1967/68: Originally set to be called the Oakland Americans, the ABA team in Northern California owned by a group of celebrities led by Singer Pat Boone decided to take the name of the old Minor League Baseball team from the PCL the Oakland Oaks. The name was also used by a team in the American Basketball League in 1962. Other celebrities that owned part of the Oaks included Bill Cosby, Rafer Johnson, Gardner McKay, Don Murray, and Denny “Tarzan” Miller. The Oaks were in direct competition with the NBA’s San Francisco Warriors, and took a shot across the bow, by signing Warriors star Rick Barry to a multiyear six figure deal that included 15% of the Oaks. The Oaks would even hire Barry’s Coach from the University of Miami Bruce Hale, who was also his Father In-Law. However, a court injunction kept Rick Barry from joining the Oaks in their first season, as he was ruled to be property of the Warriors. Without Rick Barry, the Oaks roster was full of Eastern League Players that included Steve “Snapper” Jones, Jim Hadnot and Levern Tart. The Oaks started the season with a 134-129 win over the Anaheim Amigos at the Oakland Coliseum Arena on October 13th. The Oaks were near .500 for most of the first six weeks. However, their mostly minor league roster would soon be exposed as they struggled after Thanksgiving. Eventually settling into last place the Oaks would become the punching bag of the first year ABA as wins became scarcer as the season wore on. The Oaks, would win just two of their final 28 games, including a season ending 17 game losing streak, as they finished with the worst record in the league at 22-56.
1968/69: In season two, the Oaks began to have a change of fortune right away, as Rick Barry was cleared to play for them in the ABA. The Oaks would also land a big name coach as they signed Alex Hannum who in 1967 led the Philadelphia 76ers to an NBA Championship. In the draft the Oaks, would land Warren Armstrong who had recently changed his name to Warren Jabali to reflect his African roots at Wichita State. Where the Oaks had struggled in their first year they suddenly became the team to beat in their second season as Rick Barry dominated the ABA, leading the league in scoring with 34 ppg, as he also averaged 9.4 rebound per game. The Oaks also got a big performance from Jabali, who became an instant star, with 21.5 ppg and 9.7 rpg, as he was named Rookie of the Year. With the new recruits the Oaks got off to a fast start, winning 16 of their first 18 games. However, in December the Oaks would hit a bump in the road as Rick Barry suffered a knee injury against the New York Nets. Despite losing Barry, the Oaks continued to win as they won 16 straight games as Larry Brown and Doug Moe, who were acquired from the New Orleans Buccaneers helped fill the slack. Rick Barry would attempt a comeback, but would be lost for the season after reinjuring the knee. Despite Barry being limited to just 35 games, the Oaks went on to post the best record in the ABA at 60-18, as Alex Hannum was named Coach of the Year. In the playoffs the Oaks would find a tough opponent in the Denver Rockets, who sent the first round series to a seventh game, as the two teams alternated wins in the first six games. In Game 7 in Oakland, the Oaks would emerge victorious 115-102 to advance to the Western Division Finals. In the Western Finals, things would go much smoother for the Oaks as they swept the reigning Western Division Champion New Orleans Buccaneers in four straight games. Facing the Indiana Pacers in the ABA Championship round, the Oaks showed the ability to win big games on the road as they took Game 3 in overtime 134-126, after splitting the first two games in Oakland. The Oaks would win Game 4 in Indiana easily as they took a 3-1 series lead with a 144-117 win. The Oaks would go on to complete the worst to first turnaround by winning the Championship at home 135-131 in overtime. Rookie Warren Jabali would be named ABA Playoff MVP, with 28.8 ppg and 12.9 rpg. Playing the entire postseason without Rick Barry the Oaks also got big playoffs performances from Gary Bradds, Doug Moe, Larry Brown and Ira Harge.
After the Championship: Despite the success on the court, the Oaks struggled to draw fans, averaging only 2,867 fans per game. With all the money that Pat Boone poured into the team, he and his fellow investors were losing money in the six figure range. Bank of America even threatened to foreclose on the team. With a strong roster, Boone instead decided to sell the Oaks to an investment group headed by Earl M. Foreman for $2.6 million. Foreman a DC area lawyer would than move the team across the country to Washington, ending the two year existence of the Oaks on top. Professional Basketball would return to Oakland just two years later, as the San Francisco Warriors moved across the bay into the Oakland Coliseum Arena, becoming the Golden State Warriors in 1971. Following the 1972 season, Rick Barry would return to the Warriors, helping to lead them to a NBA Championship in 1975.
©MMXII Tank Productions. Stats researched by Frank Fleming, all information, and team names are property of the American Basketball Association. This site is not affiliated with the Oakland Oaks or the ABA. This site is maintained for research purposes only. All logos used on this page were from Chris Creamer’s Sports Logos Page.
Page created on July 8, 2012. Last updated on July 8, 2012 at 12:55 pm ET.