Akron Beacon Journal sportswriter Terry Pluto has struck a nostalgic chord with the release of his new book, Loose Balls - The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association. The book is the first on the history of the defunct ABA.
Pluto wrote the book as a narrative by those who were involved: Doug Moe, Billy Cunningham, Larry Brown, Julius Erving and others. One of the more interesting excerpts comes from Moe:"One of the biggest disappointments in my life was going to the NBA after the merger," says Moe. "The NBA was a rinky-dink league - listen, I'm very serious about this. The league was run like garbage. There was no camaraderie; a lot of NBA guys were aloof and thought they were too good to practice or play hard. The NBA All-Star Games were nothing - guys who didn't even want to play in them and the fans couldn't care less about the games."
Moe continues, "It wasn't until the 1980s when David Stern became commissioner, that the NBA figured out what the hell they were doing, and what they did was a lot of stuff we had in the ABA . . . The ABA might have lost the battle, but we won the war. The NBA now plays our kind of basketball."
OH, DANNY BOY: Forget the Mailman's biceps. Ignore John Stockton's handsome face. Disregard Thurl Bailey's quiet sensitivity. The newest heartthrob with the Utah Jazz may soon be Dan O'Sullivan, in town on his second 10-day contract with the team.
JazzTalk host Dave Blackwell has already received a call or two from interested females, wanting to know if the Jazz plan to keep O'Sullivan around. (Tall, dark and handsome single men, who also happen to earn $120,000 a year, are hard to find.) With Stockton, Bailey, Malone and other Jazz stars married, somebody's got to be the designated dreamboat.
For his part, O'Sullivan is keeping his mind on basketball. "Uh, well, I haven't picked up on the stations around here yet," says O'Sullivan modestly. "I'm just trying to keep a low profile."
SPEAKING OF NOSTALGIA: Magic Johnson was talking again of the glory years, when he and Larry Bird matched up in the NBA finals (1984, 1985, 1987). But that was before Bird injured his back and was declared out indefinitely.
Still, the Celtics have the best record in the NBA. And if the Lakers, who beat Utah by 23 points last week, can get in a groove, perhaps we can see a replay of the 80s.
"I still watch tapes of our old games," says Johnson. "Me and Larry played in the highest-rated games, in college and the NBA, so do you think maybe the networks would want to see us back again?
"I remember how crazy everything was in the two cities. The whole country - everybody was into it. I haven't sensed that kind of feeling in people since me and Larry stopped playing in the Finals. That's when things were really good all over for basketball."
Magic continues by hinting that if they get together next June, it should be something to remember. "Both our teams are getting it together, and we're only going to get better. Watch what happens if we get back there (to the Finals) again."
SPUR-IOUS SCHEDULE: With the Jazz trailing San Antonio by just a game going into Saturday night's contest, it appears the Jazz could be hard-pressed to keep up with their Midwest Division rival.
Of the 10 games remaining from Sunday until the All-Star break, the Spurs have only two road games - at Utah and Denver. The teams they play at home aren't exactly imposing, either. Those visiting HemisFair Arena before the break include Dallas, Charlotte, L.A. Clippers, Minnesota, Seattle, Houston, Golden State and Indiana.
With only a little luck, the Spurs could win their next 10 games.
That leaves the Jazz with the problem of not letting the Spurs get away. In their final 11 games before the break, the Jazz play at Cleveland, Indiana, Denver and Minnesota. Their home schedule is considerably more imposing than the Spurs, too. Visiting the Salt Palace in the next four weeks are San Antonio, New York, Sacramento (OK, so it's not all imposing), Atlanta, Portland, New Jersey and Phoenix.
ADD ABA: One of the more popular players in the old ABA, Ron Boone, says Pluto's book is a good one.
"It was pretty well accurate," says Boone, who now works as a television color commentator for the Jazz network. "I liked the book because of the memories it brought back."
He continues, "There was so much going on that we as players didn't know about. That's what was exciting for me to read and then put things together. There was so much going on that the players knew nothing about."
Boone, who played for the ABA's Utah Stars and the NBA's Utah Jazz, agrees with Moe on his assessment of the NBA when the leagues merged. "Young as we were, everybody, including ourselves, looked up to the NBA as a superior league. Then we find out we put them up on a pedestal and it wasn't as high as we thought."
THE GOOD LIFE: Dallas Mavericks' reserve Jim Grandholm on his job: "I consider myself lucky. I just turned 30 and I haven't worked a day in my life."
This column contains some materials from other news sources.