Under head coach Bill Sharman the Stars were the first major professional basketball team to use a pre-game shootaround.
The Anaheim Amigos became the Los Angeles Stars in 1968 and played at the Los Angeles Memorial Sports Arena in Los Angeles, until 1970, at which point the team moved to Salt Lake City, Utah, to become the Utah Stars.
The Utah Stars played at the Salt Palace from 1970 to December 1975 when the team folded during the 1975-1976 ABA season. They won the ABA championship in the 1970-1971 season over the Kentucky Colonels 4 games to 3 and reached the championship again in the 1973 to 1974 season, losing to the New York Nets 4 games to 1.
The Stars are widely considered one of the most successful teams in ABA history. They were also known for having some of the best fan support in the ABA, even up until the team folded in 1975. From 1970-1975 the Stars went an impressive 265-171 (.608), which was the best winning percentage of any team that played more than 1 season in the league.
The Anaheim Amigos were founded by Art Kim, a Hawaii native who had long been active in basketball as a player, Amateur Athletic Union administrator and owner. The Amigos lost the very first ABA game to Oakland, 132-129. They finished their first season with 25 wins and 53 losses, good for fifth place in the Western Division but not good enough to make the playoffs.
The Amigos lost $500,000 in their first season, largely due to poor attendance; they only averaged 1,500 fans per game in a 7,500-seat arena. Kim realized he didn't have the resources to keep going and sold the team to construction company owner Jim Kirst, who moved the team to Los Angeles as the Stars. The franchise made an attempt to sign legendary center Wilt Chamberlain. Chamberlain did not sign with the Stars (though he did play for the ABA's San Diego Conquistadors). With 33 wins and 45 losses, the Stars improved from their first season but again finished fifth in the Western Division and did not make the playoffs.
In October 1969 the Stars signed Zelmo Beaty away from the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, but Beaty had to sit out the season due to a one year option held by the Hawks, which the Stars would not buy out for $75,000. First year players Mack Calvin and Willie Wise signed with the Stars. The Stars finished fourth in the Western Division with a record of 43-41, earning the first winning season in franchise history and a playoff berth. The Stars defeated the Dallas Chaparrals 4 games to 2 in the Western Division semifinals and bested the Denver Rockets 4 games to 1 in the semifinals before losing the ABA championship series 4 games to 2 to the Indiana Pacers. Kirst hadn't anticipated the fast turnaround, and didn't book the Sports Arena for several dates. They had to play several first and second round games in their old home in Anaheim, as well as at the Long Beach Sports Arena in Long Beach.
The Stars won their first division championship, winning the Western Division with a record of 60 wins and 24 losses. The Stars defeated the Dallas Chaparrals 4 games to none in the Western Division semifinals before falling to the Indiana Pacers in the Western Division finals, 4 games to 3.
The Stars hosted the ABA All Star Game and again won the Western Division with a record of 55 wins and 29 losses. The Stars defeated the San Diego Conquistadors 4 games to none in the Western Division semifinals but lost in the Western Division finals 4 games to 2 to the Indiana Pacers.
In 1973-74 the Stars finished with a record of 51-33 and won first place in the ABA's Western Division under new coach Joe Mullaney. It was the Stars' third straight Western Division title. In the playoffs the Stars again defeated the San Diego Conquistadors in the Western Division semifinals, this time 4 games to 2, and went on to defeat the Indiana Pacers 4 games to three in the Western Division finals. The Stars then lost the championship to the New York Nets 4 games to 1.
The Stars' final full ABA season was 1974-75. Daniels was almost broke due to a series of failed business ventures and an unsuccessful run for governor of Colorado. One of the casualties of the team's financial woes was Mullaney, who resigned after being told the team couldn't afford to meet his contract. Daniels tried to sell the team, but couldn't find a local buyer. The Stars made a high-profile personnel move that season by signing high school player Moses Malone to play for them. The Stars finished the season in fourth place in the Western Division and lost in the first round of the playoffs to the Denver Nuggets, 4 games to 1.
By this time, Daniels was completely broke. As a result, on December 2 1975, the league canceled the Stars franchise for missing payroll. Four of their players (including Moses Malone) were sold to the Spirits of St. Louis while a fifth player was sold to the Virginia Squires. Daniels ultimately paid back all of the season ticket holders at eight percent interest.
In 1976 the owners of the Spirits of St. Louis announced that they were moving the team to Utah for the 1976-1977 ABA season, to play as the Utah Rockies. However, the ABA merged with the NBA in June 1976 and the Spirits and the Kentucky Colonels were the only two teams left out of the merged league. (The Virginia Squires were folded shortly after the conclusion of regular season play and just prior to the ABA-NBA merger due to their inability to make good on a required league assessment payment.)
Professional basketball finally returned to Salt Lake City when the NBA's New Orleans Jazz relocated there in 1979. The Jazz have played in Salt Lake City ever since, making it interesting to ponder how the Stars might have fared had they survived the ABA's final season and entered the NBA along with the Pacers, Spurs, Nuggets and Nets. The only other three ABA teams to complete the 1975-76 ABA season yet not move on to the NBA were the Kentucky Colonels, Spirits of St. Louis and Virginia Squires, all of whom played in cities that, unlike Salt Lake City, never had an NBA franchise afterward.
In their first season in Salt Lake City, the Stars dominated their way to a 57-27 record and a 2nd place finish in the Western Division standings, a game behind the Indiana Pacers. In the Western Division Semifinals, the Stars would go on to sweep the Texas Chaparrals and then stunned the Pacers in game 7 of the Western Division Finals, earning a spot in the ABA Championship.
The Stars would face the Kentucky Colonels in the ABA Championship. In game one a near capacity crowd filed into the Salt Palace to watch the Stars defeat Kentucky 136-117. The Stars set an ABA Playoff record by scoring 50 points in the 2nd quarter. In game 2, the series continued its high scoring with the Stars beating Kentucky 138-125. The series shifted to Louisville and Kentucky took game 3 and 4, tying the series up at 2-2. The series then returned to Salt Lake City, where the Stars beat Kentucky 137-127, taking a 3-2 series lead. The Stars looked to wrap up the ABA Championship with a game 6 victory in Louisville. However Kentucky clawed their way to a 7th game, barely beating the Stars 105-102, sending the series to a decisive 7th game back in Salt Lake City.
With the ABA Championship on the line, an ABA record crowd of 13,260 packed into the Salt Palace to watch game 7 of the 1971 ABA Championship. The game remained close throughout, however the Stars pulled away late, winning the 1971 ABA Championship 131-121. As the game ended, hundreds of Stars fans rushed the court, lifting players onto their shoulders in a jubilant celebration. The actions were a total surprise to Stars officials, as they had not anticipated such a reaction from the fans.
The ABA teams frequently played exhibition games in the preseason vs. NBA teams. While the ABA overall had a winning record vs. the NBA in head to head competition, the Stars had an overall record of 7 wins and 9 losses against NBA teams.
The Stars' first game against the NBA was a 96-89 loss at home to the New York Knicks on September 28, 1971. The Stars lost their first four games against NBA teams, earning their first win against that league with a win against the Seattle SuperSonics in Honolulu, Hawaii on September 24, 1972.
Other Stars wins against the NBA include defeating the Boston Celtics at home on October 4, 1973 (part of a double header in which 12,431 Utah fans also saw the ABA's Denver Rockets defeat the NBA's Phoenix Suns 113-111 prior to the Stars' win); a home win against the Kansas City-Omaha Kings on October 8, 1974; a home win against the SuperSonics on October 7, 1975; a win against the Kings on October 11, 1975 in Denver as part of a double header in which 17,018 fans saw the Denver Nuggets lose to the NBA's Golden State Warriors 115-100); and a 118-108 road win against the SuperSonics in Seattle on October 15, 1975.
In the very last game ever played between ABA and NBA teams, the Stars defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 106 to 101 in Salt Lake City on October 21, 1975. (In the penultimate ABA vs. NBA matchup, the ABA's Kentucky Colonels defeated the Washington Bullets 121-111 two nights prior.)