Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Extermination of the ABL

I might have mentioned a couple of times in passing that it would be nice to have statistics of the players of the American Basketball League (1996-1998) available. For those unaware of the ABL's existence, it was actually founded before the WNBA - in fact, it was the ABL that was the impetus for David Stern to form the WNBA.

For two years, the league fought the WNBA for players, media exposure, and sponsors. The WNBA would emerge triumphant and the ABL would be forced to declare bankruptcy on December 22, 1998, in the middle of its 1998-99 season.

Was the internet around back then? Yes. But it was called the capital-I "Internet" and USEnet ruled the world. Most conversation didn't take place on messageboards, but in places called rec.something.somethingelse. Back then, if you had a 24K modem, you were the bee's knees.

So I told myself, "Okay, self, it's time to gather those ABL statistics and perform some analysis." But then I ran into a barrier. There is nothing harder to find in the world than ABL stats.

If you go to the old ABL page - you can only get there from Web Archive - you won't find season-by-season states (hey, even doesn't have those). And trust me, you don't want to read the Web Archive page. Some of the code there is corrupted and throws up the wrong graphics, revealing a particularly nasty picture not suitable for children or adults.

You can go to John Sage's Replica ABA Page to see what the old ABL page looked like when it was functional. But he doesn't have stats, either.

The Detroit Shock statistical warehouse has a list of all-time ABL leaders. But no season statistics, and no rosters.

The old page from CNN/SI still exists, giving a snapshot of what it looked like on that fateful December 22nd. But there are no team statistics, no hint of what the rosters looked like.

If you follow the old team pages -,, etc. - they are occupied by cybersquatters or worse. Furthermore, if you go to Web Archive to locate the contents, is blocked from archival by a robots.txt file.

Any stats on the old pages? Nope.

Alright. Now we get desperate. Go to Ebay and look up "ABL" or "American Basketball League". You might get a few items of old memorabilia, but nothing substantive like a media guide.

What about old newspaper archives? Sorry. Those are hidden behind paywalls. And if they aren't hidden behind paywalls, they don't archive the six-point type that is found on the sports statistics pages.

What about The Sporting News archives? Please, don't make me laugh. The Sporting News would like to forget that women's basketball even exists.

So how could a fully functioning league with all kinds of internet followers simply disappear so completely from the internet, leaving only tantalizing scraps behind? It must have been an act of extermination. Martians. Martians, I tells ya!

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