The Anaheim Amigos were one of the eleven original teams in the American Basketball Association. The team was bad on the court and a disaster off of it, failing to win games and to draw any interest from fans. They lasted one season as the Anaheim Amigos before being sold, moved and rebranded as the Los Angeles Stars.
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Who Were the Anaheim Amigos?
The Anaheim Amigos were one of the original 11 teams of the American Basketball Association – commonly called the ABA. Four teams from the ABA would eventually join the NBA. The ABA was famous for its basketball innovations including the slam dunk contest and the three point shot.
The Anaheim Amigos lasted only one season in the ABA and are perhaps most well known for losing the first game in the history of the league. On Friday October 13, 1967 the Amigos lost 134 -129 to the Oakland Oaks on the road in the ABA’s first matchup.
The Amigos home arena was at the Anaheim Convention Center. Al Brightman started the Amigos lone season as head coach but he was replaced about half way through the year by Harry Dinnel.
The Amigos were given a charter to be one of the original ABA teams. Art Kim and James Ackerman paid $30,000 for the right to own one of those original teams.
How did the Anaheim Amigos get started?
The name was created by fans in a contest to choose a name for the new team.
Kim had a basketball history having been associated with both the Harlem Globetrotters and another upstart professional league: the American Basketball League.
Kim had moved an ABL team from Hawaii to Long Beach, California. He chose Anaheim for his new ABA squad because the city, and Orange County, California generally, were booming.
The area was supporting the California Angels well and the Amigos owners hoped the same would be true for their new basketball team.
The owners were able to sign both local tv and radio contracts before the season, so there was some reason for optimism heading into that first, and as it turned out only, year.
Who played for the Anaheim Amigos?
As a new team in a completely new league, the roster for the Anaheim Amigos saw a lot of changes. The roster looked like this:
|30||Bill Allen||C||6-8||New Mexico State|
|52||Larry Bunce||C||7-0||Utah State University|
|14, 20, 34||Stephen Chubin||SG||6-2||Rhode Island|
|14||Bill Crow||G||6-1||Cerritos College, BYU, Westminster College of Utah|
|30, 44||Warren Davis||PF||6-6||North Carolina A&T|
|42||Bill Garner||C||6-10||University of Portland|
|50||Larry Moore||F||6-7||Florida State|
|50||Paul Scranton||F||6-5||Cal Poly Pomona|
|12||Lester Selvage||PG||6-1||Truman State University|
|44||Randy Stoll||PF||6-7||Washington State|
|10||Willis Thomas||SG||6-2||Harbor College|
|34, 50||Herschell Turner||PG||6-2||Nebraska|
|40||Ben Warley||SF||6-5||Tennessee State|
The team was made up of a mix of players with some professional experience and other players straight out of college.
The most experienced player was probably Ben Warley, who had experience with two NBA teams before playing for the Amigos. Warley had a good year for the Amigos as the team’s second leading scorer at 17 points per game.
Lester Selvage was a complete bomber who led the ABA in three pointers made and attempted. He took just a shade below 6 three-pointers per game.
Larry Bunce was the tallest player in the ABA and, obviously, for the Amigos as well.
The team’s leadership had a lot of expectations that Bunce would be a key players for the team, but he was a disappointment despite scoring 12 points and grabbing 8 rebounds a game for the team.
Stephen Chubin turned out to be the team’s best player, leading the Amigos in both scoring and assists.
Unlike other ABA stars like Julius “Dr J” Erving and Moses “Big Mo” Malone, none of the Amigos went on to bigger things in the NBA – or even much of anything in the ABA.
Were the Anaheim Amigos Good?
No, the Anaheim Amigos were not good. They were bad. Really bad. The team finished 2nd to last in the ABA’s Western Conference and the league as a whole.
The Amigos finished 25-53 in their only season. The only team in the ABA with fewer wins than them were the Oakland Oaks, who defeated them in the first game in league history.
The team actually functioned decently on offense, finishing as the 3rd leading scoring team in the ABA at 111 points per game. But their opponents were able to put up 116 per game, putting the Amigos 2nd to last in scoring defense.
The team played with pace to score those points as they were actually 9th in offensive rating while being 10th in defensive rating.
When you add those numbers up, you get a ton of losses and that is what the Amigos had.
Four teams from the ABA’s Western Conference made the playoffs in the initial 1967-1968 league year. The amigos finished 5 in the West and did not qualify.
What Happened to the Anaheim Amigos?
In addition to their failures on the court, the Amigos floundered off the court in their only season in Anaheim. The team struggled to draw any interest in the Orange County area.
The arena they mostly played at in the Anaheim Convention Center sat around 7,000 people. The team never got anywhere close to that number. The team announced attendance at a meager 1000 fans per game, but ““That was including about 500 people dressed as seats,” according to the convention center’s ticket manager at the time.
The fans were simply not interested in the basketball team. There were no box office draws on the squad and even some of the bigger names in the league its first year, like Connie Hawkins, were mysteries to most Orange County residents.
The Convention Center noticed the tiny box office the team was drawing and began treating the Amigos like the delinquent tenants they were.
They started giving preference to other conventions and events that were drawing fans, so the Amigos had to scramble at times to find places to play their games.
All of this added up to huge losses for Kim and the ownership group. They were reported to lose $500,000 that first year of the Amigos’ existence and they decided to make it the only year.
The team was sold to James Kirst who quickly moved the team to Los Angeles and rebranded them the Los Angeles Stars. Most of the players were cut or traded before the next year began.
When reporter Steve Lowery contacted former owner Art Kim to tell him he was writing a story on the Amigos, Kim said “Why?”. That just about sums it up.
Summary: The Anaheim Amigos
The Anaheim Amigos were one of the eleven original American Basketball Association teams. They were unsuccessful on and off the floor in their only year in existence: the 1967-1968 season. They were sold, moved and rebranded the following year becoming the Los Angeles Stars.
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.