Spirits of St. Louis

The American Basketball Association (ABA) lasted less than a decade, but left a permanent imprint upon professional basketball in the United States.

Loose balls : the short, wild life of the American Basketball Association : as told by the players, coaches, and movers and shakers who made it happen
Terry Pluto.
New York : Simon and Schuster, 1991, c1990.
The American Basketball Association (1967-1976) gave birth to Julius Erving, Moses Malone, Bob Costas, the Indiana Pacers, the San Antonio Spurs, the Slam Dunk contest, flashy moves, and the three-point basket. During its nine seasons, the ABA generated scorn and laughter--and made a lasting impact on how the game is played. 24 pages of photographs.
Slam dunk. Vol. 14, The best
story and art by Takehiro Inoue ; [English adaptation, Kelly Sue DeConnick ; translation, Joe Yamazaki ; touch-up art & lettering, James Gaubatz].
San Francisco, CA : Viz Media, 2011.
"Captain Akagi returns to the game as the second half gets underway and despite playing on a potentially career-ending sprained ankle, he refuses to let Kainan intimidate him. However, the Kings continue to show Shohoku no mercy, with their star rookie Maki relentlessly attacking the basket and drawing fouls and the ever-reliable Jin widening the lead. As the game clock hits the ten-minute mark, Coach Anzai decies to make a drastic move!"--P. [4] of cover.
Pick-up game : a full day of full court
edited by Marc Aronson and Charles R. Smith Jr.
Somerville, Mass. : Candlewick Press, 2011.
An all-star team of YA authors--including Joseph Bruchac, Sharon Flake, Walter Dean Myers, and Adam Rapp--scores spectacularly with an action-packed anthology about street basketball.
Slam Dunk, Vol. 13, Unstoppable
story and art by Takehiro Inoue.
San Francisco : Viz Media, 2010.
Reads R to L (Japanese Style), for T audiences. Shohoku is down fifteen points against the Kings from Kainan, so whom do they turn to in an effort to get back in the black? Superstar Kaede Rukawa, of course. Rukawa's natural abilities help put some crucial points on the board, and a comeback seems possible, but when Captain Akagi twists his ankle on an opposing player's foot, Shohoku quickly finds itself without one of its biggest offensive and defensive forces. Can Sakuragi step into Akagi's shoes and keep Kainan from running away with the game?

The red-white-and-blue basketballs, the made-for-TV cheerleaders, Dr. J--the ABA changed the look of basketball forever. When they introduced the Slam Dunk Contest at their annual All-Star Game, Sports Illustrated considered it "the best halftime invention since the restroom."

Spirits of St. Louis (ABA)

Years:  1974-75 and 1975-76

Colors:  Orange, Silver, and Black

Coaches:  Bob MacKinnon, Rod Thorn, & Joe Mullaney

Broadcaster:  Bob Costas provided the play-by-play on KMOX radio   

(Costas' career highlights)

The ABA was represented locally by the Spirits of St. Louis, who had the reputation of being the most unbelievably wild and undisciplined team in an already wild and undisciplined league.

With the image of Charles Lindbergh's airplane stitched to their jerseys, the Spirits never quite made it down to earth. They were legendary, generally in ways that were only loosely connected with basketball.


To pick a few examples:

  • Movin' Marvin Barnes missed the team flight out of New York City, missed the next three flights as well, and finally had to charter his own plane to get to Norfolk in time for his next game. He arrived ten minutes before game time, was not allowed to start, but still wound up dropping in 43 points and collecting 19 rebounds.
  • The owners of the Spirits made what may have been the most lucrative sports deal ever, when they worked out their arrangement to be paid for not joining the NBA. They were given 4/7 of a full share of ABA teams' television money, a multi-million dollar annual payment that was set up in perpetuity.
  • In the ABA's final season, the Spirits' roster included Marvin Barnes, Caldwell Jones, Moses Malone, Don Chaney, Freddie Lewis, M.L. Carr, and Ron Boone. (They had recently traded away Maurice Lucas.) The team had a losing record, and didn't make the play-offs.

No one who ever saw the St. Louis Spirits in action will ever forget them.

Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff