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The New Jersey Nets were a basketball team that played in the Atlantic Division of the NBA’s Eastern Conference between 1976 and 2012. The Nets nickname was picked to rhyme with other teams in the NY metropolitan area and for its reference to basketball.
How did the Nets Start up?
The franchise that became the New Jersey Nets had been formed in 1966 as one of the founding member clubs of the ABA. During the 1976 ABA-NBA merger the franchise, then called “New York Nets”, moved from its Long Island base to New Jersey. The Nets found themselves having to part with $8 million just to play in the NBA after they were instructed to pay the Knicks $4.8 million for encroaching on the Knicks “territory”, in addition to the $3.2 million they had paid the NBA as a joining fee. They were forced to sell their star player Julius Erving to Philadelphia 76ers for $3million in order to clear the amount.
The New Jersey Nets in Competition
Coming from winning the ABA championship in 1976, their first two seasons in the NBA were cast in stark contrast as they finished last with a 22-60 record and 24-58 records respectively. They made the playoffs in 1978/1979 but were brushed aside by a 76ers side featuring their former hero Julius Erving. They waited till 1982 to return to the playoffs, the first of five consecutive playoff appearances. They would be pinned to the basement of the league in 1986/1987 and 1987/1988 seasons and went without playoff basketball until 1991/1992, one of only three playoff appearances in the 1990s.
They missed the playoffs during the first two seasons of the new millennium but the addition of Jason Kidd in the 2001 offseason sparked a form eruption that saw them crowned Eastern Conference champions for the first time. In the NBA finals they were swept aside in four straight games by the mercurial LA Lakers. They repeated the feat in 2002/2003 but again lost in the NBA finals this time to the San Antonio Spurs. They were back to the Eastern Conference finals in 2003/2004 but lost to the eventual NBA champs Detroit Pistons.
Further playoffs appearances followed during the next three seasons making it six in a row. However beginning in the 2007/2008 season it all went downhill as they failed to make it to the playoffs a single time in the rest of their time in New Jersey. During the 2009/2010 season they narrowly missed the record for most losses in NBA history posting a 12-70 record, but still the worst in franchise history. They also finished last in 2011/2012, their penultimate season as the New Jersey Nets.
The New Jersey Nets Most Memorable Moments
The Nets’ most successful period was perhaps the early 2000s, following the arrival of Jason Kidd.in 2001/2002, the perennial underperformers stunned the league when they won the division title with a 52-32 record. They beat the Indiana Pacers and Charlotte Hornets in the first and second playoff rounds to book an Eastern Conference Finals matchup with the Boston Celtics. After falling two games behind, they rallied back to even the series at 2-2. They then won game 5 to claim their first Eastern Conference Championship. In the NBA finals they met a star studded LA Lakers losing the series in four games. Appearing in the conference finals again the following season, they beat the Detroit Pistons in four straight games for a second consecutive Eastern Conference Championship title. They met the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA finals. Their defense was instrumental in shutting out the Spurs in two series-tying games including a 77-76 game 4, one of the lowest scoring games in NBA history. However, they then lost games 5 and 6 to hand San Antonio the NBA title.
New Jersey Nets most Notable Players
Jason Kidd played point guard for the Nets between from 2001 to 2008. Kidd’s arrival in 2001 had an instant impact as the nets recovered from a four year playoff drought to win the Eastern conference two seasons in a row and reach the playoffs for six consecutive seasons. He was voted an NBA All Star 10 times during his career.
Shooting Guard Jason Carter joined the Nets from the Toronto Raptors in 2004 and formed a formidable partnership with Jason Kidd. The 8-time NBA All-Star averaged more than 20 points per game during his five seasons for the Nets and his assists record was also impressive. He is known for his dunking prowess, with Michal Jordan perhaps the only player who can hold a torch to him in this regard.
Draen Petrović’ joined the Nets in January 1991 and during his first full season, 1991/1992, he averaged 20.6 points per game and had a 51% field goal percentage. In 1992/1993, he again averaged 22.3 ppg and a field goal percentage of 52. He established himself as the undisputed leader on the field in a team full of young stars, but he unfortunately passed away in a car accident at the end of the season.
What Happened to the New Jersey Nets?
In 2004, following the failure to strike a deal for a new stadium in Newark, the YankeeNets, who owned the franchise, sold the Nets to a group headed by Bruce Ratner for $300 million. In 2005, the new owners announced a plan to relocate the team to the Prospect Heights neighborhood in the heart of Brooklyn. In 2011, rapper Jay Z, who owns a minority stake in the franchise, announced that the name for the new team would be “Brooklyn Nets”. At the beginning of the 2012/2013 the team started playing at their new arena in Brooklyn, the Barclays Center. Though the move was intensely controversial and faced many legal hurdles, the new team became immensely popular in Brooklyn, topping the NBA in merchandise sales for the first few months of 2012/2013.