Memphis Pros Fan Memories

MEMORIES OF MARTY SMITH: "I lived in Memphis when the team was called the "Pros." I attended several games. During the "Save our Pros" campaign, my father bought shares of Memphis Pros stock for me, my brother, and each of my two sisters. During halftime of one particular home game, lucky numbers were drawn for an official red, white, and blue basketball autographed by all the Memphis Pros players and coaches. My grandfather's number was called, and he gave that ball to me and my brother. My grandfather has since passed away, but my brother and I still own that basketball, although I doubt I could ever find any of those stock certificates."

MEMORIES OF PAUL G. ALEXANDER: "I grew up 100 miles from Memphis and was a big fan of the Pros, Tams and Sounds. I kept scrapbooks of clippings, yearbooks, game programs, and even owned stock in the Pros. I still have the official stock certificate somewhere. I took an old Zenith AM radio and strained to get Dick Palmer on WREC AM 60 in Memphis carrying the broadcasts.

The biggest day of my ABA life was going to Jackson, Tennessee, to see the Pros play a regional home game against the Floridians. The game was broadcast on WMC TV Channel 5, and I even made a sign to hang on the rail. After the game, I had the guts to just walk out on the floor and get autographs from Steve Jones and Babe McCarthy."

MEMORIES OF DON BAKER: "By the '71-'72 ABA season, I was pretty familiar with most of the players around the league. During that season, my father and I visited Denver to attend a doubleheader contest involving the Chaps, Pros, Pacers and Rockets. On that afternoon, my expectations were running high for my first chance to see some of the ABA's best -- Ralph Simpson, Donnie Freeman, Steve Jones, and Freddie Lewis. But there was one particular player that I was most looking forward to seeing -- Sweet Charlie Williams. I knew about Williams from his great days with the Pipers and from watching his numbers in ABA box scores (in the Sporting News). I also had some insight into his personality from reading Connie Hawkins' autobiography "FOUL." All I needed now was to finally see him play -- and play he did. That day he wore a Memphis Pros uniform and I'll never forget seeing him drive the basketball hard to the baseline numerous times throughout the game. I also saw his ability to change direction on-a-dime and either pump in a soft jumper or drop off a perfect assist to a waiting Wil Jones or Randy Denton. He was so quick and so precise with his passes, and it wasn't hard to see how Connie Hawkins' game was made better from Williams' presence. I find it hard to believe he's not considered one of the thirty all time best players of the ABA."

MEMORIES OF H. SCOTT PROSTERMAN: "I was one of the greatest fans of the ABA growing up in Memphis. We were cursed with a bad franchise from the beginning, but I loved every player on every team we had. While the teams were bad, I went to every game I could because I just loved basketball. I futilely hoped for wins against better teams, and loved watching all the great players. I was blessed to see the following in their primes or rookie years:

Julius Erving, George McGinnis, Artis Gilmore, Dan Issel, George Gervin, Rick Barry, Willie Wise, Ron Boone, Freddie Lewis, John Brisker, Billy Knight, Marvin Barnes, GeorgeThompson, John Brisker and many others.

Lasting memories from Memphis: The first Memphis Pros team in 1970 had Steve and Jimmy Jones at guards, two of the best. Of course, everyone now knows Steve Jones as "Snapper" from his broadcasting fame. Jimmy Jones played college ball at Grambling and didn't do much after he eventually left Memphis. In the last regular season game of the 1971 season, Steve Jones got 53 against Kentucky which had Issel, Gilmore, Dampier, etc. But the Pros lost the game because the refs called a false 10-second backcourt violation. The scoreboard clearly showed that only eight seconds had elapsed.

That first Pros team also had a rookie named Wendell Ladner, who may very well have been the toughest player of all time. It pains me that he died so tragically before he got a chance to show his stuff in the NBA. Ladner touched me personally. I worked at the Memphis JCC in high school where the Pros practiced. One day, I was sent over to Ladner's apartment to tell him about a change in practice time. He was so kind and gracious that I was overwhelmed. Here was a guy I had seen in at least 5 on-court fisticuffs with other ABA players, and he took part of a rainy day to encourage a struggling high school player. I was touched, and I grieved when he died.

Another ABA player who touched me personally was Mack Calvin. I shared a plane ride with the Carolina Cougars from High Point to Memphis while returning from a college visit my senior year of high school. I was sitting on a plane and on walked Billy Cunningham, then Joe Caldwell, and then the rest. I was in awe. Calvin happened to sit next to me. We had an encouraging, inspiring talk and he gave me tickets for the next night's game in Memphis. Encouragement was exactly what I needed. I wasn't allowed on my high school team for reasons beyond my control, but I knew I could play. With Mack Calvin's encouragement, I walked on at Rhodes College in 1973 and played a little. God Bless him."

MEMORIES OF DAVID IMRIE: "I grew up in Toronto but I have some interesting ABA memories. I was present at an ABA Doubleheader played at Maple Leaf Gardens on January 14, 1972. At the time I was playing for my high school bantam team and we were given discount tickets for the game. Although some Americans may think that Toronto's basketball interest began with Vince Carter and the Raptors, the city was always considered as an ABA expansion site and high school basketball has always been very popular there. That night's first game was between the Memphis Pros and Indiana Pacers. It was clear throughout the game that Indiana was the better team, with several strong players outlined on the ABA web site. The game featured one oddity. I don't recall the exact score, but the Pacers entered the second half with a commanding lead. During the third quarter, the Pros fought back, led by Johnny Neumann. Memphis scored 52 points in that quarter, an ABA record at the time. Indiana, however, won the game by a narrow margin. Memphis' 52 point outburst in one quarter is something rarely seen in the NBA today. The promoters saved the "attraction" game for the doubleheader nightcap - Artis Gilmore and the Kentucky Colonels against the Dallas Chaparrals. That game was also quite good (I believe Kentucky won, and Gilmore was the star). I left with a good overall impression of the ABA as an exciting league, and I did what I could to follow it over the next few years. Now here's something interesting: back in January 2000, I received tickets for an International Basketball League (IBL) game in Regina, SK., Canada (where I now live) between the Saskatchewan Hawks and Rochester Skeeters. Saskatchewan won the game. Johnny Neumann is their coach."

MEMORIES OF KEN BERRYMAN: "The ABA started up when I was in high school, and as a basketball player myself, I was instantly attracted to the ABA with the funny ball and 3-point shot. The only way I could follow the ABA was subscribe to The Sporting News. I lived over 250 miles from any ABA city, but on October 5, 1971, I saw my first and only ABA game, an exhibition game between the Floridians and the Memphis Pros. I was attending the University of Oklahoma at the time and the game was being played on the campus of Oklahoma Baptist University in Shawnee, OK, 30 miles from the OU campus. You see, Al Tucker played for the Floridians and Bob Bass was their coach. Just a few years earlier, Tucker and Bass had led Oklahoma Baptist to the NAIA championship finals in 1965, 1966, and 1967, finishing second, first and second those 3 consecutive years. Tucker was a huge scoring machine in college, where he averaged almost 30 ppg, but at 6'8" and only 195 pounds, he never made it big at the pro level. So the game was a homecoming of sorts for these two local legends. My main reason for going to the game was to see Johnny Neumann, who was a rookie that year. He was one of my "heroes," as I had watched him on TV score over 60 points in a game once – I always thought he was the greatest "pure" shooter I had ever seen. I honestly don't remember who won this game, but I still have the 15-cent program as a souvenir. Memphis had Wendell Ladner, Jimmy Jones and Charlie Williams, which was a pretty good nucleus, but the player I remember the most was Gerald Govan and those Buddy Holly-style glasses he wore. He couldn't shoot, but he dominated the boards. Besides Tucker, Warren Armstrong, Larry Jones, and Mack Calvin played for the Floridians, but I don't even remember what they did in the game."

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