New Pro Cage League Plans Include L.A.

[Below is the first mid-1960s mention of a named second pro basketball league to rival the NBA. The newspaper article ran in the Los Angeles Times on November 15, 1966. The United Basketball League was—you guessed it—the fleeting original name of the American Basketball Association (ABA). The word “united” amounted to a half-hearted hope that the league’s Eastern and Western organizers would get along. They didn’t, mainly because both groups operated in a continuous clash of bold, mostly half-cocked ideas about marketing and merger. One bold idea that would quickly win the day was an immediate name change. Scrap the “united” for “American,” which evoked the successful American Football League, but eliminate “league” for “association,” just like the “A” in NBA. And so it was: the American Basketball Association. But in November 1966, the first organizational meeting of this second pro basketball league still another month away, the name United Basketball League was in circulation. It was likely coined by John McShane (the tall guy, fourth from the left), who also came up with “The Lively League,” the tagline slapped on the color pamphlets then being circulated to potential investors. Here’s the LA Times story.]

There will be a meeting in the Southland this week for the purpose of completing plans for the formation of a new professional basketball league—the United Basketball League. 

A source close to the organizers, who have been working on the project for two years, said Monday that the meeting would be held either in Palm Springs or Los Angeles. 

They plan to form an eight-team circuit and expect to start operating next fall. One of the teams will be located in Los Angeles and will play in the Sports Arena, it was learned. 

Carefully Planned

Most of the franchise owners reportedly are people active in other major sports. Among the cities involved are Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Minneapolis, New York, Cleveland and Seattle. 

Unlike the ill-fated American Basketball League, which was hurriedly thrown together by the late Abe Saperstein, the UBL is a carefully planned operation.

“The league is setting aside more than a million dollars,” said the Times source, “and there will be raiding of the National Basketball Association teams. Only the Lakers (Elgin Baylor and Jerry West) have protected their stars with term contracts.”

Among the prospective owners in the new league is Bob Short, who sold the Lakers to Jack Kent Cooke. Short is combining forces with George Mikan, a former Laker player, in a bid for the Minneapolis entry. 

Chamberlain Interested

Wilt Chamberlain reportedly is interested in the New York franchise. 

Neither Short nor Chamberlain was available for comment. 

Apparently the threat of competition has forced the NBA’s hand. The 21-year-old league is planning to expand from 10 to 12 teams for the 1968-69 season. The league has called a meeting for Nov. 21, and the owners may award the two franchises so arenas can be tied up before the new league begins operations.  

Dan Hafner, Los Angeles Times, November 15, 1966

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