MEMORIES OF CHARLES FRANZEN: "One of my best ABA memories was a 1971-72 regular season game at the Richmond Coliseum between the Kentucky Colonels and the Virginia Squires. It turned out as a duel also between my hero, Dan Issel, and a new magician, Dr J. The score was not impressive, but I shall always remember the toughness of Dan and the lighter-than-air quality of Julius. Dr. J floated from 15-18 feet away from the basket, seemingly hanging in the air for moments at a time, to score with ease over the overmatched Kentucky defenders.
The great thing about the ABA was the incredible energy and good humor always evident. I listened for years to the Colonels on the radio – Cawood Ledford and Van Vance – and it was pure joy as they described the bright and quick play of Dampier, Carrier, Ladner, Dan, Artis and all the rest. What a team! When they won the championship in 1975 under Hubie Brown, it was my greatest basketball thrill until the Bullets won the NBA crown a few years later. There have been few happy days since then."
MEMOREIES OF PETER C.S. ADAMS: "I don't remember the date, but I remember being in Freedom Hall when the Kentucky Colonels played the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks in an exhibition game. I was a big fan of both Alcindor/Abdul-Jabbar and Artis Gilmore, and I couldn't wait to see the match-up. The highlight of the evening, even more than the final score, was seeing Artis block Alcindor's "unblockable" sky hook. BAM!
My biggest disappointment was when John Y. Brown refused to pay the fee to take the Colonels into the NBA. I'm sure they would have been competitive, and Brown was reputedly the only owner with enough money to pay the fee in cash. But instead, the Colonels were disbanded and they never played the Bucks again. At least I got to cheer for the Bulls for a while before it was fashionable, because they got Gilmore in the ABA dispersal draft.
I am glad to see the ABA live on. Players like Shaq and Kobe can trace their games back to Gilmore and Moses Malone, and high flyers like Julius Erving and Connie Hawkins, and the NBA eventually adopted the three-point shot."
MEMORIES OF STEVE BLAND: "My family held season tickets to the Colonels for several years, including the 1974, 1975 and 1976 seasons. Our seats were located on the front row directly behind the basket at the north end of Freedom Hall. We thus enjoyed a close-up view of ABA basketball. Let me tell you--it was very tough, very hard-nosed, and very good, basketball.
Of course, as UK fans we loved "Big Dan" and "Little Louie," but also all of the other players as well. The 1975 Colonels, in my opinion, could easily have competed for the NBA title. I have read that Hubie Brown still claims them as his favorite team. Selling Issel's contract was the shocker of all shockers for Colonels' fans. We were stunned.
Yes, the Colonels should have come into the NBA, but with Issel. I suspect one reason the NBA owners didn't want them was an overwhelming desire to get some of their players. Gilmore, Issel, Dampier, Maurice Lucas, and several others had successful careers in the NBA.
The Colonels were a great ABA franchise. I still have some bumper stickers and schedules for them. We loved going to their games, and we still miss them to this day."
MEMORIES OF BRIAN BLAIR: "I was a big fan of the Kentucky Colonels from 1970 until they disbanded in 1976. That was when John Y. Brown elected not to pay something like $4 million to be part of the NBA merger. Over the years, I had befriended David Vance,the Colonels' general manager.
Before the Colonels' players left Louisville for various NBA teams, the squad's booster club staged a picnic in Louisville as a goodbye gesture. I'll never forget sitting at the park volleyball court, watching Artis Gilmore play the net almost as awesomely as he ruled the lane at Freedom Hall. At the end of a match with friends and fans, Vance pulled Gilmore aside, told him something, and then walked away.
A moment later, Gilmore walked over to me and plopped down on the ground, said "Hello, Brian. I bet you didn't know I knew your name." I was an awestruck teen and could only laugh. For the next few minutes, we talked about the team, art and painting (he once was something of an artist, which is what I considered studying) and goodness knows what else. I was touched - and still am - that even the Colonels' biggest stars took time for the fans. And I wonder: How many NBA players are so casually accessible to folks?"