The ABA’s First Organizational Meeting

[While working on my latest book Shake and Bake, I interviewed Joe Geary, the now-late former minority owner of the ABA Dallas Chaparrals. Geary mentioned that, in preparation for the interview, he’d pulled his ABA file. “You still have an ABA file?” I asked. “Why yes,” he answered, “I was the league secretary for several years.” Geary graciously sent me this gem from his file: the minutes of the ABA’s first organizational meeting. This historic session was held on December 20, 1966 at the Beverly Hills Hilton, and I’ve transcribed the text to help with readability.

A quick scan of the minutes shows that Wilt Chamberlain was there. I checked—Chamberlain’s Philadelphia 76ers were indeed in Los Angeles that day. I also received chuckled confirmation from a meeting attendee (not Geary). As the attendee also reminded me, little during the ABA’s organizational period was what it seemed. Chamberlain appeared as a personal favor, likely to Binstein, with whom he had been talking informally about investing in the new league.]


Minutes of the Organizational Meeting:

Date:   December 20, 1966

At:       Beverly Hilton Hotel

            Royal Suite

            Beverly Hills, California

Meeting was called to order at 10:25 a.m. by John McShane acting as temporary Chairman. Those present were:

            Mark Binstein                         Dan Parma

            Arthur Kim                             August Speth

            Jim Ackerman                         Roland Speth

            Dick Nelson                            Constantine Seredin

            Jim Trindle                              Barry Murtha

            Dennis Murphy                       John McShane

            Karl Eller                                 Bette Decker

Bette Decker was instructed to take the minutes of the meeting and act as temporary secretary of the American Basketball Association. 

A brief explanation of the history of the American Basketball Association was given by John McShane, and a brief summary of the program proposal of Professional Sports Management (PSM) was given by PSM’s president, Constantine Seredin. This included a discussion of business and marketing techniques. 

Mr. Mark Binstein, representative of the New York group and Mr. Wilt Chamberlain, briefly explained their plan of becoming a public stock issue, and also, a brief summary of player recruitment was given. 

After some discussion, it generally was agreed that only those who would actually be franchise holders should make any motions or be allowed to vote. 

Motion #1

Mr. Arthur Kim moved that Mark Binstein be elected temporary chairman of the ABA. Motion was seconded by Dennis Murphy, motion carried by the following vote:

3 – Ayes                                              August Speth  –   Yes

0 – Noes                                              Jim Trindle      –   Yes

1 – Abstained                                      Arthur Kim      –   Yes

                                                            Mark Binstein  –   Abstained

Meeting was recessed at 11:55 a.m. for lunch.

At 1:40 p.m. meeting was called to order by temporary Chairman, Mark Binstein. Mr. Karl Eller and Mr. Jim Ackerman, who had previous luncheon appointments, had not returned.

A general discussion was held relative to the procedure for general organization. 

Motion #2

Mark Binstein moved that a league be formed at this time and that the people to be franchise holders be asked to sign the Certificate of Incorporation. The motion was seconded and carried, unanimously. 

4 – Ayes

0 – Noes

Mr. Ackerman returned to the meeting. 

A general discussion was held with reference to funding the newly formed league.

Motion #3

Mr. Binstein moved that $1,000 be deposited with the league office at 1811 West Katella Avenue, Suite 103, Anaheim, California, by, no later than, December 31, 1966. Motion seconded and carried unanimously.

4 – Ayes

0 – Noes

Motion #4

Dennis Murphy moved that a bank account be created at the discretion of the league office and that three (3) individuals be authorized to sign the checks, any two (2) of the three is mandatory. Those authorized to sign the checks were John McShane; Administrator, Mark Binstein; temporary Chairman, and James Ackerman. Motion seconded and carried unanimously. 

4 – Ayes

0 – Noes

A general discussion was held relative to those being present to be considered the charter members of the ABA:

            Seattle – August Speth and Roland Speth

            New York – Mark Binstein and Wilt Chamberlain

            Anaheim – Arthur Kim and Jim Ackerman

            Kansas City – Voorheis, Trindle & Nelson; and Dennis Murphy

            Phoenix – Karl Eller

Motion #5

After some discussion, motion was made by Mr. Kim that the next meeting be held Tuesday, January 17, 1966, 10 a.m. at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, Beverly Hills, California. Motion seconded and carried unanimously. 

4 – Ayes

0 – Noes

At this juncture of the meeting, Mr. Dick Williams, a representative of the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company was requested to make a brief presentation on the current NBA retirement plan and an explanation of a plan which would be more attractive for those participating in the ABA. 

At the conclusion of the presentation, Mr. Williams was asked to be prepared to present a plan for the ABA at the January 17th meeting.

Motion #6

A general discussion was held regarding the necessity to create committees to accomplish some of the work necessary in preparation for the January meeting. Dennis Murphy moved to create a franchise committee under the chairmanship of Mark Binstein and directed to proceed to secure five additional franchises. Motion seconded and carried unanimously. 

4 – Ayes

0 – Noes

Considerable further discussion was held and Mr. Binstein requested the aid on his committee of Mr. Seredin, Mr. McShane, Mr. Murphy and Mr. Kim to be directed and assigned to call on various individuals in various cities. 

Motion #7

Mr. Binstein moved to create a committee headed by Arthur Kim, and that this committee be directed to prepare lists of potential commissioners for the ABA. This list to be submitted at the January meeting. Motion seconded and passed unanimously. 

4 – Ayes

0 – Noes

Considerable further discussion was held relative to the ABA in general and at 4:10 p.m. the meeting was adjourned until January 17, 1967. 


[In the run-up to the ABA’s first organizational meeting, Pittsburgh promoters Jason Shapiro and Gabe Rubin expressed some mild interest in purchasing an ABA franchise. The interest may have been feigned, a ploy to force a decision from the NBA on expansion. Shapiro, in particular, had spent most of 1966 lobbying NBA commissioner Walter Kennedy to place an expansion team in Pittsburgh. The first newspaper article below, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, makes some of these points.]

Pittsburgh Site Sought By New ABA

December 16, 1966

Pittsburgh (UPI)—Jason Shapiro, head of a group of western Pennsylvania businessmen seeking a franchise for Pittsburgh in the National Basketball Association, has been contacted with the bid to bring the city into the newly born American basketball Association. 

Shapiro was contacted Thursday by Constantine Seredin, president of the Professional Sports Management Co. of New York, to become one of 14 cities in the ABA. 

Originally, the new league was named the United League but, because of a merger, it will now be named the American Basketball Association. It was created in Los Angeles, Nov. 15. 

Shapiro said he told Seredin the group wanted an NBA franchise and was waiting for word from Commissioner Walter Kennedy on the request. But he said he would keep an ear open to the ABA terms. 

Pittsburgh has been mentioned as a possible site for an NBA franchise within the next several seasons. 

[Shapiro’s efforts would prove for naught. As shown below in the second newspaper clip, also from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Shapiro learned on the very day of the ABA’s first organizational meeting that Seattle, not Pittsburgh, would get the next NBA expansion franchise. The rest is ABA history in Pittsburgh. It’s also very likely that the NBA jumped the gun to claim Seattle before the ABA got there. Remember how this post started by mentioning that little during the ABA’s organizational period was what it seemed? As mentioned in the minutes of the ABA’s December 20 meeting, charter members August and Roland Speth had the inside track on Seattle. It was all a charade, a ruse meant to impress the few legitimate investors at the meeting. Roland was actually a jack of all trades in the employ of John McShane and Dennis Murphy.]

Pittsburgh Marks Time as NBA Oks Seattle

December 21, 1966

Jason Shapiro, head of a western Pennsylvania group interested in obtaining a National Basketball Association franchise for Pittsburgh, expressed surprise in the sudden announcement that Seattle was awarded a berth in the loop yesterday. 

“We are still waiting word from (Walter) Kennedy (NBA commissioner) about our chances for a franchise,” said Shapiro last night. 

“I’ve asked him for a price of a franchise and have yet to hear from him for anyone in his office. If the NBA is making its additions for the 1967-68 season, as the story about Seattle has it, then it could be that it wants to expand before the new American Basketball Association gets to naming its 14-member towns. Originally, the NBA told us that expansion would not come until the 1968-69 season. 

“However, we’re still hopeful of getting a franchise here. I am rushing off another wire to Kennedy again asking for the amount of money needed for a franchise.”

Meanwhile, Shapiro is going ahead with promotions for an NBA game at the Civic Arena on Thursday, January 5, when the Philadelphia 76ers will meet the New York Knicks. 

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