They lasted only two seasons but the Spirits of St. Louis left behind one of the most famous logos in basketball history. Borrowing their unusual name from Charles Lindbergh’s famous plane, the ABA franchise looked good on the court, even if they would become only a footnote in the long, crazy history of the league.
Now, one of those beloved jerseys worn by the player who became one of the franchise’s most successful alums is about to hit the auction block.
Heritage Auctions will offer Maurice Lucas’ rookie jersey in its upcoming February Platinum Night auction where it’s expected to bring $50,000 or more. It’s one of a scant number of authentic Spirits game-worn items ever to be offered in the hobby. Bearing Lucas’ number 20 in orange and carrying notable game use, the size 44 jersey comes with a letter of authenticity from the late star’s family.
The auction lot also includes Lucas’ size 34 shorts, a pair that appears to have been shared among at least one other player.
Lucas, a rookie from Marquette, became known as a hard-nosed scorer and defender during a career that lasted until the 1987-88 season. He would become a four-time NBA All-Star and was a key member of the Portland Trail Blazers’ 1977 NBA championship squad. Blazers center Bill Walton would name his son Luke after his close friend and former teammate, who would die of bladder cancer in 2010.
The Spirits were among the last teams standing in the ABA but except for a few franchises, the league was on shaky footing as a whole. A merger with the NBA brought four teams into the older league for the 1976-77 season, but the Spirits were not one of them.
Instead, the two brothers who owned the team struck a deal with the NBA for a share of future TV revenues in exchange for folding their tent. It worked out well for the Silna brothers, who have made hundreds of millions of dollars from the deal, just sitting on the sidelines, their team a long lost relic of pro basketball.