Forgotten Franchises: The ABA’s Dallas Chaparrals

The Dallas Chaparrals were a charter member of the ABA, starting with the 1967-68 season.  During their first few seasons, the team regularly had a winning record and repeatedly made the playoffs, but they ran into poor attendance and general disinterest in Dallas.

dallas-chaparrals-logo

Before  the 1970/71 season, the team announced that they would become a regional franchise called the Texas Chaparrals, and would also play games in Fort Worth and Lubbock.  This was such a failed experiment that the plug was pulled on Fort Worth after two months, and Lubbock did not fair much better.  After one season, the experiment was over and they returned to being the Dallas Chaparrals.

In early 1973, the rumors were flying that groups from New Jersey and New Mexico were eyeing the Chaps.  That February, the ABA announced that the team would move to New Jersey, and eventually move to the Meadowlands upon completion.  The league signed off on this move, pending approval of the New York Nets, as the Meadowlands fell in their their territory.  The Chaparrals did not move to New Jersey, so it seems safe to assume that the Nets did not give their approval.

Before the 1973/74 season, in an unusual move, the team was leased to a San Antonio group with an option to buy after three years.  At the time, San Antonio was the largest city in the country without a major sports franchise.  The team was such an overwhelming success in San Antonio – it took them only 16 games to pass the previous season’s attendance in Dallas – that the lease was torn up and the group bought the team.  That team is, as you might have guessed, the San Antonio Spurs.

As for Dallas, they would not have another major league basketball team until the expansion Dallas Mavericks arrived for the 1980/81 season.

Among those who have played for the Chaparrals include Cincy Powell (an All-Star in 1970), John Beasley (three-time All-Star and the 1969 ABA All-Star Game MVP), and Joe Hamilton.

1971-72 Topps Basketball Joe Hamilton

This is Joe Hamilton’s rookie card.  He was named to the ABA’s All-Rookie  team, and once finished 5th in the league in free throw percentage.

About the team name…

“Chaparral” makes me think of this (pardon the crappy photo of a Hot Wheels car I keep on my desk at work):

hot-wheels-chaparral-2

…or rather, the Chaparral Racing team which had been dominant in the 1960’s and got immortalized for me via Hot Wheels and A/FX slot cars.

So I was puzzled when I looked chaparral up in the dictionary and found references to thickets of shrubs, or sometimes the land in which such thickets of shrubs grew.  Huh?

Some of the newspaper articles I saw said that the ABA team’s owners couldn’t decide on a name, so they just named it after the Chaparral Club restaurant where they’d met.  This may be apocryphal, I don’t know.

THEN… I found out that there’s a bird called the Chaparral Bird or Chaparral Cock… it’s a member of the cuckoo family and is also known as a Roadrunner (Meep!  Meep!).  The team’s logo features a bird like that, so it seems that this is what they were going for.  Maybe this would’ve been more obvious to me if I’d ever been in the southwest.

Regardless of the origin of the name, shortening it to “Chaps” for the uniform wasn’t the greatest idea, in my eyes.  It brings to mind a team of posh players saying things like “I say, Chaps!  Spiffing takeaway!  Jolly good!”


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4 thoughts on “Forgotten Franchises: The ABA’s Dallas Chaparrals

  1. I enjoy these posts quite a bit. The very first ABA card I ever got, back when I first discovered the sport at 12 years old, was a Chapparals card from 1972-73 Topps. (Steve “Snapper” Jones to be exact). I since went on to become a big ABA fan and collector and it all started there. At the time I was not yet aware of the fact that the team was still around and known as the Spurs, that came later.

    • Thanks, Billy, I appreciate it!

      FWIW, I never intended for there to be such a big gap between these posts, but I kind of got hung up on this one and rather than putting the Chaparrals aside and working on another team, I let it drag me down. I’ll try not to let that happen again. I know you didn’t mention the gap, but it’s something I was saving for the first person to comment. :-)

  2. Wow… the ABA. I hadn’t thought about that bunch in a long time. We used to get cheap tickets to see the Houston Mavericks play in the rickety old Coliseum in downtown Houston. I saw the Chaps win the last game of their playoff series against the Mavericks that year.

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