When the ABA comes to mind, the likes of Julius Erving, George Gervin, Mel Daniels, and Artis Gilmore flicker first in memory. However, there was a small little guard in Kentucky who may not quickly come to mind, but was steadfastly attached to the ABA.
Louie Dampier played every season of the ABA’s existence. Dampier played more games and minutes than any other ABA player. He also scored more points, dished out more assists, and made more three-pointers than anyone else in that league’s history. He should have a place right alongside Dr. J and the Ice Man in ABA lore.
He debuted with the Colonels in the 1967-68 season. His career benefited immensely from the three-point shot, a shot debuted professionally in the American Basketball League in the early 1960s. Precious few may have used that shot before Dampier, but he made it a deadly basketball weapon. In 1969 he nailed 199 three-pointers. The following season he swished 198. These stood as the record number of three-pointers made by a player for a single season for over 30 years.*
*(A few players broke it in the mid-90s, but they benefited from a shortened distance)
The Colonels however weren’t quite successful on the court during these early years. After the acquisition of Dan Issel and Artis Gilmore, though, the Colonels became perennial contenders in the ABA. Dampier transitioned into more a passing guard with that tremendous front-line. His number of field goal attempts also decreased, but the quality increased. His overall FG% rose steadily from 42% his rookie season to 50% in 1975 with Issel and Gilmore providing him cover.
During his decade in Kentucky, Dampier endured only one losing season and helped lead the Colonels to three ABA Finals including the title in 1975. The powerful Colonels, however, didn’t make the transition to the NBA in 1976 when the ABA was merged with the older league. Dampier still found his way onto the San Antonio Spurs, an ABA team that did survive to the NBA.
His years with the Spurs were not as productive or illustrious but by this point, Dampier was 32-years old and was already showing signs of decline in his final Kentucky season (1976). That his glory days came in a defunct league with a defunct team doesn’t help folks recover the career that Dampier enjoyed. It was one that truly presaged today’s era of three-pointer domination.
A shame that the man who indeed presaged it all isn’t always given his proper credit and due.
Years Played: 1967 – 1979
4x All-ABA 2nd Team (1968-’70, 1974)
7x All-Star (1968-’70, 1972-’75)
All-Rookie 1st Team (1968)
ABA – 728 Games
18.9 PPG, 5.6 APG, 3.1 RPG, 0.9 SPG, 43.9% FG, 35.8% 3PT, 82.6% FT
3PT% Leader (1974), MPG Leader (1969)
All-Time ABA Ranks
1st All-Time Points, 19th All-Time PPG
1st 3PTs Made, 4th 3PT%
1st FGs Made
1st Assists, 4th APG
10th FTs Made, 15th FT%
1st Minutes Played, 1st Games Played
NBA – 232 Games
6.7 PPG, 2.8 APG, 1.1 RPG, 0.7 SPG, 48.8% FG, 74.8% FT
Contemporary NBA/ABA Ranks (1967-68 through 1978-79)
1st 3PTs Made, 1st 3PT%
6th Assists, 19th APG
14th Points, 14th FGs Made
38th FTs Made, 24th FT%
2nd Games Played, 3rd Minutes Played