The NBA has finally agreed to allow retired ABA players to receive a pension for their days as players in the now-defunct league. On Tuesday, the NBA partnered up with Dropping Dimes to help get retirement pensions to former ABA players who competed in the ABA but never qualified for the NBA pension.
A ‘joint-funded program’ that is set to help out around 115 former ABA players will pay out a total of $24.5 million players with three or more seasons of ABA service. The ‘recognition payments’ are not pensions, per NBA commissioner Adam Silver, but monetary compensation for these athletes who’ve played three combined ABA or NBA seasons but haven’t received any payments yet.
When the ABA and NBA merged in 1976, many ABA players were left without paychecks, insurance, or pensions.
Now, the NBA and NBAPA have launched a new program providing annual payments to ABA veterans.
Based on years played, $25 million will be split among 115 eligible players. pic.twitter.com/LJTxPU0vET
— Front Office Sports (@FOS) July 13, 2022
The way these payments will work, per Yahoo! Sports, the NBA will pay an annual salary to these players that qualify, with an annual payment of $3,828 for each year they played in the league. Not to confuse anyone, the $3,828 payment will be multiplied by the number of years a player has played, and that will be their annual payment.
Each player who qualifies will receive a minimum of $11,484 a year.
Dropping Dimes Foundation CEO Scott Tarter spoke on the ordeal, and how excited he was to help orchestrate this deal.
“It’s an incredible day for former ABA players,” said Scott Tarter, CEO and founder of Dropping Dimes, “one that we and the players have been hoping for and working so hard toward for many years.”
This decision to create this funded program was voted on by the NBA’s Board of Governors who passed this program on Tuesday. This ends a long-fought battle that was started by the Dropping Dimes Foundation.
This foundation was started to help former players get pensions or payments to help support their families, medical expenses, and living expenses. One player who worked with the Dropping Dimes Foundation to help get them to this point was the late Sam Smith.
Players like former ABA player Sam Smith, who waited years for the NBA pension and died just two short months before this monumental ‘joint-funded program’ came into service, are finally getting reparations for the hard work they’ve contributed to the game of basketball.
Smith was an ABA player, who spent four years in the league, before retiring due to a panic attack that he thought was a heart attack. Upon retiring Smith went back home to Kentucky to his family and got a job working the night shift at Ford.
This ultimately wasn’t enough to sustain his family, especially after his daughter had a child that he eventually had to take care of as well due to her death. Smith reached out to Tarter, and Dropping Dimes for help, which they provided. But while he had the help of Dropping Dimes, Smith wanted his pension that he deserved. Unfortunately, he’d never get it.
Smith passed away May 15. While it is a bittersweet moment for Smith and his passing, he died fighting for this pension. The iconic photo of him in the hospital weeks before his passing, is undoubtedly one of the driving forces behind the NBA passing this program.
Thanks to advocates like Sam Smith and Scott Tarter, the rest of the ABA players can receive their payments to help support their families, themselves, and still live an amazing life after basketball. These recognition payments are acknowledging players who paved the way for basketball to be what it is now. It’s about time and long overdue.