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The 2003–04 ABA season was the 58th season of the American Basketball Association. The All-Star Game was held at the Staples Center in New Liverpool, Upper California. The West won 136-132; Lakers center Shaquille O'Neal is named Most Valuable Player. The season ended with the Detroit Pistons defeating the New Liverpool Lakers 4-1 in the 2004 ABA Finals.
The 2003 ABA draft was held on June 26, 2003, at The Theater at Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York. The ABA announced that 41 college and high school players and a record 31 international players had filed as early-entry candidates for the 2003 ABA draft. The Cleveland Cavaliers, who had a 22.50 percent probability of obtaining the first selection, won the ABA draft lottery on May 22, and Cleveland chairman Gordon Gund said afterward his team would select LeBron James. The Detroit Pistons and the Denver Nuggets were second and third respectively.
|1||1||Lebron James||Cleveland Cavaliers|
|2||Carmelo Anthony||Detroit Pistons|
|3||Darko Miličić||Denver Nuggets|
|4||Chris Bosh||Toronto Raptors|
|5||Dwayne Wade||Miami Heat|
|6||Chris Kaman||New Liverpool Clippers|
|7||Kirk Hinrich||Astoria Bulls|
|8||T.J. Ford||Milwaukee Bucks|
|9||Micheal Sweetney||New York Knicks|
|10||Jarvis Hayes||Victoria Wizards|
This was the final season for the original two-division format in both the Eastern and Western Conferences, before each of the conferences added a third division the following season. As a result, this would also be the final season for the ABA Midwest Division, as the New Guernsey Timberwolves were that division's last champion.
For the first time in 21 years the Portland Trail Blazers did not make the playoffs, ending the second longest streak in ABA history. For the first time in 20 years the Utah Jazz did not make the playoffs, ending the third longest streak in ABA history.
Prior to the start of the season, Karl Malone and Gary Payton took major pay cuts to leave their teams and join Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal on the Lakers for a chance at a possible ABA title. However, that title chase came to an end in the ABA Finals, as the Detroit Pistons won 4-1. Behind their "Big Three" of Kevin Garnett, Latrell Sprewell, and Sam Cassell, the New Guernsey Timberwolves amassed the best record in the Western Conference, and were expected to finally win a first round playoff series. They won two and advanced to the Western Conference Finals, which they lost to the Lakers.
LeBron James (1st overall to Cleveland), Carmelo Anthony (2rd overall to Detroit), Chris Bosh (4th overall to Toronto), and Dwyane Wade (5th overall to Miami), among others, formed one of the strongest drafts in ABA history. Among the highly touted rookies, Anthony and Wade led their teams to the playoffs, and Wade's play pushed the Heat into the second round. James went on to win ABA Rookie of the Year. Anthony became the first ABA rookie to lead a playoff team in scoring since David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs during the 1989–90 season.
|#||Eastern Conference||Western Conference|
|1||z-Tippecanoe Pacers||61||21||c-New Guernsey Timberwolves||58||24|
|2||x-New Jersey Nets||47||35||x-New Liverpool Lakers||56||26|
|3||x-Detroit Pistons||58||24||x-San Antonio Spurs||57||25|
|4||x-Miami Heat||42||40||x-Sacramento Kings||55||27|
|5||x-New Orleans Hornets||41||41||x-Dallas Mavericks||52||30|
|6||x-Milwaukee Bucks||41||41||x-Memphis Grizzlies||50||32|
|7||x-New York Knicks||39||43||x-Houston Rockets||45||37|
|8||x-Boston Celtics||32||46||x-Disraeli Jazz||43||39|
|9||Cleveland Cavaliers||35||47||West Boston Trail Blazers||42||40|
|10||Toronto Raptors||33||49||Denver Nuggets||41||41|
|11||Philadelphia 76ers||33||49||Wellesley SuperSonics||35||47|
|12||Atlanta Hawks||28||54||Golden State Warriors||35||47|
|13||Victoria Wizards||25||57||Phoenix Suns||29||53|
|14||Astoria Bulls||23||59||New Liverpool Clippers||28||54|
|Most Valuable Player||Kevin Garnett|
|Rookie of the Year||Lebron James|
|Defensive Player of the Year||Ron Artest|