This is my throw-away post. Here's a Shannon Rose write-up of the American Basketball League and how the ladies were dreaming of satisfying disappointed NBA fans. Stern's WNBA would always be superior though, and the ABL shut down on December 22, 1998 to I'm sure quite a lot of surprised people. The only good thing that came out of the Sentinel on this morning was George Diaz's anger-filled first paragraph.
Without getting into a spitting match over whether the WNBA or the American Basketball League is the better comodity, let's just say the ABL has a tremendous opportunity right now.
As the NBA squabbles over lucrative paychecks and continues to be on strike, the ABL could wind up with the chance to steal all of the limelight by being the only professional basketball league in action.
It's a possibility not lost on ABL co-founder and CEO Gary Cavalli as the ABL gets ready to kick off its third season Nov. 5 with the Philadelphia Rage at the New England Blizzard in Hartford, Conn.
``We plan to exploit that opportunity as much as we can,'' Cavalli said.
The ABL is already running print ads in some of its franchise cities that read ``Looking for pro hoops? We're playing.'' Cavalli got some bitter calls from NBA folks about that one.
But there is no reason for him to be sensitive right now. It's time to call in all the troops, time to go after the fans, the media, the television market and sponsors with gusto.
The ABL has all of the characterists of the underdog everybody loves to support, it just needs center stage to tell everyone its story.
It's been tough for the ABL to compete during the traditional basketball season with the NBA and college hoops stealing most of the glamour.
But now, with a new contract with CBS Sports and the possibility of adding other networks to the mix with the NBA lockout, the ABL could have the undivided attention of the country to sell its product.
Unlike the WNBA, which had the NBA's financial backing and name recognition, the ABL started from scratch and has built this league with the help of a lot of different people.
But mainly the players, who have been the backbone throughout the league's existence. The ABL prides itself on its players, using the motto ``Real Basketball.''
Though it's been hurt by the defection of players like Dawn Staley and Nikki McCray, the ABL turns it around and focuses on the players who have stayed.
Eighty-five players had their contracts expire. Eighty-one signed extensions. Among them: Jennifer Azzi, Jennifer Rizzotti, Teresa Edwards and Shalonda Enis, the 1997-98 Rookie of the Year. She signed a four-year contract extension.
The players' loyality have in turn created some loyality by the management. Cavalli said he has had opportunities to steal away WNBA stars but refused to meet their financial demands, which sometimes extended the salaries of the founding players.
``It's a matter of principle,'' Cavalli said.
The commitment got even stronger recently as the Board of Directors unanimously voted to make Edwards, the only four-time Olympian, a part of the seven-member board.
``We believe in this league,'' Edwards said. ``We had an original idea. We started this thing.''
Certainly, the ABL has had its trying times. The Long Beach franchises was shutdown, other teams had to be moved to new cities. But what business doesn't make mistakes along the way?
The ABL increased attendance by 23 percent, up to a 4,900 average (excluding Long Beach's figures) and expects to average more than 5,500 this year.
The ABL has proven to look toward the future while still providing security and benefits in the present. The league's salaries range from $40,000 to $150,000. The players also are awarded stock options, letting them own part of their own league, and have 401K plans.
All of that while the ABL has lost millions of dollars in its first two seasons and expects to lose another million this season. It projects to break even after its fourth season.
But the ABL isn't about money, exposure or television commercials. It's about players.
``I'm so excited I could care less if we are on TV or not,'' Edwards said. ``I just want to toss it up.''
Don't hear that from many NBA players.