ABA-NBA merger lost teams: Top five ABA teams that never joined the NBA

Four teams joined the NBA following a merger with the ABA in 1976. The rest, were dissolved, as discussed on this week's episode of Goals on Film.

This week, the Goals on Film crew took a look at 2008 basketball comedy Semi-Pro. Starring Will Ferrell, it takes a look at the fictional Flint Michigan Tropics ABA team and their attempts to make themselves a part of the league's merger with the NBA.

The ABA-NBA merger in 1976 was a defining moment in basketball history. It brought together two leagues to form the modern-day NBA, but not all ABA teams made the cut.

In this article, we explore the ABA-NBA merger's lost teams, focusing on the top five ABA franchises that never merged with the NBA. These teams left a lasting legacy on the sport and are still remembered by fans today.

Kentucky Colonels (1967-1976)

A Dominant Force Among ABA-NBA Merger Lost Teams

The Kentucky Colonels were one of the most successful ABA franchises, but they never made it to the NBA after the merger. With an ABA Championship title and three division Championships, the Colonels were a force to be reckoned with. Their high-powered offense, led by stars Artis Gilmore and Dan Issel, made them a formidable ABA-NBA merger lost team.

Spirits of St. Louis (1974-1976)

The Flashy ABA-NBA Merger Lost Team

The Spirits of St. Louis made a significant impact during their short tenure in the ABA. Known for their exciting, flashy playstyle, the Spirits were led by the high-scoring duo of Marvin Barnes and Maurice Lucas. Although they never won a Championship, they left a lasting impression on fans as one of the ABA-NBA merger lost teams.

The Spirits, however, arguably made out the best of the disbanded ABA franchises after engineering a deal that saw them acquire future television money from the teams that joined the NBA, a 1/7 share from each franchise. It was an amount that equated to nearly two percent of the NBA's entire TV deal money. The deal lasted from 1977 all the way through to 2014. The deal made brothers Ozzie and Daniel Silna very, very rich men. 

Pittsburgh Condors (1967-1972)

A Promising Start for an ABA-NBA Merger Lost Team

Originally known as the Pittsburgh Pipers, the Pittsburgh Condors won the ABA Championship in their inaugural season with the legendary Connie Hawkins. Despite financial struggles and a change of ownership, the Condors remained competitive on the court. However, they were not included in the NBA during the merger, making them one of the ABA-NBA merger lost teams.

Virginia Squires (1970-1976)

A Talent Factory Among ABA-NBA Merger Lost Teams

The Virginia Squires were known for developing young talent, including future NBA Hall of Famers Julius "Dr. J" Erving and George Gervin. Consistently competitive during their time in the ABA, the Squires' financial troubles and lack of a stable home arena led to their exclusion from the merger, making them another one of the ABA-NBA merger lost teams.

San Diego Conquistadors (1972-1975)

The Star-Studded ABA-NBA Merger Lost Team

The San Diego Conquistadors, also known as "The Q's," were a memorable ABA franchise, boasting talents such as NBA Hall of Famer Wilt Chamberlain. Despite their star power, the Conquistadors were unable to achieve consistent success on the court. As one of the ABA-NBA merger lost teams, they folded in 1975.

These ABA-NBA merger lost teams may not have made it into the NBA, but their impact on basketball is undeniable. They showcased unforgettable talent, exciting playstyles, and a passion for the game that still resonates with fans today. As we remember these ABA-NBA merger lost teams, we pay tribute to the legacy of the American Basketball Association and its contribution to the sport we all love.

To listen to this discussion - including how the film tells a fictionalised account of the 1976 ABA season and subsequent NBA merger - and more, listen to this week's episode of Goals on Film, 2008 basketball comedy, Semi-Pro, on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.