ABA team owner and envied dealmaker Ozzie Silna dies

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ozzie Silna, who turned a fading American Basketball Association team into a four-decade cash cow worth nearly $800 million in NBA money, has died at age 83.

Silna’s younger brother and former Spirits of St. Louis co-owner Daniel Silna confirmed his brother’s death to The Associated Press on Thursday. Ozzie Silna died at a Los Angeles hospital Tuesday after a brief illness.

The deal the brothers made with the NBA for their team in 1976 is commonly called the greatest in sports history.

The Spirits were not one of the four ABA teams selected to enter the NBA, so the Silna brothers negotiated a deal to receive four-sevenths of one share of the NBA’s annual TV revenue for as long as the NBA was around.

That meant hundreds of thousands of dollars at the time, and hundreds of millions of dollars over the next 40 years.