SportsJam with Doug Doyle: Brian Taylor's Justice Quest for Former ABA Players

Mar 4, 2019

Brian Taylor's speed, defensive play and three-point shooting helped the ABA's New York Nets win 2 championships
Credit Doug Doyle for WBGO

Brian Taylor is one of the greatest basketball players to ever come out of New Jersey, still ranked in the Top 25 on the Garden State's high school all-time scoring list.

The "BT Express" was a star at Perth Amboy High School and Princeton University.  He would leave the Tigers program early to join the professional ranks.

Taylor would become the ABA's Rookie of the Year with the New York Nets, a team he helped win two ABA championships alongside Julius "Dr. J." Erving. 

After the ABA merged with the NBA, Taylor would go on the play for the Kansas City Kings, Denver Nuggets and San Diego Clippers.

Taylor spoke with SportsJam host Doug Doyle recently about his desire to see former ABA players get what they deserve regarding health benefits and reasonable pensions that former NBA players are receiving.

Taylor says when the ABA merged with the NBA in 1976, he and others like Dr. J. were excited about coming in the NBA.

"One of the things we were excited about was that we were now going to be NBA players and our pensions would be an NBA pension."

That didn't happen.  Taylor says some former ABA players didn't even know they had a pension and others didn't receive the total amount of monies they were owed.  Taylor says the ABA pensions at that time were just $60 a month.

"People think there was so much money in the game of basketball in the early '70's and middle 70's, but the salaries were very low.  Recently over the last couple years a lot of us realized they had capped the cost of living increase five years later  ($117 a month times) without our knowledge."

Brian Taylor was a star at Princeton University
Credit paw.princeton.edu

The Princeton grad and two-time ABA All-star guard says the NBPA and the NBA have refused to increase the pensions for ABA players to the levels that pre-1965 NBA players receive ($300 a month times the number of years they played).

"We're not asking for them to pay us what the present guys are getting.  We just asking them to pay us the $300 dollars per month that the pre-65 guys receive and pretty much they're saying they're not legally required to do it.  But we believe it's the morally correct thing to do.  We're pushing to make that happen."

Taylor says he gets upset talking about the issue.

"It's sad to me because over the last ten years, we've lost about ten guys, ABA guys, and one of them was very close to me.  The great Tim Bassett.  It just touched me because I was just doing clinics with him in my hometown of Perth Amboy this summer."

Bassett died of cancer a month later.  Taylor says his former teammate had struggled with the medical bills he was facing.

"A lof of the guys you know they pass away, and it's really sad that the families have nothing to look forward to financially as well as, of course, losing someone they love so dearly makes it really sad.  You know I have hope.  I believe the cause is a just cause and that the purpose is to really help the ABA vets get what they deserve.  I have a lot of faith that it will happen."

Taylor is disappointed the NBA has refused to allow them to use the old ABA logos so they can try to raise money on their end as well.

"People love that old ABA stuff.  We had an ABA 50th reunion.  We had over a hundred guys come back in Indianapolis about a year ago.  And there were tons of people in the big stadium waiting to sign autographs, there was about three-thousand people." 

Taylor says it seem so unfair.  He doesn't understand why they aren't working together on this.  Taylor says it's not a lot of money compared to what the guys are receiving today.  He'd like to see former players to be able to help themselves too.

"Let's be self-determined.  One way we can accomplish this is allow us to do some marketing of our old logos.  The NBA owns them.  They won't even allow us to do that."

The former Nets sharp shooter and NBA defensive star says he doesn't really want to upset the NBA.

"There's been a lot of people who've said you know what you need to do.  You need to go boycott. You need to have signs at the All-Star game.  When they have Finals you need to be there with your signs.  I don't believe that's the way to go.  I believe the way to go is to appeal to the masses and have them believe that this is a just cause.  It's an inspirational movement that I think will make this happen for the guys who need it so badly.  I think that the more people hear about this and the more people communicate with the NBA about this should be the morally correct thing to, and more we raise some money to help our own causes, I have faith this is going to happen.  It's got to be unity of purpose for this to happen."

The Dropping Dimes Foundation is helping former ABA players who are dealing with medical and financial issues
Credit Dropping Dimes Foundation

ABA legends like Brian Taylor, Artis Gilmore, George Gervin, Dan Issel, Rick Barry and broadcaster Bob Costas are part of the non-profit Dropping Dimes Foundation Board (www.droppingdimes.org).   Taylor says donations go to helping former ABA players, some who just need food and shoes.

"We're trying to give back to the guys who really need it badly.  The folks that are listening.  Stay in touch with us.  We're going to make a difference in the lives of other people."

During this extended edition of SportsJam with Doug Doyle, Taylor also talked about his brilliant career in high school, college and the pros.  Taylor speaks highly of his former Princeton University coach Pete Carril. 

Brian Taylor and his former Princeton coach Pete Carril have mutual respect for each other
Credit Princeton Athletics

"People miscontrued Princeton's style, the Peter Carril style, when they think about Princeton they think about hold the ball, hold the ball and then make sure they take a good shot, but Coach loved that long range shot.  If we had the three-pointer when I was at Princeton, instead of averaging 25 points, I probably would have averaged 30-something points because he allowed me to shoot those shots coming down off the fast break.  I did that in the NBA.  I used to love to do that when I had the green light from Gene Shue." 

Taylor credits his late father-in-law Art Powell, a four-time AFL All-Star wide receiver, for peaking his interest in jazz.

"He left behind a collection of jazz videos.  I always loved jazz because it really got me up to play, just the music. It also helped me concentrate because when you're listening to jazz, you're listening to all the different instruments and you got to really be focusing on who's playing what and different tones and different ups and downs and it just really helped me focus on how I had to go out there and shoot that three point shot and stop somebody defensively."

Click above to hear more stories about Perth Amboy High, the ABA and the NBA.