NBA is slammed for denying pensions to retired ABA players:
The NBA is being charged with denying pensions to older retired ABA players after the death of 79-year-old Sam Smith, a former Utah Stars guard who died of congestive heart failure on May 18 after his failed crusade for a monthly check for $ 2,000 of the league.
“It would have been life-changing,” his widow Helen told the… Indianapolis Star of the $2,000 pension that never came. ‘Because we were alive. We got paid for everything, but we couldn’t do much more.’
“I’m so mad at the NBA,” said Scott Tarter, the CEO and founder of Dropping Dimes, a charity dedicated to helping struggling former ABA players and their families. “Here’s a man who should have enjoyed a retirement and instead… another one left.”
The NBA is being charged with denying pensions to older retired ABA players after the death of 79-year-old Sam Smith, a former Utah Stars guard who died of congestive heart failure on May 18 after his failed crusade for a monthly check for $ 2,000 from the NBA. league. In this photo, taken weeks before his death last month, Smith is seen holding the ABA .’s tricolor ball
Smith played for the ABA’s Utah Stars, Minnesota Muskies and Kentucky Colonels (left). In 2018 (right), he attended the ABA’s 50th reunion at the Bankers Life Fieldhouse in Indianapolis
Founded in 1965, the league retirement plan requires retired players to have three accrued NBA seasons to receive benefits, such as a monthly payment and access to long-term health care.
This poses a problem for many players of the now-defunct ABA, a rival league that was partially absorbed by the NBA in 1976. Four of the ABA’s 11 teams merged into the NBA (Denver Nuggets, the New York Nets, San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers) leaving players from the other seven teams without a playground for the 1976-77 season.
Even players lucky enough to make it to the NBA struggled to make it through three seasons in the league. As a result, wealthier ABA/NBA legends such as Julius Erving and George McGinnis qualified for retirement, but 138 deserving former ABA players have been banned, according to the Indy Star.
Documentary filmmaker Michael Husain, who reports on former ABA players’ struggles to retire, said many have told him they fear the NBA is trying to fix the problem.
“I don’t want to believe it,” players told Husain, he told the Star, “but in some ways it feels like they’re just waiting for us to get over.”
Dropping Dimes has asked the NBA for retired ABA players to be paid $400 a month for each season accrued, which the charity estimates would cost about $35 million. That’s certainly not a negligible cost, but for the massive NBA — a league that expects $10 billion in revenue for the current season — the price seems more affordable.
As reported by the Star, the $35 million price tag is about a third of what the NBA donates to charities annually from money collected through player fines.
Moses Malone (22) overpowers David Twardzik (13) of the Virginia Squires in Malone’s first pre-performance, October 3, with the Utah Stars of the ABA
The NBA told the Star in February 2021 that it is “in talks with the Dropping Dimes Foundation on the matter,” and a league spokesperson confirmed on Wednesday that those talks are ongoing.
Of course, it’s too late for Smith, who won a title with the Stars and played for the Minnesota Muskies and Kentucky Colonels before an anxiety attack crippled his career in 1972. He then began working night shifts as a security guard at a Ford assembly plant in Indianapolis, which allowed him to receive long-term health care after retirement.
Scott Tarter, CEO and Founder of the Dropping Dimes Foundation, which helps ABA players and their families
But without the NBA retirement, Smith’s golden years were anything but.
He needed a loan for gas money to get his reunion in Kentucky Wesleyan. Years later, after his daughter’s tragic death, Smith and his wife asked Dropping Dimes to cover her funeral expenses.
“He called me in tears,” Tarter said to the Star.
Smith’s retirement was largely healthy, until March 31, when he collapsed after being sedated by his dentist. Surgery to repair a fractured femur followed, but there were complications and Smith ended up having a stroke.
In his final days, as he struggled with serious health problems in the hospital, Smith asked Tarter to take a photo of him so the world could see what he had been reduced to by the NBA.
“He grabbed my arm and pulled me closer,” Tarter said. “And he said, ‘I would do anything to let the NBA help these guys.’
The terrifying photo shows Smith next to the ABA’s famous tricolor ball, watching lifelessly from his hospital bed.
Days later, Smith was sent home to a hospice, where he eventually died.
“He died without any recognition, without any respect, without a pension,” Tarter said.
Attacker Julius Erving (Dr. J) #32 of the New York Nets drives against striker Gerald Govan #25 of the Utah Stars during an American Basketball Association (ABA) game at the Nassau Coliseum circa 1975 in Uniondale, New York