NBA announces nearly $25 million in 'recognition payments' to former ABA players

The NBA agreed on Tuesday to pay nearly $25 million to former ABA players.

The league announced a program that will pay a group of former players who competed in the ABA but never qualified for the NBA players’ pension plan. According to the Indianapolis Star, the league will pay $24.5 million in total.

“Both our current players and team governors felt a need to act on behalf of these former ABA players who are aging and, in many cases, facing difficult economic circumstances,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “These pioneers made meaningful contributions to help grow the game of professional basketball and we all believe it’s appropriate to provide financial recognition to this group for their impact.”

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The recognition payments will go to about 115 former ABA players who played at least three seasons and didn’t qualify for the pension plan.

Eligible former ABA players will receive an annual payment of $3,828 for each year they played, the league said. A player that played five seasons, for example, would earn $19,140 annually.

The payments will be split evenly between the NBA and the NBA Players Association.

“Our players have a genuine sense of appreciation for those who paved the way and helped us achieve the success we enjoy today,” NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio said in a statement. “We have always considered the ABA players a part of our brotherhood and we are proud to finally recognize them with this benefit.”

The ABA was first founded in 1967, and it merged with the NBA in 1976. Only four ABA teams — the Pacers, Denver Nuggets, New York Nets and San Antonio Spurs — were absorbed into the new league.

“It’s an incredible day for ABA players, one that we and the players have been hoping for and working so hard toward for many years,” said Scott Tarter, the CEO and founder of Dropping Dimes, which has been advocating for former ABA players for years, via the Star.

"In some ways, we feel these aging ABA players, who broke so many barriers in the 1960s and 70s, deserve even more recognition," he added. "But I can’t overstate how much it means to them to have the NBA and NBPA recognize their tremendous contributions to today’s NBA game."

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
The payments will benefit about 115 former ABA players who never qualified for the NBA's pension plan after the merger. (Brad Penner/USA Today)