In the book “You Can’t Go Home Again,” by Thomas Wolfe, the protagonist, George Webber realizes, “”You can’t go back home to your family, back home to your childhood … back home to a young man’s dreams of glory and of fame … back home to places in the country, back home to the old forms and systems of things which once seemed everlasting but which are changing all the time – back home to the escapes of Time and Memory.”
But then again, maybe you can. If only for just a few hours.
And so it was for the ABA Virginia Squires at the Cavalier Hotel Beach Club on May 1 when hundreds of adoring fans welcomed their beloved (albeit beleaguered) team for their first-ever reunion since folding and leaving town 40 years ago. The Squires were the first professional team based in Hampton Roads.
In a standing room only ballroom, fans like Parker Cross, clad in a well-preserved Virginia Squires track suit from yesteryear wondered if Squires member-turned-NBA-Hall-of-Famer, Julius “Dr. J” Erving would remember that the legend gifted Cross with the suit many moons ago.
Chris Lewis, clutching a vintage Dr. J. poster (one that he purchased when he in his teens back in the ‘70s) pined for an autograph.
“This could be my only chance,” Lewis said. “I don’t know if he’ll be signing autographs… I’ve waited a long time.”
With some quick thinking, and not one to be deterred by a menacing security guy, Chris got his autograph.
While Dr. J. (1971-73) was the star attraction for the event (kudos to the organizers for the “get”), other former players, including four-time NBA scoring champion and Hall of Fame player, George “The Iceman” Gervin (1972-74), 1976 Boston Celtics championship ring holder, Charlie Scott (1970-72), and Dave Twardzik, who went on to win the 1977 NBA finals with the Portland Trailblazers were mobbed by adoring fans.
“This is so overwhelming,” Twardzik said. “I can’t think of a bunch of guys who loved the sport more than these guys, and to be welcomed back in such a manner… it’s humbling.”
The ABA, with their trademark red, white, and blue basketballs, and high octane players possessing what we now call “attitude,” the NBA it was not. But the league won the hearts of legions of fans who enjoyed a more flamboyant type of game, including a 30-second shot clock, as opposed to the NBA’s 24-second clock, and use of a three-point field goal arc.
But alas, it was never meant to be.
In Virginia, the Squires were plagued with perennial financial woes. In 1973, Dr. J. was sold to the New York Nets. Gervin was sold to the Spurs in 1974. Losing two stars was enough to keep fans away.
Love was not enough to sustain the team.
On May 11, 1976, the franchise folded and the Squires were no more.
“No regrets,” fired coach Al Bianchi reflected. “We had a lot of fun.”
Sometimes, that’s just the way the ball bounces.
Virginia Squires Family.
Warren D. Harris, Virginia Beach Office of Economic Development with “Mr. Squire” actor (Ethan Marten) wearing the original outfit preserved for 40 years.
Dr. J. hams it up.
Ruth McCotter Snyder, founder of the Hampton Roads Charitable Fund holds on to ABA red, white and blue basketball.
Charlie Scott and Dr. J. share a moment with former coach, Al Bianchi.
Dr. J. avails himself for fan meet and greet.
Charlie Scott addresses the crowd.
Longtime Squires fans “would not have missed this reunion for the world.”
From left to right: Dave Twardzik, Barry Parkhill, and Neil Johnson.
Jim Earkins signs vintage Squires poster.
Former Squires owner, Earl Foreman.
Lloyd Jackson, Virginia Beach Office of Economic Development with Al Bianchi.