The Los Angeles Stars were an ABA team that moved from Anaheim prior to the 1968-1969 season. The Stars, who were the Amigos in Anaheim, lasted two years in Los Angeles before moving again, this time to Utah. The Stars 2nd season in LA saw them make a surprising playoff run to the ABA Finals.
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Who Were the Los Angeles Stars?
The American Basketball Association was an upstart professional basketball league in the U.S. that had its first season in 1967-1968. One of the original eleven teams in the ABA was the Anaheim Amigos. You can read more about the Amigos’ single season here.
After their disastrous season in Anaheim, the Amigos were sold, re branded as the Stars and moved to Los Angeles. The Stars lasted two seasons in Los Angeles before moving again and becoming the Utah Stars.
In their two seasons in Los Angeles, the Stars had mixed results with a poor first season followed by a magical playoff run to the ABA Finals in their second season.
The Stars best move in Los Angeles may have been hiring Hall of Famer player and coach Bill Sharman to lead them.
The Stars went on to have a longer run in Utah, lasting until 1975 before folding a year before the ABA/NBA merger that saw four ABA teams join the NBA.
The ABA’s influence on basketball included the three-point shot, the dunk contest and a generally more entertainment-focused brand of basketball.
How did the Los Angeles Stars Get Started?
The Stars were moved from Anaheim to Los Angeles after the first ABA season. During that season, 1967-1968, the franchise was called the Anaheim Amigos.
The Amigos were one of the eleven charter members of the ABA. The owners, Art Kim and James Ackermam, were chosen at least in part because of Kim’s prior basketball ownership experience with the Globetrotters and the American Basketball League, another NBA competitor league.
Ownership’s experience did not add up to much in that first season, however. The Amigos were a disaster on and off the court.
The team was made up mostly of players straight out of college with a few vets sprinkled in. But things never gelled for them and they lost much more than they won, finishing 25-53.
The Amigos did not end up with any star players and were not able to draw much interest at all in Anaheim. Official counts claimed attendance of 1000 for most games, but insiders suggest that most had only half that number in reality.
With no success on the court and no interest off of it, Kim and Ackerman looked to move on quickly. They found a buyer in Los Angeles businessman James Kirst.
Kirst, who owned construction businesses, paid $450,000 for the team. His first decision as owner was to move the team to Los Angeles and rebrand them as the Stars.
The Los Angeles Stars played their home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena, which had hosted the Lakers until the year before and would host the Clippers years in the future.
The Stars released or traded nearly every player who had played for the Amigos the year before, so they were essentially starting over as a new franchise in Los Angeles.
Who Coached the Los Angeles Stars?
The Stars had limited success in their two seasons in Los Angeles, but the success they did have can almost certainly be attributed to their decision to hire Bill Sharman to coach the team.
Sharman was a Hall of Fame basketball player, winning four NBA titles with the Boston Celtics.
He was a 6’2” shooting guard who averaged over 20 ponts per game for the Green in the late 50s and made both the 50th and 75th NBA Anniversary teams as one of the greatest players in the history of the league.
Sharman went on to become a Hall of Fame coach as well. He started coaching immediately after retiring as a player in 1961.
He first coached an ABL team and then at the college ranks before getting hired to coach the San Francisco Warriors.
The Warriors, as I discovered in writing about their tallest players ever, moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco where they stayed for nine years before moving to Oakland and becoming the Golden State Warriors.
Sharman led the Warriors to the NBA Finals in 1968. The Stars were able to lure him away to coach their team with a better offer and that put them in a decent starting position as an essentially-new team.
Sharman would go on to lead the franchise to an ABA title after their move to Utah and would later lead a Los Angeles team to a title – but it was the Lakers in the NBA.
He is also credited with inventing the idea of the gameday shootaround, a practice he started in the ABL and brought to the ABA and later the NBA.
The Stars best move in Los Angeles was getting Hall of Fame coach Bill Sharman to lead the franchise.
Who played for the Los Angeles Stars?
The Stars hit the reset button after moving from Anaheim, so the rosters were essentially new. Below are the rosters for both seasons in LA.
|20||Stephen Chubin||SG||6-2||Rhode Island|
|55||Warren Davis||PF||6-6||North Carolina A&T|
|35||Dennis Grey||C||6-8||California Western Uiversity|
|20||Jim Jarvis||PG||6-1||Oregon State|
|50||Ed Johnson||C||6-8||Tennessee State|
|14||Jay Miller||SF||6-5||Notre Dame|
|40||Ben Warley||SF||6-5||Tennessee State|
The leading scorer in their first season was mid-season pickup George Lehmann who scored nearly 19 per game in his time in Los Angeles. Lehmann was a 6’3” gunner who once fired in 27 points in one quarter.
Rookie Larry Miller led the team in minutes and was second in scoring at 17 points per game. He made the All-Rookie team.
|55||Warren Davis||PF||6-6||North Carolina A&T|
|54||Simmie Hill||SF||6-7||West Texas A&M University|
|44||Mel Peterson||G-F||6-4||Wheaton College|
|12, 54||Craig Raymond||C||6-11||BYU|
|22||Lester Selvage||PG||6-1||Truman State University|
|14||Trooper Washington||PF||6-7||Cheyney (PA)|
|42||Willie Wise||PF||6-5||Drake University|
|22, 55||Tom Workman||F-C||6-7||Seattle University|
Wayne Hightower, a 6’8” forward acquired in an offseason trade, led the Stars in scoring their 2nd season averaging 18 per game.
Another trade, the mid-season acquisition of center Craig Raymond, turned out to be the key to the season. He fixed a troubled center position for the team and averaged 15 points to go along with 12 boards.
Were the Los Angeles Stars Good?
The Stars played for only two seasons in Los Angeles. Those seasons ended very differently
The Stars initial season in LA did not go well. The team was full of rookies and players with a tiny bit of professional experience.
There was literally one player on the roster with more than one year of professional basketball experience to start the season: Ben Warley.
Warley was a 6’5” 32-year-old forward who came up with the team from Anaheim. He had played for 6 years in the NBA and contributed 14 points per game for the Stars.
But a team in which every player but one is in their first or second year of professional basketball is a team that is going to struggle.
The ‘68-’69 Stars did just that. They were well-drilled by Bill Sharman but they were too young and inexperienced. The team won only 33 games and lost 45. They finished 5th out of 6 teams in the ABA’s Western Conference and did not make the playoffs.
The ‘69-’’70 season seemed like it was headed in the same direction as the prior season for the Los Angeles Stars.
With the team sitting at 16-22, the Stars made a trade that changed their season and sent them on a magical run. The team acquired Craig Raymond from the Pittsburgh Pipers.
Raymond was a 6’11” center out of BYU who had been a high draft pick of the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers. Raymond did not last long with the Sixers and moved on to the ABA after one season.
Raymond played four seasons in the ABA and averaged only 6 points and 6 rebounds per game for his career. He was an unlikely candidate to spark a magical run, but that he did.
Raymond shored up the team’s center position and the Stars righted the ship during the regular season in time to make the playoffs on the last day of the season.
From there, they upset (nearly) everyone. Their first victims were the favored, higher-seeded Dallas Chaparrals. The Stars beat them in six games, winning 4-2.
Next up were the Denver Rockets featuring star Spencer Haywood who was the league’s MVP that year.
The Stars cruised past Haywood’s Rockets 4-1 advancing to the 1970 ABA Finals. In the Finals the Stars faced the Indiana Pacers, one of the four ABA teams who would later join the NBA.
The Finals were close and went six games, but the Stars’ magic finally ran out. An injury to Raymond in game six killed their chances to come back and the Pacers won th 1970 ABA championship.
What Happened to the Los Angeles Stars?
The Los Angeles Stars drew over 8,000 fans for their last Finals home game against the Pacers. Unlike their prior stop in Anaheim, the team was starting to draw some interest from fans in LA.
Had they averaged that number throughout the season, their fate may have been different.
But attendance at Stars games during the year was closer to 2,000 and that was not enough to make them profitable or even to keep their losses at an acceptable level for owner James Kirst.
Kirst sold the team after the 1970 playoffs to cable television businessman Bill Daniels. Daniels quickly moved the team to Utah.
In Utah, the Stars had another great run the next season, this time going all the way to capture the ABA title by defeating the Kentucky Colonels in the Finals.
Summary: The Los Angeles Stars
The Los Angeles Stars played two years in LA after moving from Anaheim where they were known as the Amigos. In their two seasons in Los Angeles, the Stars were bad one year but made a nice run to the ABA Finals in their second season. The team moved to Utah after the second year because they were not profitable. The team won the ABA title their first year as the Utah Stars.
I have been a Boston sports fan for more than forty years. I write about games, players and seasons from the past.