By Joe Dynlacht
Many former members of the American Basketball Association (ABA), including players, coaches and others associated with the league, will converge in Indianapolis, Indiana, April 6-7, for a special reunion to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the ABA. The events will take place at Bankers Life Fieldhouse (home of the Indiana Pacers) and Hinkle Fieldhouse (one of the sites that was used in the classic movie “Hoosiers”).
The Dropping Dimes Foundation is organizing the reunion event. The Foundation was created by Dr. John Abrams and Scott Tarter, who recognized that many former ABA players, team and league personnel, and their families require financial assistance for day-to-day needs such as food, shelter and healthcare.
Only four teams from the ABA were absorbed into the National Basketball Association (NBA). Thus, many players never played in the NBA or did not play long enough to be eligible for pension benefits from the NBA. The ABA did not maintain a pension plan itself.
The Dropping Dimes Foundation raises funds to provide support to members of the ABA family who have experienced financial hardship. Abrams is the chairman of the board and Tarter is the CEO. A number of former players and coaches who played at least part of their careers in the ABA are members of the board of directors. The Board includes Naismith Hall of Famers Louie Dampier, George “The Iceman” Gervin, Artis Gilmore, Spencer Haywood, Dan Issel, Bobby “Slick” Leonard, George McGinnis, and Reggie Miller, as well as Bob Costas and Peter Vescey.
Some of the scheduled activities will be open to the public, while access to other events will be limited or restricted to invited guests. The reunion will kickoff on Friday, April 6, with a private informal gathering for former players from the league. Many of the players will not have seen each other for many years, and Abrams, a former ball boy for the ABA Pacers and currently the team ophthalmologist for the NBA Pacers, said he is looking forward to reminiscing with some of the heroes of his youth.
On Saturday, April 7, the festivities move to Hinkle Fieldhouse on the campus of Butler University, just a short drive from downtown Indianapolis. It is here where fans will be able to meet and obtain autographs from players and coaches from the ABA. Several of the ABA’s greatest players and coaches are scheduled to attend the autograph session, including Dampier and Issel (the No. 1 and No. 2 ABA career scoring leaders, respectively), Gervin, Haywood, Gilmore, and fellow Hall of Famer Rick Barry. The hometown Pacers will also be represented, as Leonard and McGinnis will also be attending. McGinnis is a newly minted Hall of Famer, having been elected by the Veterans Committee last year, while Leonard was inducted in 2014.
The Dropping Dimes Foundation will be offering two special commemorative items that will be perfect for collecting autographs, including those iconic, signature red, white, and blue basketballs and pennants. However, fans will be able to have players autograph their own items. “Super tickets” will be available to enable fans to accumulate autographs of all of the players in attendance, but fans will have the opportunity to buy tickets for autographs from individual players as well.
All players and coaches have agreed to donate their autograph fees during this event, and 100 percent of all proceeds will go to the Dropping Dimes Foundation. Although it is not yet confirmed, approximately one hundred former ABA players are expected to attend the reunion. The Foundation plans to bring in as many as possible. Each player in attendance will be given a special 50th Anniversary ring from the Dropping Dimes Foundation.
Festivities will culminate later in the day with a gala at Bankers Life Fieldhouse in downtown Indianapolis. Julius “Dr. J” Erving is expected to attend the gala, and sports casting legend Bob Costas will serve as the master of ceremonies. Costas made his full-time broadcasting debut at age 22 as a commentator for the ABA’s Spirits of St. Louis (he was the radio voice of the team).
Eight guests will be seated at each table, and whenever possible, they will be joined by at least one ABA player. Each table will receive an exclusive gift signed by a player. At the dinner, attendees will be able to participate in a Q&A session with players and coaches. Costas will moderate the session. A live auction of special ABA items and experiences will benefit the Dropping Dimes Foundation.
While individual seats at the dinner may be purchased, those who purchase a sponsor table will receive a VIP Opportunity for all guests to attend a special cocktail reception with ABA players and personnel prior to dinner on Saturday evening.
Tables and individual tickets for the gala are currently on sale at the Dropping Dimes Foundation website (droppingdimes.org) or by contacting Executive Director Donn Detzler at email@example.com. Updates about the reunion events can also be found at the Foundation’s website.
Questions about the event can be directed to the Foundation at 317-515-8649 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Joe Dynlacht is a professor at the Indiana University School of Medicine, but he enjoys being an occasional freelance contributor to Sports Collectors Digest. Dr. Dynlacht may be contacted at email@example.com.