Down the Memory HoleJulius Erving is one of the NBA's 50 Greatest Players but even that status has not prevented many of his greatest achievements from going down George Orwell's proverbial memory hole. A case in point is a graphic that ABC ran on Sunday during the Pistons-Heat game. The Heat's Shaquille O'Neal scored his 25,000th career point recently, joining an elite group of players who scored at least 25,000 points and grabbed at least 10,000 rebounds. According to ABC, the other players are Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Wilt Chamberlain, Moses Malone, Elvin Hayes and Hakeem Olajuwon. The problem is that ABC completely ignored ABA statistics and this shortchanges Erving, who spent the first five seasons of his career in that league. His professional totals are 30,026 points and 10,525 rebounds. Hall of Famer Dan Issel also had more than 25,000 points and 10,000 rebounds if his ABA numbers are considered. Artis Gilmore, the fifth leading rebounder in pro basketball history and perhaps the greatest basketball player eligible for Hall of Fame induction who has yet to receive that honor, misses the cut by just 59 points when his NBA and ABA numbers are added up.
The ABA was not some minor league. It was a significant rival to the NBA for nearly a decade; four of the league's current teams--Nets, Nuggets, Pacers, Spurs--originally were ABA teams. Ignoring the statistical accomplishments of ABA players paints a distorted picture of pro basketball history. The ABA statistics are readily available, so it is lazy for writers and broadcasters to pretend that they don't exist. ABC's graphic should have included Erving and Issel. The color analyst for the Pistons-Heat game, Hubie Brown, coached Issel and Gilmore to an ABA title in 1975 as members of the Kentucky Colonels. He could have offered some first hand perspective on how great that team was, as he did when I interviewed him last year.
This is not just a shot at ABC; NBC and CBS did the same thing when they had the NBA contract and ESPN and TNT are not any better in this regard, from what I have seen. The NBA's attitude on this issue is simply bizarre; when Erving scored his 30,000th point, the game was stopped and he was honored with a brief ceremony, but the league's television partners generally act as if he never achieved this milestone. Spurs' great James Silas, who played for the team in both leagues, once told me that when his children were younger and he took them to games they could never understand why programs and media guides did not list him as a 10,000 point scorer despite the fact that he had a basketball at home that the team gave him in recognition of that achievement.
posted by David Friedman @ 3:18 AM