Dennis Murphy, co-founder of pro sports leagues, dies at 94

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Dennis Murphy, a sports activities entrepreneur who co-founded skilled leagues in basketball, hockey, tennis and curler hockey that featured improvements in advertising and marketing, guidelines and taking part in fashion, died Thursday. He was 94.

Murphy died of congestive coronary heart failure at an assisted residing facility within the Orange County metropolis of Placentia, California, based on his son, Dennis Jr.

The elder Murphy co-founded the American Basketball Affiliation, World Hockey Affiliation, World Staff Tennis and Curler Hockey Worldwide.

Every of the leagues used groundbreaking advertising and marketing and promotional ways, new guidelines, and a method of play that compelled the evolution of already established leagues.

“He simply at all times had a imaginative and prescient for sports activities,” Dennis Jr. stated. “He was type of just like the underdog, so he at all times needed to carry a brand new league in.”

The ABA started in 1967 and lasted till its merger with the Nationwide Basketball Affiliation in 1976, resulting in 4 ABA groups becoming a member of the NBA and the introduction of the 3-point shot in 1979. Different ABA ideas pioneered by Murphy included the league’s red-white-and-blue basketball, a slam-dunk contest, and crew cheerleaders.

“Dennis Murphy was a detailed pal of my father, Dr. Jerry Buss,” stated Jeanie Buss, co-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers. “Dennis at all times had new concepts he would brainstorm with my dad. He was a inventive visionary and lots of the improvements within the NBA — just like the 3-point shot and slam dunk contest — got here from the ABA.”

The WHA existed from 1972-79 and though it wasn’t the primary league to problem the Nationwide Hockey League’s dominance, it was simply essentially the most profitable.

Practically 70 gamers jumped from the NHL to the WHA in its first yr, led by Bobby Hull, who signed an unprecedented $1 million contract. Gordie Howe quickly adopted.

“The gamers actually appreciated my dad loads,” Dennis Jr. stated, citing their richer contracts. “I do not know if the house owners actually appreciated him.”


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The WHA additionally signed European gamers, paving the way in which for a brand new period in North American hockey. Corridor of Famers Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier started their careers within the WHA. Murphy served as commissioner for 3 years.

He co-founded World Staff Tennis in 1973 with Larry King, Fred Barman and Jordan Kaiser, and league play started in 1974 with 16 groups, a four-color tennis court docket, and groups made up of two males and two girls. It was the primary professional sports activities league wherein women and men competed on equal phrases. It lasted till 1978, however was later resurrected and continues immediately.

In 1988, Murphy got here up with the 12-team Worldwide Basketball Affiliation which featured gamers 6-foot-4 and underneath.

Murphy’s final professional league was Curler Hockey Worldwide from 1992-99. He was impressed after seeing children taking part in curler hockey on concrete as an alternative of ice. King joined Murphy and Alex Bellehumeur in growing the league.

Murphy and King produced the 1973 “Battle of the Sexes” made-for-TV tennis match between Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King, who was married to Larry King, on the Houston Astrodome

Born Sept. 4, 1926, in Shanghai, China, the place his father labored for Normal Oil, Murphy and his household moved to California in 1941.

Murphy served as an Military workers sergeant in World Struggle II and as a captain within the Korean Struggle. He majored in economics on the College of Southern California. He served one time period as mayor of Buena Park, California, within the late Fifties earlier than changing into a advertising and marketing govt for a civil engineering agency.

In addition to his son, he’s survived by daughters Daybreak Mee and Doreen Haarlamert, 9 grandchildren and 7 great-grandchildren. His spouse, Elaine, died in 1985.


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