Spirits of St. Louis
1974/75: After five seasons in Carolina, the team that arrived in St. Louis, and took the name Spirits of St. Louis was almost an expansion team as many of the stars in Carolina did not come with the team in St. Louis. The Spirits had a very young team as they signed college stars Marvin Barnes, Gus Gerard and Maurice Lucas. On the court they struggled early in the season, which included a 97-92 loss to the Memphis Sounds in the team’s first game at the Checkerdome on October 18th. Of the Spirits rookies, nobody shined more than Marvin Barnes, who averaged 24.0 ppg and 15.6 rebounds per game, and was named ABA Rookie of the Year. The Spirits struggles continued throughout the season as they finished with a record of 32-52. Despite their poor record the Spirits made the playoffs, by finishing third in the Eastern Division. In the playoffs the Spirits would face the defending champion New York Nets, losing the opener 111-105. The Spirits would rebound to win Game 2 in New York 115-97. As the series shifted to St. Louis, the young Spirits played their best basketball of the year, winning the next two games, taking a 3-1 series lead. They would go on to win the series in five games to reach the Eastern Division Finals. Things would not go as smoothly in the Division Finals, as the Kentucky Colonels jumped out quickly and went on to win the series in five games.
1975/76: As the Spirits began their second season in St. Louis it was clear the ABA was in trouble, as both the New York Nets and Denver Nuggets were attempting to join the NBA. Meanwhile most teams in were financial peril, as the Memphis Sounds moved to Baltimore and folded before ever playing a game as the Baltimore Claws. As the season began two more teams were forced to fold the San Diego Sails and the Utah Stars. When the Stars folded the Spirits would benefit as they acquired the contracts of Moses Malone, Ron Boone Randy Denton and Steve Green. In his second season after being the first player signed to play out of High School, Moses Malone was the key player in the deal, and had potential to be one of the most dominant Centers in the league. However, a foot injury would sideline Malone for 43 games. On the court the Spirits played slightly better in their season. However, with just seven teams remaining the Spirits 32-52 record would place them in sixth as they missed the playoffs.
After the Spirits: Following the season the Virginia Squires would fold, leaving the ABA with six teams, four of which would join the NBA. Ozzie and Dan Silna who owned the Spirits considered moving the team to Utah, with the hopes of being included in the merger. However, after the NBA decided to adopt the New York Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs, the Spirits of St. Louis along with the Kentucky Colonels were on the outside looking in. John Y. Brown Jr. was interested in owning a team in the NBA and took a $3 million buyout and purchased the Buffalo Braves. The Silna brothers would take another option all together in their buyout. They would instead opt for a one-seventh share of network TV deals from each surviving ABA franchise as long as they existed. At time when the NBA Finals were on tape delay at midnight, it seemed like a fool hardy deal. However, by 1982 as the NBA began to grow the Silnas continued to collect, offered a $5 million buyout the Silnas turned down the league opting to continue the original deal when their demand of $8 million was not met. Over the years Ozzie and Dan Silna would continue to rake in the cash as the NBA grew to regret the Spirits buyout plan. By 2008 the Silnas had made $186 million, without playing a game in over 30 years. Under the latest NBA TV contract, the Silnas continue to make an estimated $14.57 million a year. All the while the league tries to find away to buy them out and end the Ozzie and Dan Silna’s lucrative windfall. The Silnas were not the only Spirits to do well after the ABA folded as Moses Malone did become the star that was envisioned and became one of the best Centers in the NBA history winning a pair of MVP awards in a Hall of Fame career.
Voice of the Spirits: The ABA was always the little brother to the NBA and was more of a starting point than a finishing point, as professional basketball as a whole was not faring well at the time. Air time was precious for ABA teams, but landing big name talent was a choir for teams with a limited budget. When the Spirits arrived in St. Louis in 1974, they chose an announcer to call games on radio that was 22 years old and had just graduated from Syracuse University. The young announcer of course was Bob Costas. While his job in St. Louis lasted just two seasons it was the start of something big as he soon became one of the recognized faces and voices in sports. Working for NBC, Bob Costas has hosted the Olympics, taken part in the Super Bowl trophy ceremony, called World Series games and taken part in the World Series Trophy ceremony.
©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 Spirits of St. Louis 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 5, 2012. Last updated on July 5, 2012 at 12:30 am ET.