Former ABA owner Ozzie Silna died of cancer on Tuesday in Los Angeles, at the age of 83.
Silna owned the ABA’s Spirits of St. Louis with his brother Daniel, and notably negotiated a deal involving the NBA’s television revenue that made the brothers more than $750 million, The New York Times reported.
“We were deeply saddened to learn that former ABA team owner Ozzie Silna has passed away,” NBA commissioner Adam Silver said in a statement. “Ozzie and his brother Dan owned the St. Louis Spirits at a time when the ABA’s future was uncertain, but he loved the game andvwas determined to be part of professional basketball. We send our heartfelt condolences to Dan and the entire Silna family.”
When the ABA dissolved, and the NBA absorbed four of its teams: the New York Nets, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers, the Silnas, left without a team, continued to profit from one-seventh of the TV revenues of each former ABA team. The brothers and the Spirits were the focus of the ESPN documentary “Free Spirits” and profiled by SI’s Jon Wertheim in 2014.
Silna was born in a suburb of Tel Aviv, Israel before moving to New Jersey with his parents at age six. He attended Fairleigh Dickinson university and served in the army, and also ran embroidery, textile and photo-processing operations until just before his death.