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Billy Cunningham of the Carolina Cougars was ABA MVP in 1973.

A half-century ago, my favorite basketball team was the New Jersey Americans. It was an original franchise in the upstart American Basketball Association.

The current Smithsonian magazine takes a look back at the ABA on the 50th anniversary of its founding.

The ABA was notable for its more free-wheeling style of play and its red-with-and-blue basketball.

The article borrows a quote from former High Point College star Gene Littles, who played for the sometimes-Greensboro-based Carolina Cougars:

“As a guard, what I liked about the ABA ball was the color. It was a special feeling to take a long shot and watch those colors rotate in the air and then see the ball with all those colors nestle into the net. It made your heart beat just a little bit faster when you hit a 25-footer with the ABA ball.”

In 1967, I didn't care much for the Carolina Cougars. I lived in New Jersey, and I quickly became interested in the Americans, who played in the Teaneck Armory.

Not that I ever actually saw them play. I listened every night to radio broadcasts with play-by-play man Spencer Ross.

I only knew what the players looked like from photos in the Bergen Record. But Ross made the games come alive, and I kept my small transistor radio tuned in.

The Americans' best players were Walt Simon, Tony Jackson, Dan Anderson and Levern Tart. A Duke grad, Art Heyman, played part of the season — which turned out to be the team's only year in Teaneck. The Americans moved to New York and became the Nets, eventually joining the National Basketball Association.

The shortcomings of Teaneck became evident when the Americans had to forfeit their only playoff game in 1968 because the armory wasn't available and they couldn't find another site.

The ABA featured some big names, including Julius Erving, David Thompson, Rick Barry, George Gervin and Artis Gilmore. As the Smithsonian article notes, it had an impact on the game.

I'm sorry I never made it to Teaneck for at least one game.

Contact editorial writer Doug Clark at (336) 373-7039 and dgclark@News-Record.com.