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The WNBA and ABL Tontine (2012 Edition)

Christian Petersen - Getty Images

If you don't know what a tontine is, it is a scheme where subscribers invest in some common fund, and where the last survivor inherits the fund. For those who need some pop culture example, you could watch "Raging Abe Simpson and His Grumbling Grandson in 'The Curse of the Flying Hellfish'" where Grandpa Simpson and Mr. Burns each stand to inherit the loot from a World War II tontine. (Us flesh-and-blood mortals usually make due with a bottle of wine.)

However, as time passes, certain "classes" of basketball players find themselves playing the last survivor game.

For example, there are only three players who played in the American Basketball League who are still active. Two of those players were active in the very first season, and are in effect the final survivors of their cohort of players, the ones who had careers long enough to survive where all others failed.

The following list is the list of players who made their debut in the given seasons below who were still active in pro basketball as of this writing (the team in parentheses is the debut team). With Ticha Penicheiro intending to retire at the end of this season, the list below is going to be less one player.

ABL 1996-97: Katie Smith (Columbus Quest), Taj McWilliams (Richmond Rage)
ABL 1997-98: DeLisha Milton-Jones (Portland Power)
ABL 1998-99: None. All players who debuted in this truncated ABL season no longer play. Katie Smith and Taj McWilliams will be the last active players who played during this season , the season where the ABL closed its doors for good.

WNBA 1997: Tina Thompson (Houston Comets)
WNBA 1998: Ticha Penicheiro (Sacramento Monarchs), Tangela Smith (Sacramento Monarchs), Tully Bevilaqua (Cleveland Rockers)
WNBA 1999: Becky Hammon (New York Liberty), *Delisha Milton-Jones (Los Angeles Sparks), Dominique Canty (Detroit Shock), *Katie Smith (Minnesota Lynx), * Taj McWilliams (Orlando Miracle)
WNBA 2000: Betty Lennox (Minnesota Lynx), DeMya Walker (Portland Fire), Ann Wauters (Cleveland Rockers)

* - previous debut in ABL, first season in WNBA