Shooting Threes and Shaking the Basketball Establishment
by Bob Lieb
It has been slightly more than 50 years since the inaugural season of the American Basketball League (ABL). The league was built by Abe Saperstein, the founder and owner of the Harlem Globetrotters, and it began its brief run during the 1961-1962 basketball season. It took on the National Basketball Association (NBA) head-to-head, caused players to jump leagues, introduced the three-point shot and wider foul lanes to professional basketball in the United States, and generally raised hell with the basketball establishment.
Although it lasted only a season and a half, it set the scene for the later completion from the better financed American Basketball Association (ABA). But during that brief time period, Saperstein, owners like George Steinbrenner and Lenny Litman, coaches such as Bill Sharman and Andy Phillip and players Connie Hawkins and Bill Bridges, left a legacy that continues to affect the professional game to this day.
A self-described gym-rat in his youth and a former college basketball player, Bob Lieb is now a professor in the D’amore-McKim School of Business at Northeastern University in Boston. However, he has never forgotten how fortunate he was to play against a number of American Basketball League players on the playgrounds in Pittsburgh. Although he has written seven books in his field of supply chain management, this book and its story of Abe Saperstein’s uphill battle to challenge the established National Basketball Association is story he has always wanted to tell.