Red McCombs And The Unique Way San Antonio Got A Basketball Team

San Antonio beat out El Paso to get an ABA loaner franchise.

Billy Joe “Red” McCombs recently passed away at the age of 95 and left behind a legacy in sports as the owner of the National Football League’s Minnesota Vikings and also as one of the original owners of the American Basketball Association’s San Antonio Spurs. San Antonio Spurs ownership paid $3.2 million to enter the National Basketball Association in June 1976, one of four teams that ended up in the NBA with the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and the New York Nets. San Antonio was not supposed to have a permanent ABA team. There is a rather interesting story that could not be replicated today. The ABA really was a floating craps game with franchises moving from city to city or just going out of business. The ABA team in Dallas was in bad shape financially from day one.

The San Antonio Spurs basketball franchise began life as the Dallas Chaparrals in 1967-68. By 1971, the Dallas ownership renamed the team the Texas Chaparrals and expanded the club’s territory by playing in Dallas, Fort Worth and Lubbock, Texas. That was a failure. According to Steve “Snapper” Jones, an ABA player and eventually an NBA TV analyst, the team was “loaned” by Chaparrals ownership to San Antonio interests just to see if San Antonio had any interest in the ABA team. It was a three year lend-lease deal.  San Antonio was chosen over El Paso. San Antonio would support the team and the franchise never went back to Dallas. But there was no guarantee the franchise, which Angelo Drossos, McCombs, John Schaefer and Art Burdick bought for $1.6 million on April 9th, 1973 from Dallas businessmen, would succeed in San Antonio. There wasn’t much interest in the team when it arrived in the Alamo city. San Antonio became a solid small-market NBA team after starting out as a loaner.

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