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ABA, WHA co-founder Dennis Murphy dies at 94

Apr 20, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; A view of a hockey puck and yellow boards before the game between the Dallas Stars and the Detroit Red Wings at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 20, 2021; Dallas, Texas, USA; A view of a hockey puck and yellow boards before the game between the Dallas Stars and the Detroit Red Wings at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Dennis Murphy, who co-founded the American Basketball Association and other pro sports leagues, died Thursday in Placentia, Calif., at age 94.

In addition to the ABA, Murphy also helped to launch the World Hockey Association, World Team Tennis and Roller Hockey International. He also produced the made-for-TV “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King in 1973.

“He just always had a vision for sports,” Murphy’s son, Dennis Jr., told the Associated Press. “He was kind of like the underdog, so he always wanted to bring a new league in.”

The ABA lasted from 1967 until 1976, when it merged with the NBA and brought four teams to the league: the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, San Antonio Spurs and New York Nets.

“Dennis Murphy was a close friend of my father, Dr. Jerry Buss,” said Jeanie Buss, co-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. “Dennis always had new ideas he would brainstorm with my dad. He was a creative visionary and many of the innovations in the NBA — like the 3-point shot and slam dunk contest — came from the ABA.”

The WHA existed from 1972-79 and drew nearly 70 players from the NHL, including all-time greats Bobby Hull and Gordie Howe. Wayne Gretzky began his professional career in the WHA as an 18-year-old in 1978.

–Field Level Media