The NBA board of governors voted Tuesday to pay $24.5 million to former American Basketball Association players who are struggling to make ends meet.

The NBA and its players association have come to an agreement that ends a years-long fight.

Dropping Dimes is a non-profit that helps struggling former ABA players and their families, and they want the NBA to give them money.

The players who played in the ABA and NBA never received a vested pension from the NBA.

For every year they were in the league, players are paid an average of $3,832. A player with three seasons will get $11,484. Freddie Lewis has nine years of service and will be paid $35,454 a year.

"It's an incredible day for former ABA players, one that we and the players have been waiting for for a long time," said Scott Tarter, CEO and founder of Dropping Dimes.

The NBA and the NBA Players Association split the funds for the ABA payments.

The NBPA executive director said that the players have a genuine sense of appreciation for the people who paved the way. The ABA players are a part of our family and we are proud to finally recognize them with this benefit.

Adam Silver said after the vote that the players and team governors felt a need to act on behalf of the former ABA players who are aging and facing difficult economic circumstances.

The pioneers made meaningful contributions to help grow the game of professional basketball and we all think it's appropriate to give financial recognition to them.

'This means so much to them'

When he received the call from the NBA last week, he was alone in a warehouse surrounded by ABA artifacts. He'd been waiting for a call.

"I was shaking so much that I couldn't breathe," he said. Is this real?

The NBA didn't give ABA players everything they wanted, but they did give them $400 a month for each year they played.

The ABA players who broke many barriers in the 1960s and 70s deserve more recognition. It means a lot to them to have the NBA and NBPA recognize their contributions to the NBA game.

The NBA gave 3-year players about $970 a month, instead of the $1,200 the Dropping Dimes had requested. "For some, that's still not enough, so they'll turn to Dropping Dimes for help."

Money will change the lives of these players.

Bird Averitt (right) with Dropping Dimes CEO Scott Tarter before Averitt's death in 2020.

Bird Averitt won an ABA title with the Kentucky Colonels. He didn't have enough money to pay the electric bill so he used kerosene to heat his home.

Averitt is not the only former player who is worse off than the others.

The merger of the ABA and NBA left many players without paychecks, health insurance and pensions.

The NBA deal gives honor to the pioneers of the game.

"From the standpoint of their own legacy in basketball, this means a lot to them," he said.

'Not asking for a hand out'

80% of former ABA players are black, according to a story published by IndyStar. The players are going to Dropping Dimes to get help.

Those players paved the way for what the NBA game is today, fast- paced with 3-pointers and slam dunk contests, and they deserved something for that.

He and his organization are trying to get the NBA to act in the right way.

The ABA players are in their 70s and 80s now. There are people living under bridges. Some people die without money for gravestones. Some people can't afford to go to church.

More than 10 players have died in the last three years. The NBA was pushed to act by time.

Frank Card told IndyStar in 2021 that the NBA was "waiting for us to die off." Card died months later, never getting to see a pension from the league.

The NBA is waiting for us to die off, as far as this pension thing is concerned, according to Frank Card, a former ABA player.

Card lived in a rented apartment while he was a bus driver. The pension could have changed his life.

"I don't know why these guys don't step up and say, 'Why shouldn't we take care of them like they took care of us.'

The NBA spoke publicly about the issue for the first time after the article was published, saying that they were in talks with the Dropping Dimes Foundation about pensions for former ABA players.

Card died two months after the discussions ended. His obituary asked that donations be made to a charity.

'Forgotten about'

Sam Smith was waiting for a pension from the NBA when he died. George Carter didn't have a family. As they waited for the NBA to make a decision, many other players died.

Four of the ABA's 11 teams were absorbed by the NBA when the ABA dissolved in 1976. Many players didn't have a pension or health insurance.

"They have just been forgotten about," he said.

Maurice McHartley was a player in the ABA for four years.

He retired from his job as a newspaper truck driver and is living in subsidized housing. He has had to ask for financial help many times in the past.

Maurice McHartley is one of 115 former ABA players who will receive recognition payments from the NBA.

McHartley, who played for the ABA's Miami Floridians and New York Nets, said a pension would go toward a lot of things. There are a lot of things you can do to help out with your living.

Dropping dimes heard from McHartley and many others. The foundation has helped with little things over the course of eight years.

It has helped with funeral expenses and medical bills.

Dropping dimes has helped these players get what they need most.

From the beginning, this has been the big mission for us. What is happening now to get these guys what they deserve?

'I felt like I was talking to Mel'

The advisory board is backed by big names in sports. Some of them are Bob Costas, Reggie Miller, George McGinnis, Julius Erving, Peter Vecsey, and Bob Netolicky.

One name on the board is Mel Daniels, and he was the most ferocious fighter that the group had.

As he was on the call with the NBA, he looked up to the ceiling and thought of Daniels.

He felt like he was talking to Mel when he looked up. It's too bad Mel isn't here to see it. He said he had to do something for these guys.

Daniels helped former player Charlie Jordan pick out a new suit as he talked to IndyStar about how sad it was to see his league suffer.

Some ABA players live under bridges. People don't know what's going on.

Randy had no idea the men he played with were struggling.

"I didn't stay in touch with anyone and then this thing bubbles up some years ago and my first thought is, 'I'm so sorry,'" said the man who played five seasons in the ABA and a year in the NBA.

After following the plight of the players, Denton felt powerless.

Some of these guys are not as bad as I am. He wanted to give them a million dollars. I was familiar with these guys. I played with some people.

The NBA deal is important because it helps other players more than Denton, he said.

It would mean a lot to me, from a basketball point of view. He said that it would mean a lot because he and his teammates were as good as the NBA players. We are getting peanuts, but not much else.

It has been this way until now.

George Carter, right, was one of the greats of the ABA. He averaged more than 18 points and nearly 7 rebounds per game between 1967 and 1976. He died penniless in 2020.

The financial benefit will change the lives of many former players who were paid less when they played.

He knew his work wasn't done even as Dropping Dimes and former players celebrated.

Dropping Dimes is rededicating itself to continue to assist as best we can, with the respect and dignity these players deserve for what they've done for their sport.

Dana Benbow is a sports reporter for the Indy Star. Emaild:, you can reach her.

The NBA pays former American Basketball Association players $25 million.