Spirits were one of the last two ABA teams to survive after the four defendant teams left to join the NBA. The NBA paid the owner of the Kentucky Colonels $3.3 million, which he later used to buy the Boston Celtics, according to media reports. The owners of the Spirits, however, allegedly demanded and received a deal to get a slice of TV revenue from the ABA teams that joined the NBA. The deal ended up giving the Spirits owners more than $14 million a year, and was extended for another eight years in June 2007.

The Spirits are represented in New York County Court by Robert Jossen with the Dechert law firm.

Read the Top 8

Sign up for the Top 8, a roundup of the day's top stories delivered directly to your inbox Monday through Friday.