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Labor of Love: Fellow Sports Memorabilia Collector Creates a Card Set to Give Back to former ABA Players in Need

By Joe Dynlacht

Whether you collect baseball, football, hockey or basketball cards, the thought of creating your own card set has danced through your mind.  Just admit it!  But then, reality sets in as you wonder how you would actually pull off this feat. Maybe you fancy that you can do a better job at populating the backs of cards with text and stats than Company X, Y or Z.  Maybe you have artistic tendencies and can design some gorgeous card fronts.  Maybe you have access to the machinery and expertise to print the card sheets, and cut, collate and box them for delivery.  And maybe you have the connections to players so you can include an autographed card in your set.  You know it will take an investment of time and money.  But if you can’t pull off most of the other things I’ve mentioned (or are not motivated to get the help that you’d need), then more likely than not, the dream of producing your own card set will simply die on the vine.  However, Scott Tarter had some extra motivation to make a trading card set memorializing the inaugural year of the American Basketball Association (ABA).  He decided a few years ago that even though the venture would take a village, he’d hunker down and try to put the pieces into place.

Card #129 depicts Charlie Williams of the Pittsburgh Pipers. The Pipers won the ABA championship in the league’s 1st year of existence. (Photo courtesy of Scott Tarter)

Living the Dream While Trying to Help Others

Many SCD readers who collect memorabilia, cards, and autographs associated with the ABA may recognize Scott’s name. He is the CEO of the Dropping Dimes Foundation, a charity he co-founded in 2014 with Dr. John Abrams to raise money to provide assistance to members of the ABA family who are experiencing financial or medical hardship.  Abrams and Tarter recognized that many former ABA players, as well as team and league personnel and their families, were in need of assistance to meet day-to-day needs because they do not receive an NBA pension, nor were they eligible to receive any other benefits from the NBA.  Only four ABA teams were absorbed by the NBA after the ABA merged into the NBA just before the 1976-77 season – the Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs, New York (now Brooklyn) Nets and the Denver Nuggets. Most ABA players did not receive pension benefits from the NBA after the merger, because they either never played in the NBA or didn’t play in the league long enough.  Thus, the Dropping Dimes Foundation was created to raise money to provide support to ABA players and families experiencing hardship during their later years in life.  

According to Tarter, when the Dropping Dimes Foundation would go out to meet with former ABA players in need of assistance, “our calling card quickly became to also provide a blown-up canvas version of the player’s ABA trading card. But we started to realize we were helping a lot of guys who never had their own card, and this started happening more frequently.  I thought that it’s a shame nobody ever made cards of these guys from such a legendary league, especially the pioneers. They deserve that.”  Even when Topps first started producing trading cards of ABA players in 1971, they only made cards of about 5 or 6 players per team. As a result, most of the guys who played in a league that only lasted from 1967 to 1976 never had their own card.  No cards at all were done during the first four years of the ABA’s existence. So most of the ABA’s early pioneers never had a card. As the memories of that magical and historically important league start to fade, opportunities to uncover important facts about the players and the league, and to acknowledge the critical contributions these legends made to pro basketball while many are still living, are also diminishing.

In April of 2018, the Dropping Dimes Foundation organized and presented the 50th anniversary ABA reunion celebration in Indianapolis, an event that turned out to be its biggest fundraiser to date.  One hundred fifteen (115) former ABA players plus many former coaches, media and team staff members were in attendance. Players signed autographs on special commemorative pennants and basketballs (red, white and blue, of course) during an afternoon fan-fest at Butler University’s Hinkle Fieldhouse, and then attended a dinner and Q&A session that night at Banker’s Life Fieldhouse, an entertaining event moderated by sportscaster and Dropping Dimes Advisory Board member Bob Costas. While the reunion was a great success, the Foundation’s Board (Tarter, Abrams, and film producer Ted Green, who produced the highly acclaimed and ABA-related PBS documentaries “Undefeated – the Roger Brown Story” and Bobby Slick Leonard – Heart of a Hoosier”, are always on the lookout for additional sources of revenue to fund much-needed assistance efforts.

Scott Tarter lays out cards for former ABA players to sign at Big Bill’s Pizza in Denver, Colorado. Shown left to right are Steve Chubin (Anaheim Amigos), Grant Simmons (Denver Rockets) and Julian Hammond (Denver Rockets). (Photo courtesy of Scott Tarter)

The idea of creating and selling a high-quality ABA card set to raise awareness of the ABA and to raise additional funds for the Foundation had been percolating in Tarter’s head for some time, even before the reunion took place.  However, he and his fellow board members did not want to use precious donated funds to take any risk of producing trading cards, so it needed a separate effort.  Tarter was up for it, but recalls, “I knew it would take several years to get the project off the ground and completed.”  He knew he’d need to secure the services of at least a graphic designer, an artist, and an experienced printer.  He also knew the venture could only be made possible with a substantial personal investment of both money and time. It would involve a lot of traveling.  But he would also make a lot of new friends and hear some amazing first-hand stories from many ABA players.

The Brainstorming Begins

Once Tarter decided to move forward with his idea of creating a card set, the conceptualizing began. He wanted to be creative, but he also realized that he’d have no choice but to design the cards as unique artistic renderings in order to avoid potential photographic copyright issues. He would also need to design around any potential trademark issues.   

Tarter felt that for the players’ sake and the sake of history, every 1st year ABA player should have a card (a concept that no card company during the ABA era had ever embraced).  Also, the set should involve high-quality card stock and printing, and come in a heavy-duty box worthy of housing a special limited collector’s edition card set. And he wanted to make sure every living ABA player would receive his own complementary “player-only” set that would not be reproduced commercially or sold to the general public. He founded a company to do the job and named it Lana Sports (after his deceased “wonderfully eccentric” mother).  Then he committed to taking the novel approach of featuring every first-year player who played during the inaugural (“rookie”) ABA season of 1967-68; this would require a tremendous time commitment for researching player stats and facts, and a financial commitment in terms of production costs.

A total of 159 men met the criterion of seeing playing time during the first ABA season, but the set grew to 160 cards with the inclusion of Les Powell, a player who was drafted out of Utah State to play that year but never had a chance to suit up. Powell was drafted and signed by the Anaheim Amigos in 1967 but was drafted by Uncle Sam the day he signed his playing contract.  Sadly, Powell was killed in action in Vietnam before he could log a single minute of game action. The back of each card in the set (except for Powell’s) contains interesting and little known facts about every player, along with his statistics from the first ABA season. Powell’s card includes “fantasy stats,” based on projections that assume he had played that entire season.  On the front of Powell’s card is a depiction of his Purple Heart medal, and on the back are depictions of his U.S. and Vietnamese service medals.

Tarter wanted the set to be accepted by the hobby as comprising the “true rookie cards” of all first-year ABA players, and as an authentic collectible trading card set just like any other. So, the cards would need to be of high quality, and included with each set would also be 5 parallel cards numbered to 50 or less and an especially rare autographed card signed by a player who made his debut during the 1967-68 ABA season. Moreover, he wanted some boxes to contain an ultra-rare autographed rookie card of the ABA’s all-time leading scorer, Hall of Famer Louie Dampier (see inset for a list of autograph cards).             

Makin’ Some Cards

In addition to determining the composition of the set, creating the design of the cards (including parallels and autographed cards) and box, and researching player information and stats, Tarter had to find a graphic designer and a talented artist.  Fortunately, he made some great connections. Shane Young, a local Indianapolis artist, was engaged to hand-sketch and color all 159 first year ABA players and Les Powell.  Young would later also participate in the 50th ABA Reunion celebration, donating a beautiful “Dr. J” Julius Erving painting for auction during the reunion dinner. Tarter worked with Young for many evenings around his day job as an attorney during the first 18 months of the project, directing him on the layout and design aspects for the artistic renderings, familiarizing him with the players, and making sure the artistic renderings paid homage to the era but were created to avoid potential trademark and copyright issues.

Although Young was able to reference several photographs of each player taken during their playing days (located and provided to him by Tarter), he was instructed to draw each player using his own unique pose and style.  Importantly, the renderings would not be based on any particular existing photo. This led to somewhat of a caricature-like style for some of the player renderings, but Tarter liked the fact that some important vintage trading card sets (like some of the Goudey baseball sets of the 1930’s) included player caricatures or drawings, and he also knew many ABA programs and league promotions involved artistic renderings of players that were “let’s just say…..somewhat less than life-like.”  He recognized the “quirkiness” of the ABA, and he wanted the set to pay homage to the 1960’s and 70’s when the league was in its heyday.

Artist Shane Young of Indianapolis, IN painted this picture of Julius Erving (Dr. J.) for the Dropping Dimes Foundation at the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the ABA in April 2018. The piece was auctioned off at the Gala dinner, with all proceeds going to the Dropping Dimes Foundation. Lana Sports hired Young to do the unique artistic renderings of every 1st year ABA player for their inaugural set of “Lively League” trading card. (Photo courtesy of Scott Tarter)

Tarter designed his own “Lively League” logo, and avoided using trademarked team names by simply using the city and state of the team, as well as the team colors.  Tarter reckons he had personal meetings or telephone discussions with around 80% of the living 1st year ABA players, and received overwhelming support from all the players for the production of the cards. Many of the players offered to provide testimonials or to help support sales of the card sets, as they knew it was for a good cause.  But Tarter provided even more incentive by promising each living player a free set of cards made exclusively for 1st year ABA players. Those sets are specially marked “Exclusive Player Set – Not for Retail Sale,”  but do not contain parallel or autographed cards since the players communicated to Tarter that those features weren’t important to them;  they really just wanted to have their own cards and the base cards of their colleagues from that first year of the league. Any player who asked for extra cards of himself for family and friends (or fans) would be given extra cards as well.

The card backs are composed of the player’s name, personal information, and team, the Lively League logo, the player’s first year ABA stats and fascinating career facts (researched and written by Tarter). Tarter contacted basketballreference.com and received permission to use stats obtained from them, and he provided appropriate credit to them on the boxes housing the sets. He also researched newspaper accounts of the games, conducted research on Arthur Hundhausen’s website “remembertheaba.com,” poured over original game programs and stat sheets, and interviewed players, so that he could put together what he hoped would be one of the most comprehensive sources for first-year ABA information;  it remains his hope that the set will become a resource in and of itself for basketball history buffs. 

Finishing Touches

Several additional production decisions had to be made, such as whether to go with thinner card stock to save money or thicker stock that is more common with standard-issue trading cards. Tarter opted for the standard thicker stock, and also opted to use high-quality matte laminate coating on the cards. He enlisted the expertise of Garlich Printing located just outside of St. Louis, MO to do the critical printing, sheet cutting, set assembly and packaging, and random third party insertion of parallel cards and autographed cards. “Garlich Printing was chosen because of the experience they had with producing hig-quality trading cards, including cards produced for MLB promotions,” said Tarter.  

After the cards were printed, Tarter visited with all of the players who had agreed to provide autographs, so he could personally witness the signings (each set contains a certificate signed by Tarter that certifies each autograph was obtained directly from the player by Lana Sports). In order to pull that off, Tarter made several trips (with new Sharpies in hand) to the Los Angeles and San Diego areas, Denver, New York, Atlanta and several locations in Indiana and Kentucky.  Said Tarter, “I flew or drove around the country for 18 months getting in-person autographs from so many different 1st year ABA players and it was such an incredible experience. I got to hear amazing first-hand stories about their playing days. And most of them had never had a trading card before so they were so excited to see their card and to be remembered. The autographed cards in this set are so rare, given they’re the only cards in existence for most of these living legends, and even in the case of players who had cards in later years, these are now the true rookie cards for those players as well.” 

Garlich Printing of St. Louis, MO was hired to print and package the cards. Shown here are Garlich employees randomly inserting 1st year player autograph cards into separate envelopes that are included within the sets. They also randomized the numbered parallel cards within the base set. (Photo courtesy of Scott Tarter)

When the cards were all printed and cut, and all on-card autographs were obtained, Garlich provided the third party packaging, card randomization and other aspects of production. The parallel card and autographed card randomization and insertion were critical to Tarter as a collector himself.  “I didn’t want to be present when autographed and parallel cards were randomly inserted into the sets, so it was really important for me to put the randomization process into the hands of a qualified third party. I purchased the first set myself and I had absolutely no idea which autographed card would be inside that set. I needed for other collectors to know they can trust the authenticity of the process.”  What Tarter did do himself was carefully inspect each autograph for quality before gently placing each one into soft sleeves and top-loaders and hand-delivering all of them to the printer.  “As a fellow collector, I wanted each autographed card to be in beautiful shape when opened.  If an autograph was smudged even slightly, or a card even slightly damaged, it didn’t go in the set.  I really wanted the autographed cards to be handled by someone who cares a lot about the condition, and didn’t mind the extra time and cost of placing each of those cards into top-loaders for extra protection.”

Only 750 limited-edition sets were produced for retail sale. The 160-card base set, along with 5 parallel cards numbered to 50 or less, and an autographed insert card (166 cards total) are packaged in handsome, colorful and sturdy collector boxes, each individually numbered to 750. The original ABA Player’s Association logo adorns the outside of the box. Tarter says he did that to commemorate the amazing brotherhood that still exists among ABA players, and the incredible player support he received for the production of the cards. The retail price of the limited-run set is $249. Word is just starting to get out about the existence of the set so here’s a word to the wise: If you want one, you better act fast!

Collectors interested in obtaining this novel and historically important limited-edition set of ABA cards, and fans interested in commemorating the inaugural season of the ABA while supporting a great cause, can purchase the “Lively League” (1967-1968) ABA Rookie Card Set directly at www.lanasports.com.  In Indianapolis only, a local card shop “Indy Card Exchange,” is selling the sets retail.  The card shop owner, Andy Albert, himself a long-time supporter of the Dropping Dimes Foundation, served as a consultant during the production of the card set, and provided valuable information on card specifications and design.  Said Albert, “It was so much fun helping Scott design (and advise him on some of the intricacies of) the set.  He has taken this project on as a labor of love for several years now, and to see it all completed is exciting for us as a shop, and as a collector.  Any collector of vintage basketball cards and/or ABA cards needs to own one of these sets…to say they own a piece of ABA history.  There was a lot of sweat equity placed into each and every base card, autograph, and parallel card placed in every box.  Scott and his team did an incredible job.”  

While Tarter is hoping to first recoup the expenses for producing and marketing the set, Lana Sports will donate profits to the Dropping Dimes Foundation (www.droppingdimes.org), to help the organization continue to support former ABA players in need of medical and/or financial assistance. I asked Tarter if he was planning to create a follow-up set, and quite understandably, he was undecided.  “Putting this set together was an amazing experience, and maybe in the future I’d consider producing a follow-up set for subsequent ABA years, but it was a beast in terms of time consumption so I plan to take a breath and grab some pine for a while after this.  However, Lana Sports will be making an announcement soon about the availability of another iconic ABA product that vintage basketball fans are going to love.”  So if you are a vintage or ABA basketball fan, keep an eye out!

The limited edition cards are housed in sturdy and colorful collector boxes numbered from 1 to 750. The box and card graphics were done in homage to 1960’s and 70’s vintage basketball. (Photo courtesy of Scott Tarter)
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ABA Legends Come Together to Celebrate

Courtesy of the INDYSTAR:

The colorful legacy of the American Basketball Association will be celebrated at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on April 7, 2018, when the ABA’s 50th reunion is held. All proceeds will go to the Dropping Dimes Foundation, an Indianapolis-based charity that assists former ABA players, coaches, and team employees in need of financial or health care assistance.

The event will bring a retro ABA All-Star weekend feel to downtown Indianapolis. Many of the league’s greatest players and coaches are scheduled to attend, including former Pacers legend George McGinnis and legendary Pacers coach Slick Leonard, Julius Erving, Spencer Haywood, Dan Issel, George Gervin, and Artis Gilmore. NBC announcer Bob Costas will serve as master of ceremonies. During the program, the list of the ABA’s all-time 50 greatest players will be announced, as voted on by a media panel.

Leonard, who coached the Pacers to three ABA championships, looks forward to honoring a unique league with unforgettable players and personalities who left a mark on pro basketball history.

“(The ABA) was just a hell of a lot of fun, a hell of a lot of fun,” said Leonard in a news release. “And I’m telling you this reunion will be more of the same. I wouldn’t miss it for anything.”

The ABA, which began in 1967 with the Pacers and 10 other teams, lasted nine seasons. It ended in 1976, when the league disbanded and four franchises were absorbed into the NBA – the Pacers, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs and New Jersey Nets, who have since relocated to Brooklyn.

The ABA was beset with financial problems from start to finish, competing with the more-established and stable NBA. But the talent and excitement of ABA basketball was undeniable. With its signature red-white-and-blue basketball, the ABA was innovative and flashy, featuring the 3-point shot and an All-Star slam dunk contest before the NBA implemented them. The league featured Hall of Fame players like Erving, Issel, David Thompson, Moses Malone, Rick Barry, and three former Pacers players who made the Hall of Fame – McGinnis, Roger Brown and Mel Daniels.

Brown and Daniels are both deceased, but they would be thrilled the ABA 50th reunion is being held in Indianapolis, says Dropping Dimes Foundation co-founder and CEO Scott Tarter.

“The Dropping Dimes foundation was always something Mel wanted to get going,” Tarter said. “He was a great friend, and so adamant about this reunion. This event is not just about the stars. It’s going to be about all the players. We’re going to try to bring back as many as possible, and we’re expecting anywhere from 100 to 200 former ABA players to attend. It’s about showing these guys some love and respect for what they did for the game.”

When the ABA dissolved, if left the players with a meager pension — $60 a month for every year of service with a minimum of three years. That has created a financial hardship for some former ABA players, coaches, and employees.

“They are the only group of professional basketball players who have slipped through the cracks,” said Scott Tarter, co-founder and CEO of the Dropping Dimes Foundation.

A VIP reception will be held Friday, April 6, and an online auction is being organized where ABA memorabilia will be available. An autograph session, open to the public, is being planned for April 7th before the official reunion. Tables and individual tickets will go on sale in November and will available for purchase.

Reggie Miller Partners with Castelli to Create Custom Dropping Dimes Kit

During the month of June, two passions of Reggie Miller will collide.

Miller’s love for biking and cycling will be combined with his support of the Dropping Dimes Foundation, which benefits retired ABA players, to culminate in a custom biking uniform — or kit, as they are known.

“I wanted to merge two worlds that were very important to me,” Miller explained. “Being able to raise money for Dropping Dimes through the sale of custom biking kits was the perfect plan.”

The kit is being manufactured by Castelli, and all profits from the Miller-inspired uniform will go to the Dropping Dimes Foundation, an organization Miller has been closely involved with for years.

Get Your Custom Kit: Create a Free Login to Order Now

“After Uncle Mel (Daniels) passed, I wanted to keep his vision alive,” Miller said. “So I had the honor of joining the Board and continue my work with Dropping Dimes as a tribute to Uncle Mel and all the great players that came before us.”

For Dr. John Abrams, one of the co-founders of the foundation and current Chairman of the Board, Miller’s active participation is a gift.

“He came up with the idea of putting together a biking kit that has the Boom Baby on it, and he asked if he could put our Dropping Dimes logo on the shirt,” Dr. Abrams explained. “Then he came up with the idea to sell them and donate the profits for the entire month of June.”

Katie Araujo, Castelli’s Custom Team Manager for the Southwest Region, explained how the project came to fruition.

“Our whole process and what we wanted to do with Reggie was to have it be collaborative,” Araujo said. “And our goal was to be for the end product to be a direct reflection of him as a person and athlete. So our process began with him telling us what he likes, having him tell us the kinds of designs that were appealing to him.”

Dropping Dimes Foundation: Donate Today!

The result of the collaboration between Miller and Castelli was a kit featuring Bobby “Slick” Leonard’s signature saying “Boom Baby,” as well as a Pacers color scheme, the Dopping Dimes Foundation logo, and Miller’s number 31, which he wore throughout his Hall-of-Fame career with the Pacers.

Miller, who still visits Indiana from time to time, is eager to hit the trails in his custom kit.

“You will find me riding in Brown County,” Miller said. “And hopefully I will see Pacers fans wearing the Dropping Dimes Foundation kits on the trails.”

 

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ABA Legends Gather for Dropping Dimes Fundraiser

Over two hundred fans gathered to meet and talk with American Basketball Association legends and Indiana Pacers alumni Darnell Hillman, Bob Netolicky, George McGinnis, Billy Keller, and Coach Bobby “Slick” Leonard.

The Dropping Dimes Foundation joined J&J Allstar Sportscards Shows so fans could get their favorite memorable signed, hear stories about the American Basketball Association, and take pictures with the stars. All proceeds from the autographed memorabilia will go towards Dropping Dimes Foundation’s mission to help former American Basketball Association players and their families.

You can make the ultimate assist by donating today HERE.

 

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Myles Turner Joins DDF Advisory Board

The Dropping Dimes Foundation has made its first foray into todays NBA, with a new high-flying member intent on making assists for those who paved his path.

Indiana Pacers center Myles Turner, a second-team NBA All-Rookie selection last season, has become the latest Advisory Board member for the Foundation, which helps former players of the American Basketball Association who have fallen on hard times.

“I feel it’s an important cause and something that more of today’s players and fans should be aware of,” said Turner, 20, the 11th pick in the 2015 NBA draft. “These ABA players changed the way the game is played, including right here in Indiana, but most have been largely forgotten, and salaries and benefits were so different then. Some of these guys are hurting, and I’m proud to join several Pacers legends in working with the DDF.”

Former Pacers players and personnel also involved in the Foundation are George McGinnis, Bob Netolicky, Bob and Nancy Leonard, David Craig and Reggie Miller. Miller holds the title of Mel Daniels Memorial Advisory Board Member, named for his fellow Pacer and Naismith Hall of Famer who passed away in 2015.

Dropping Dimes President Scott Tarter emphasized that adding a current NBA player, especially one of Turner’s age and rising stature, is an important step for the Foundation.

“We’re so grateful for Myles’ outstanding show of support,” Tarter said. “It’s critical that our message of respect and gratitude for the unsung pioneers of pro basketball extend to today’s players and fans, and Myles helps us build that bridge.

“He has such a great respect for basketball history, and he understands the tremendous contributions made by the ABA players. His passion is infectious and we hope more of today’s players follow his lead.”

Other members of the Indianapolis-based Foundation’s Advisory Board are Naismith Hall of Famers Dan Issel, George Gervin, Spencer Haywood, Louie Dampier, Artis Gilmore, Bob Costas and Peter Vecsey, along with Mack Calvin and Brian Taylor.

Turner overcame a fractured thumb that kept him sidelined for much of the early season to finish his rookie campaign with averages of 10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks. His breakthrough game came in January on national television when he came off the bench to score 31 points against the defending champion Golden State Warriors.

A native of Dallas, Turner also runs a charitable initiative called W.A.R.M. (We All Really Matter), which distributes food, personal items and blankets to those in need in Indianapolis during the winter months.

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Donate to the Dropping Dimes Foundation Today

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The A-Train, Artis Gilmore, Joins DDF Advisory Board

GilmoreHookSojournerNiceArtis Gilmore, the 7-foot-2 “A-train” who imposed his will on the American Basketball Association during the first stage of his Hall of Fame career, has joined the rapidly growing Dropping Dimes Foundation with a similarly forceful mission: to help his ailing brothers.

“There are a lot of guys out there who really need an assist, players who helped change the game who are now hurting,” Gilmore said from his home in Florida. “This Foundation is making a difference, and I wanted to lend my support.”

Gilmore’s addition brings to 16 the number of Advisory Board members of the 2-year-old Foundation, including nine other Hall of Famers: Bob Costas, Louie Dampier, Mel Daniels (in memoriam), George Gervin, Spencer Haywood, Dan Issel, Bobby Leonard, Reggie Miller and Peter Vecsey. Other ABA legends on the board are Mack Calvin, Bob Netolicky, David Craig, Nancy Leonard, George McGinnis and Brian Taylor.

“We’re incredibly honored to welcome Artis to our advisory board. The extent to which these great Hall of Famers and basketball legends are stepping up to help former players in need is truly humbling, and it says a lot about the brotherhood of the ABA”, said DDF President Scott Tarter, who is joined on the Operating Board by Dr. John Abrams and film producer Ted Green. “Artis told me he’d seen some of the things we’ve been doing for former ABA players in need and that he really wanted to join in and do what he could to support us in those efforts,” said Tarter.

GilmoreStuffJonesCower2After leading little-regarded Jacksonville University to the 1970 NCAA title game, Gilmore played his first five seasons in the ABA, all with the Kentucky Colonels. His impact was immediate and dramatic: He led the league in total rebounds every year and in blocked shots three times, won the league’s MVP his rookie season, won the All-Star game MVP in 1974 and led the Colonels to the championship in 1975.

He went on to play 12 seasons in the NBA, mostly with Chicago and San Antonio, and retired as that league’s career leader in shooting percentage at .599. He averaged 22.3 points per game in the ABA, 17.1 in the NBA. He was the first player enshrined in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame by the ABA committee, in 2011.

 

 

Around the Web:
Artis Gilmore Official Website
Remember the ABA – Artis Gilmore
Artis Gilmore Career Retrospective
From college to the ABA and NBA, Artis Gilmore was a monster star
Artis Gilmore Basketball Hall of Fame Enshrinement Speech

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Dropping Dimes Helps Connect Willie Long with Settlement

Via IndyStar, Dana Benbow

Less than a month ago, Long woke up with a knee hurting so badly he couldn’t make it to his job as a substitute teacher. And even if he had been able to, it was unlikely his 21-year-old Honda would start.

Long has no money to replace that car — or his knee.

Like many other ABA players who were not part of the league’s merger with the NBA or who didn’t play long enough in the NBA, Long never received the pension benefits he had earned. Many of those players have scraped by for decades. Many have health issues — big men who were tough on their bodies, bodies that now are breaking down.

“There are some ABA players living under bridges in New Orleans,” said the late Pacers player Mel Daniels in a 2015 IndyStar article. “They don’t have anything.”

Long played just three years in the ABA, for the Floridians and the Denver Rockets. In 213 games, he averaged 11.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.

Like many other ABA players who were not part of the league’s merger with the NBA or who didn’t play long enough in the NBA, Long never received the pension benefits he had earned. Many of those players have scraped by for decades. Many have health issues — big men who were tough on their bodies, bodies that now are breaking down.

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via IndyStar

“There are some ABA players living under bridges in New Orleans,” said the late Pacers player Mel Daniels in a 2015 IndyStar article. “They don’t have anything.”

Long played just three years in the ABA, for the Floridians and the Denver Rockets. In 213 games, he averaged 11.4 points and 6.0 rebounds per game.

Over the years, he had jobs as a regional manager for Taco Bell, Avon and Jiffy Lube. But after he retired several years ago, his Social Security wasn’t covering everyday life.

Long took up substitute teaching and refereeing high school volleyball to supplement Social Security. But soon, without a working car, and with a bad knee, he couldn’t make it to those jobs.

Things were looking pretty bad.

Then, a letter came from Indianapolis-based Dropping Dimes Foundation, a non-profit whose mission is to help struggling former ABA players and their families. Long was one of 350 playersthe organization sent letters to asking if they needed help.

Long didn’t really want to ask anyone for help. But things were tough enough that he decided to put aside his pride and respond.

His application for assistance, a hand-written letter about his struggles, landed on the desk of Scott Tarter, co-founder of Dropping Dimes, about two weeks ago.

The timing stunned Tarter. Just days before, he had received another request – from the people with the NBA committee that doles out owed pension money to former players.

A class action lawsuit filed on behalf of former ABA players against the NBA for pension money owed was settled in 2014. It affected more than 200 players. Long was one of them, and the NBA committee wanted to find him.

Tarter had Long’s address and gladly passed it along.

“It was one of those moments,” said Tarter.

When Tarter picked up the phone and called Long to respond to his request to Dropping Dimes, Long had already been contacted by the pension committee.

“He was in tears,” Tarter said. “He had a difficult time talking to me. He said this was going to change his life.”

Neither Tarter, nor Long, want to reveal the amount of money Long is receiving.

“Let’s just say this is a life-changing scenario for him,” Tarter said.

But it’s no gift. This is money Long earned.

Shortly after Long was alerted to the money owed him, a former Kentucky Colonels player, 63-year-old Bird Averitt, learned from a Dropping Dimes advisory board member that he is owed back pension as well.

Find Out how you can help make the ultimate assist today HERE.

-Read more about Willie Long-

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Special Thanks to the Ketner Family

The assistance the Dropping Dimes Foundation is able to provide to former American Basketball Association players and personnel is made possible by the generous donations of our supporters.  We would like to take a moment to acknowledge a recent special show of support from Ms. Aquarius Ketner, wife of former NBA Pacer Lari Ketner. 

Lari’s hard-fought battle with cancer ended with his passing at the age of 37 in October of 2014. The 6’10” UMass graduate was drafted in 1999 by the Chicago Bulls. After the Bulls, Ketner went on to play for the Cleveland Cavaliers and then the Indiana Pacers.

After learning about the Dropping Dimes Foundation, Aquarius was gracious enough to provide us with a donation of Lari’s shoes and suits, all in fantastic condition and ready to serve some former players in need very well. Clothing for former professional basketball players is hard to come by, and her donation helps to fill a void when it comes to much needed extra-large sized clothing and shoes. 

This contribution from Aquarius will be used to assist former players in need and will represent a lasting legacy of kindness from she and Lari. Thank you.

Learn how you can donate today HERE.

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Dropping Dimes & Lawrence, IN Police Put Best Foot Forward

via Dana Benbow, IndyStar

homeless new shoes new format

via Lawrence, IN Police Department

The homeless man in Lawrence who lost his house in a fire, fell on hard times, then was surprised with a pair of size 17 sneakers to replace his tattered ones.  After seeing his worn out shoes, the [police] officers went on a search for new ones…

To put it in perspective, the average man wears size 10.5. The average NBA player’s foot is a size 14.81. The largest shoe sizes on the Pacers roster are an 18, worn by Myles Turner, and 16, worn by Ian Mahinmi and Lavoy Allen.

Walking into a Wal-Mart or Goodwill, or even an upscale athletic shoe store and finding a size 17 just doesn’t happen. Most don’t carry those in stock. The shoes have to be special ordered and they are pricey.

INI_shoeSizeCompare_online

via IndyStar

“Finding big shoes, comfortable shoes, athletic shoes that can be worn every day for these men, it’s tough,” said Scott Tarter, president and co-founder of Dropping Dimes Foundation, which helps former ABA players who have fallen on hard times. “That’s one of the biggest challenges we’ve faced.”

After the story [first] appeared in IndyStar… Dropping Dimes Foundation — which helps former ABA players who have fallen on tough financial times — donated a pair of shoes.

Read full story HERE.

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Reggie Miller Joins Dropping Dimes Foundation

Reggie Miller always looked up to his Uncle Mel. Now he’s stepping up for him.

Miller, the Indiana Pacers’ career scoring leader, has joined the Advisory Board of the Dropping Dimes Foundation, filling the position formerly held by his fellow Naismith Hall of Famer and Pacers legend Mel Daniels, who passed away in October of 2015.

reggie and melThe Indianapolis-based Dropping Dimes Foundation assists former players and family members of the American Basketball Association who have fallen on hard times. Other members of the Advisory Board are Bob Costas, Bob and Nancy Leonard, George Gervin, Dan Issel, Louie Dampier, Spencer Haywood, George McGinnis, Bob Netolicky, Mack Calvin, Brian Taylor and Peter Vecsey.

Miller was befriended by “Uncle Mel and Uncle Roger (Brown)” and other ABA Pacers when he was drafted by the team in 1987. He said he wanted to honor his late friends and the league that helped change basketball but whose players received relatively small salaries and have been largely forgotten.

“Mel Daniels knew how essential it was to help those who came before us, especially when they were in need,” said Miller, the first member of the Advisory Board to have spent his entire career in the NBA. “Our generation has been given opportunities as the result of battles fought by these players and we can never forget their importance. I am honored to help continue Uncle Mel’s mission.”

“We’re so honored to have Reggie on our Advisory Board,” said Scott Tarter, president and co-founder of the charity. “What a perfect fit to fill the position left by the great Mel Daniels, who was our greatest inspiration here at the Dropping Dimes Foundation.”

Miller, a five-time NBA All-Star and Olympic gold medalist, will assume what’s now called the Mel Daniels Memorial Advisory Board Position.

In February, Dropping Dimes made its first foray out of the state, traveling to Louisville to help former Kentucky Colonel Ron Thomas. Pacers legends Netolicky and Darnell Hillman joined former Colonels Issel, Dampier, Joe Hamilton and Bird Averitt in providing Thomas with new clothes, ABA memorabilia and an afternoon of memories and good cheer.

Dropping Dimes also recently fulfilled former Pacer Charlie Jordan’s wish for a new suit so he could attend church, and also provided him with a new walker, more “big and tall” clothing and ABA memorabilia. Daniels and Netolicky helped him pick out the suit.

Make a contribution today!

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