Skip to Content

What teams went from ABA to NBA?

The NBA is the most popular basketball league in the world. It enjoys massive viewership, boasts all the best players and has massive financial endorsement deals. Before the NBA came to dominate Basketball, the ABA was a major rival in the United States.

What teams went from ABA to NBA? When the ABA-NBA merger happened in 1976, four teams relocated to the NBA, which are: the Denver Nuggets, the San Antonio Spurs, the Indiana Pacers and the New York Nets (now Brooklyn Nets).

As the merger happened the popularity of basketball only increased in the United States. In the following article, we will have a closer look at these teams and what they achieved in history.

Denver Nuggets

The Denver Nuggets are one of the oldest teams in the NBA. In 1974 they changed their name to Nuggets from Rockets. Considering that the league already had the Houston Rockets, such a move was necessary.

After they moved to the NBA, they set the league’s second best record, winning 50 games and losing only 32. In the ABA they have never won a championship title and immediately they became Midwest Division champions. In the successive season, they once again repeated the same feat, but because of financial problems and draft penalties, their status was shaken. However, they still were a formidable force throughout the 80s.

From 1990 to 2003 it was a period of stagnation for the Denver Nuggets. However, they quickly recovered and stood back on their feet. From 2004 to 2013 they made 10 consecutive playoffs appearances. In the 2020/2021 season, the season which was cut short amid the coronavirus pandemic, they reached the Conference Finals, playing against the Los Angeles Lakers. However they did not make it to the NBA Finals, and to this day they are the sole team from the 4 franchises that have never taken part in the Finals.

San Antonio Spurs

The San Antonio Spurs can boast of their history, considering that they have won 4 championship titles. Before moving to the NBA, the Spurs have never made it past the first round in the playoffs. After the merger, they won division titles 5 times in the first 6 seasons, which was incredible. Like the Nuggets, they also suffered penalties and financial problems and in the 80s had a difficult period in the league.

Everything changed in the 90s. The success can be credited to the appearance of Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich. With them, the San Antonio Spurs became a formidable force in the league, winning the first title in 1999. They became the first team to reach the Finals and win it simultaneously. As of 2022, they are the only team to do so. In addition to the 1999 championship, they won the title in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2014.

Gregg Popovich is one of the most decorated coaches in the league. He has one of the highest winning ratio and set several records with the Spurs. We can also mention the players like Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Alongside Tim Duncan, they formed a trio that wreaked havoc in the league.

Indiana Pacers

The Indiana Pacers are considered one of the strongest teams in the ABA period. The merger happened just in time, as the Pacers recovered financially. They had a difficult period and when they moved to the NBA, the attendance grew massively. It reached almost 11,000 during the 1977-1978 season.

Although, their first season was not successful. They only won 36 games and lost 46. Billy Knight and Don Buse were included in the All-Star game. For the first 13 years, the team had not achieved anything valuable. They only made it to the playoffs twice.

The situation started to change when they won the Central Division championships 6 times. Most recently, they did it in 2013 and 2014 respectively. With Reggie Miller, who is undoubtedly the best player of the franchise, they reached the Finals in 2000 but failed to defeat the Los Angeles Lakers. In 2013 and 2014 they reached the Eastern Conference Finals but did not advance, as they were defeated by the Miami Heat on both of these occasions.

One of the most important moments in the history of the Indiana Pacers is that Larry Bird coached the team.

New York Nets

After the merger, the New York Nets were heavily affected by the penalties. They were forced to sell Julius Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers. Nate Archibald, one of the best players of the Knicks, broke his foot and in the first season, the Nets only won 22 games and lost 60. This was the league’s worst record.

According to Roy Boe the merger was a killer for the franchise, as the owner had no other choice, than to sell Julius Erving.

After the first season, they moved to New Jersey and improved financially. In 1984, the Nets made it to the playoffs and in 2002 they went to the NBA Finals. Unfortunately they did not achieve success, as they were beaten by the Lakers.

In the following season, the Nets were once again the participants of the NBA Finals. This time they were meeting the San Antonio Spurs. Actually, it was 2 former ABA teams meeting each other. The Spurs were favorites and they defeated the Nets.

In 2012, the Nets moved to Brooklyn. They managed to create one of the best teams in the league, purchasing a lot of famous players and breaking the salary cap several times. They played in the Conference Finals in 2021 but did not get past the Milwaukee Bucks.