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NBA Still Paying Owners Of Defunct ABA Team

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I am sure many here know of the deal the St Louis Spirit (AKA: Carolina Cougars) cut with the NBA many moons ago but recently they were back in court again looking for more cash from the league.


Daniel and Ozzie Silna, brothers who were in polyester manufacturing, bought an American Basketball Association team in 1974. They moved the Carolina Cougars to Missouri, where it became the Spirits of St. Louis.

For two years, the Silnas supported an ABA-NBA merger, but when it became a reality in 1976, St. Louis was left off the list of teams to make the transition.

When they found out their team would be left out of the merger, the Silnas didn’t settle for a buyout. They wanted a piece of the television revenue from the ABA teams that joined the new league.

The Silnas secured one-seventh of the television revenues from the four ABA teams that joined the NBA. The first payment in 1980 amounted to $500,000. Today, the Silnas’ yearly income is about $30 million.

To date the Silnas have received about $255 million, but the brothers want more money from a larger pool. They believe their original contract entitles them to revenues from international coverage and from the league’s own television network. The NBA does not agree.

“Now, in court last week, the federal judge suggested they try to settle their claims,” said Sandomir. “I don’t know what the incentive beyond a huge lump sum would be for the Silnas to settle.”

Daniel Silna and Donald C. Schupak, the lawyer who negotiated the TV deal with the old A.B.A. teams, had listened to arguments over whether two 36-year-old documents contained language that would let the Silnas collect even more money from TV sources not yet created in 1976.

They showed little emotion as Preska, the judge, sparred with a lawyer for the N.B.A. She gave the league more time to make its case and urged both sides to settle. But her comments seemed to indicate that she was inclined to side with the Silnas, two brothers who might be the savviest owners the N.B.A. never had.


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