Washington Caps Fan Memories

MEMORIES OF REGINALD MARSHALL: "The 1969-70 season, when I was 20 years old, was the year I got hooked on pro basketball. I lived in Washington, where the Caps played, and took a special bus from downtown DC to Baltimore to watch the Bullets. That year there were 25 pro teams in the two leagues, and I saw them all, in person. While I was a big Bullets fan, on the whole I preferred the more wide-open ABA style of play. My favorite players were Gus Johnson (later a member of the Pacers' '73 championship team) and Earl Monroe of the Bullets, and Warren Armstrong of the Caps.

I have an indelible memory of literally the first minute I ever saw Armstrong play. The Denver Rockets (with rookie Spencer Haywood) controlled the opening tap in one of the first games of the season, and their point guard Lonnie Wright (who was also a defensive back for the Denver Broncos) was guarded by Warren. Wright attempted what he thought would be an uncontested pass into the high post, but cat-quick Warren got a hand on it and the ball shot a good twenty feet straight up in the air. Lonnie was directly under it but Warren got behind him, jumped, reached back and snatched the ball with one hand, then glided downcourt and threw down one of the wickedest slam dunks I'd ever seen (left-handed, of course--even though he was right-handed he always dunked left-handed). Twenty seconds later, with the teams back down at the other end, I looked back and the backboard was still quivering. I was awestruck.

Warren went on to have a great game and for the next couple of months every game I saw him play was more impressive than the previous one. When healthy he truly was one of the great all-around players of all time -- a great shooter, great passer, great rebounder (that year he was a unanimous selection to the all-star team as a 6'2" forward!), great defender -- with a style that was a perfect blend of grace and power. Alas, he hurt his knee and a week after he scored a career high 46 points he went under the knife and his season was over. Of course the Caps moved the next season, and I moved to a non-ABA city, and I thought I might never see him play again, although I followed his career closely in the newspapers, through several teams and a name change."

MEMORIES OF DON BAKER: "My greatest memory of the ABA was my first time seeing a game -- in 1969. Originally, this particular game was scheduled to be played in Mexico City. But somehow it got canceled and was rescheduled in my hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico. At the time, I was a freshman in high school, and could listen to ABA radio broadcasts on KRLD Dallas (the Chaps ) and KOA Denver (the Rockets). My father was aware of my interest in the red, white and blue league, and he got me a floor level seat under the basket so I could get an eye-full. The teams were the Washington Caps and the Denver Rockets. I'll never forget my astonishment at looking up at such players as Rick Barry, Spencer Haywood, George Carter, Larry Jones, Larry Brown, and Ira Harge... After getting over the shock of seeing the odd ABA basketball, I remember being amazed at watching such things as Rick Barry's granny-style free throw shot; the way Spencer Haywood palmed the basketball; the jumping ability and over-the-rim play of a player named Frank Card; how fast the ball was thrown around the court by the players (I was trying to follow the game with a super eight movie camera); what a good ball-handler a guy named Henry Logan was, how skinny a player Mike Barrett was, how tall two players -- Jim Eakins and Julius Keye -- looked.... I remember the game was a close one won by the Caps. Rick Barry scored over 30 points that night. The game was really entertaining and I remember the fans (some 5,600 strong) leaving with smiles on their faces. But most of all, I remember my thoughts that night. The game really overwhelmed me and I knew that I had to find out more about this pro basketball league. I continued to watch the network TV broadcasts of NBA games. But I found myself listening more and more to ABA radio broadcasts throughout the years."

MEMORIES OF DAVE RICKARD: "Here is the only in-person memory I have of the ABA, since I didn't live in an ABA city and had little chance to watch a game. But one year, probably 1969 or 1970, the league put on a doubleheader in Fresno, CA. My memories of both games are hazy at best, but one of them featured the Washington Caps with Rick Barry. The other team, I think, was the Dallas Chaparrals. Everybody knows that Barry had a talent for getting under people's skin, and on that night he evidently was doing just that. At one point in the second half, the Caps brought the ball downcourt and put up a shot, which missed. Dallas got the rebound. The action was under the basket. But, for whatever reason, I turned to look at Barry and a Dallas player. Both players were backpedaling, side by side, up the court. I didn't see anything, but apparently Barry said something the other player took offense to. Right past midcourt, the guy turned and absolutely clocked Barry - one punch and down he went. Something makes me think the other guy was Cincy Powell, but that may be just because he was legendary for fighting. I don't recall if either or both were ejected, but I'll never forget the image of the two backpedaling in unison, then."

MEMORIES OF GARY ROSENTHAL: "In 1969, the Caps played their only season in Washington at the Uline Arena, which is near Union Station. Being only 13, I was very excited that pro basketball was just around the corner from my home in Maryland. The Caps that year had Rick Barry, Larry Brown, Ira Harge, Warren Armstrong, and so many other delightful and fun players. The one game we attended was against Indiana, and I remember thinking that I was watching Roger Brown, Freddie Lewis, and guys who actually lived a long way off in Indiana. Regrettably, the Caps only lasted one season in Washington before moving to Virginia, where they were able to enjoy the services of a young phenom known as Doctor J. But I will never forget the Caps that season. What a thrill it was."

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