American Basketball League (1996–98)

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The American Basketball League, often abbreviated to the ABL of 1996 was the first independent professional basketball league for women in the United States. At the same time the ABL was being formed, the National Basketball Association (NBA) was creating the Women's National Basketball Association (WNBA). The ABL began league competition in the Fall of 1996, while the WNBA launched its first game in June 1997. Both organizations came into existence during a surge in popularity for women's basketball in the United States that followed the perfect 35–0 national championship season for the Connecticut Huskies in 1995[1] and the undefeated, gold medal-winning performance of the United States Women's basketball team at the 1996 Summer Olympics.

The ABL lasted two full seasons: 1996–97 and 1997–98. The Atlanta Glory and Long Beach Stingrays folded prior to the start of the 1998–99 season, and were replaced by two expansion teams, the Chicago Condors and Nashville Noise. On December 22, 1998; with almost no warning, the ABL declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy and suspended operations. Each team had played between 12 and 15 games of the 1998–99 season.

The ABL got off the ground before the WNBA, and at least early on its quality of play was higher than the rival league. This was partly due to the league's signing of a majority of players from the 1996 USA women's national team. Although the WNBA was bankrolled by the NBA, the ABL offered higher salaries. The two leagues didn't compete directly; the ABL played during the winter while the WNBA played during the summer. Despite this, the ABL ultimately found the WNBA's stronger financial resources--augmented by the NBA's marketing muscle--to be too much to overcome.

Some of the ABL's problems were of its own making. The league operated as a single-entity structure, which was intended to control costs until it found its feet. However, it also meant that even the most basic decisions related to team operations had to go through the league office in Palo Alto, California. League officials were so fixated on national sponsorships that they hamstrung the teams' efforts to market themselves locally. The ABL was also underfinanced. According to Condors general manager Allison Hodges, she was on her way to a press conference announcing her team's name when the league office called to say the season was canceled. Minutes later, the office called back to say the season was on again. Hodges and the other general managers only found out about the league's shutdown when they were in the middle of their weekly conference call, though she suspected league officials had decided to pull up stakes long before then.[2]

Of all the ABL cities, Chicago, Seattle, and Atlanta now have WNBA teams.

1996–98 clubs

Long Beach Stingrays Seattle Reign (basketball) San Jose Lasers Portland Power (basketball) Colorado Xplosion Nashville Noise Chicago Condors Philadelphia Rage New England Blizzard Columbus Quest Atlanta Glory



The 1996–97 ABL All-Star Game was played on December 15, 1996 at the Hartford Civic Center. The Eastern Conference defeated the Western Conference, 81–65, and the game's MVP was Tari Phillips.

Semifinals Finals
E1 Columbus 2
W2 San Jose 0
E1 Columbus 3
E2 Richmond 2
E2 Richmond 2
W1 Colorado 0


The 1997–98 ABL All-Star Game was played on January 18, 1998 at Disney's Wide World of Sports Complex in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. The Eastern Conference defeated the Western Conference, 102–73.

  First Round     Semifinals     Finals
        E1 Columbus 2  
  E2 New England 0     W4 San Jose 0    
  W4 San Jose 2         E1 Columbus 3
      W2 Long Beach 2
        W1 Portland 0    
  W2 Long Beach 2     W2 Long Beach 2  
  W3 Colorado 1  


The 1998–99 ABL All-Star Game was scheduled to be played on January 24, 1999 in San Jose, California, but was canceled when the league ceased operations in December 1998.[3] When the season was canceled, the Columbus Quest were declared champions by virtue of having the best record.[citation needed]

Notable players

See also


  1. ^ "The 1995 Connecticut Huskies: The Team That Made Women's Basketball". The Big Lead. Retrieved 2016-04-17. 
  2. ^ Former Team Official Recounts the A.B.L.'s Dizzying Descent
  3. ^ "SHOCK: EnShocklopedia – A". Women's National Basketball Association. 

External links

  • American Basketball League on
  • John Sage's ABL webpage capture, containing old interviews, articles, and final statistics
  • ABL on website
  • All-Star cards
  • Professional basketball research
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