MEMORIES OF THOMAS J. OWEN: "My favorite Rockets player was Lonnie Wright. He was a very rare, two-sport professional athlete. As a defensive back for the Denver Broncos, he clinched the very first victory for an AFL team over an NFL team by intercepting a pass in the endzone. I think it may have been a Fran Tarkenton pass for the Vikings. Although only a 6'2" guard, he routinely jumped center for Colorado State while in college, and once outjumped Alcindor!"
MEMORIES OF PHIL GENTRY: "The web site bring back so many great memories. My Dad and I went to so many of the Denver Rocket games back when they played in downtown Denver at the Auditorium Arena. I remember him taking us to games when the promotion was "One paying adult, and a child gets in free with a french fry wrapper from Burger King." I also remember the first time I saw Dr. J play with the Squires. We were up near the top row, and one guy called across to aisle to another guy, "Which one is Dr. J?" At that very same time, Dr. J made one of those unbelievable moves that he made so often, and the guy responded with a smile, "THAT'S DR. J!"
I loved those games, and I remember how I really felt like it was my team. There weren't many games on TV, so I was glued to the radio when they played on the road. I would live and die with each play as Larry Zimmer or Al Albert would describe the action. It was a great time back then...basketball was a game to be enjoyed, and it was played by players who really appreciated being there."
MEMORIES OF SKIP VAN: "Boy what memories as a kid. My father worked to the Denver Rockets. He was VP of Finance for Ringsby United Trucklines who owned the Rockets. Dad was the guy that wrote the checks to the players.
I remember many nights during the late 60's early 70's sitting in the Denver Auditorium Arena watching the Rockets. Our season seats were right next to Mayor McNichols. His son (who was older than me) would cheer the Rockets on as the Mayor would smoke his cigar. I remember my mother yelling at Doug Moe when they came to town. He was known in Denver as "Dirty Moe." In fact she would yell "Dirty Moe...Dirty Moe" all night long.
My biggest thrill was going into the locker room and talking with the guys. Larry Jones, Byron Beck, Lonnie Wright (who also played with the Broncos), Spencer Haywood, and even Larry Brown. I remember Jeff Congdon had the longest shot in Rocket history. Finally, I remember Wayne Hightower because he remembered me every time we met. He was a neat guy to a 8 - 9 year old kid. By 1974, the franchise and new owners and most of the fun was gone - but the ride as a kid was great."
MEMORIES OF STEVEN M. GRUENLER: "As a nine year old in 1967, I attended the first Denver Rockets game at the Auditorium Arena. I think they played Oakland or Anaheim. All I wanted to be was Larry Jones, #32 for the Rockets. Later on, I remember also wanting to emulate Jeff Congdon - he hit a full court shot at a game I attended.
Unfortunately the NBA never really saw the Doctor that diehard ABA fans knew. Not to mention the Hawk, Darel Carrier, Bob Netolicky, Billy Knight, the real Spencer Haywood, Darnell Hillman (the best afro ever) and Providence College's finest, Marvin "Bad News" Barnes.
For a guy like Doug Moe, the ABA was the only place for him to go. Wrongly accused of associating with gamblers, and banned from playing in the NBA, he was a great player. Occasionally I see him at Big Bill's Pizzeria in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, a restaurant owned by Bill Ficke. Doug might still be willing to kick some young punk for pretending that they know how to play the game."
MEMORIES OF BRIAN LOWE: "I was a young boy in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada - and I have many memories of the Denver Rockets. I was fascinated by the Rockets game broadcasts on the radio. I listened to them in the dark (while I was supposed to be sleeping) and dreamed I was there. It all began late in the 1970-71 season. I was turning the radio dial and found a Rockets basketball game It was KOA Radio in Denver and it was coming in strong. By the time the game was over I was hooked. Many games and memories followed. I listened very consistently. Some nights reception would come and go - I would do everything to try and get the signal back. A few times I missed the end of a game and it would come back after 10-15 minutes later, and I would listen to the post game show.
I literally cried the day Warren Jabali was let go and I could not understand why it happened. I think I was still twelve and no one in my hometown even knew what I was talking about.
I see the other names on the web site - Willie Long, Julius Keye, Julian Hammond, Dave Robisch, Ralph Simpson, Byron Beck, Al Smith - and it all comes back. The games that seem the clearest in my mind involved various Alex Hannum antics. There was also a game when Jabali had around 20 assists, close to a record. I'm not sure of the exact total but it was amazing for me listening to the game announcer. He was so pumped up with every assist. I sure wish I could listen to that game again.
Anyway, I finally made it to Denver in 1976, when I was 15 years old. I saw my first ABA game in person on that visit. I didn't even realize that I was just in time, as it was going to be the last ABA season. Watching several players on the Nuggets brought back the all my memories of the Denver Rockets. Ralph Simpson was great, and I finally got to see Byron Beck. Claude Terry, and Chuck Williams. Of course it was fun to see David Thompson as well, but I was really there to see the Rockets players I remembered so well."
MEMORIES OF JEFF GREENE: "I'll never forget my experiences as a young boy going to the old Denver Auditorium Arena to see the Denver Rockets. I saw the Rockets play ABA basketball against some of the most incredible talent I've ever seen take the court (that's saying a lot, because I now live in the Research Triangle of North Carolina, and watch Duke and NC play every year).
I remember that if my Dad was being really generous, he'd hand me $5 and I could go to the box office to purchase a courtside seat. At halftime, you could see through the curtains and see the teams near their locker rooms! In the lobby, you'd hear everyone in the Arena have conversations about the game.
I remember watching the Rockets reports from Lynn Sanner, sportscaster for Channel 9 News. I would listen to Lynn conduct interviews before the game. Then, I'd go home and get to hear them again.
A few particular Rockets memories:
MEMORIES OF ROBERT BANNER: "From the very first time I saw a Denver Rockets game, I was hooked. The spin of that red, white and blue ball as it arched towards the basket was like nothing I had ever seen in my young life...it was mesmerizing.
The first game I can recall attending was an Oakland Oaks at Rockets game early during the 1968-69 season. It featured a shootout between Larry Jones of the Rockets and Rick Barry of the Oaks. I remember Larry Jones' arching jump shot from the baseline. I also remember Rick Barry's white wristbands. I thought those wristbands looked "so cool" In fact, I decided to wear a pair myself and I don't think I took them off my entire 6th grade year!
I attended many games following that one. Each and every time I walked into either the old Auditorium Arena or the Denver Coliseum, it was magic. The vendors, the hum of the crowd, the orange and black floor...and of course that red, white and blue ball.
Of the few hundred games I saw over the years my most memorable was a game during the 1969-70 season. It was after Joe Belmont had taken over as the coach and the Rockets were red hot! The Auditorium Arena was packed every night and a Rockets game was the hottest ticket in town. On this particular night a fight erupted and a role player by the name of Ben Warley "cold cocked" a player from the other team. He laid him out with one punch. Then, Lonnie Wright (part time Rocket and part time defensive back for the Denver Broncos) jumped from the bench, stood over the player, and counted him out!
In today's hypersensitive world of instant media, this event would have been shown hundreds of times on network and cable programs, and debated endlessly on The Today Show and Nightline. Sports would have been portrayed as evil, and its violence a symptom of all the ills of society.
But, as politically incorrect as this seems in today's world, the crowd cheered, screamed and yelled for more! Even more memorable was the fact that I was at the game with my parents. When the punch and countout occurred, my "passive, demure" 1960's mother turned into a "bloodthirsty" member of the Auditorium Arena mob, screaming for more!
In conclusion, all I can say is..."those were the days!" It was great basketball, great fun, and great memories for a young boy growing up in Denver! The ABA...there was nothing else like it!"