[Get Exclusive Tips on our Patreon, Ad-Free]
The New York Nets were an American Professional basketball team that played in the now defunct ABA from 1976 to 1976 and in the NBA during the 1976/77 season. The team had a nomadic existence during the first few years before settling in New Jersey and recently Brooklyn. The team is now known as the Brooklyn Nets.
How did the New York Nets start up?
The franchise was started in 1966 as a charter member of the ABA. The team, then christened the New York Americans had a tough time establishing itself in New York due to resistance from the New York Knicks. Unable to find a permanent venue in New York due to sabotage by the Knicks, the Americans played their home games for the first season at the Teaneck armory in New Jersey. The next year, they moved to Long Island and adopted the name New York Nets. The “Nets” moniker was picked to rhyme with the names of baseball’s New York Mets and the AFL’s Jets. It was also a befitting nickname for a basketball team.
The Nets in Competition
During the 1966/77 season, the team, then playing as the New Jersey Americans finished in fourth place in the Eastern Division to earn a playoff spot. Come the playoffs however, the Teaneck Armory was booked and their efforts to secure a satisfactory venue at the last minute were unsuccessful. As a result they were forced to forfeit the series 2-0 to the Kentucky Colonels. The next season, following their move to Long Island and change of name, a largely disjointed Nets team finished last with a 17-61 record. The Nets made the playoffs in the 1969/70 season but were eliminated by the Colonels in seven games. They suffered the same fate at the hands of the Virginia Squires the following season.
In 1971/72, the Nets had their first winning record 44-40 and in the playoffs they beat the Colonels in six games. They then saw off the Squires in seven games to win the Eastern Finals. In the ABA finals they pushed the Indiana Pacers all the way to game 7 which they lost 108-105. The next season, having lost Rick Barry due to a court order that sent him back to the NBA, they were eliminated in the first playoff round in five games by the Carolina Cougars. They however brought in Julius Erving who instantly became a crowd favorite. The star led them to their first division title with a 55-29 record in the 1973/74 season. They then saw off the Squires and the Colonels in succession to earn another ABA Final appearance. They faced off with the Utah Stars whom they beat in four straight games for their first ABA title.
Coming off their ABA championship win, the Nets would register a 58-26 record for second in the division in 1974/75. They were however eliminated in four straight games by the St. Louis Spirits in the first playoff round. With the ABA in swift decline, the Nets would match to the Finals where they met the Denver Nuggets who they beat in six games to capture the very last ABA championship. Following that season the ABA folded and the nets were admitted to the more lucrative NBA. Having been forced to sell their best player, Julius Erving in order to afford entry fees, the team performed dismally winning just 22 games in the 1976/77 season.
The New York Nets’ most Notable Moments
The ABA championship win of 1974 is widely described as the finest moment in the Nets’ history. Having made it to the playoffs following a division topping 55-29 record, the Nets knocked aside Erving’s former team Virginia Squires in five games before defeating the Kentucky Colonels in the Eastern Finals in four straight games. In the ABA final they swept the first three games against the Utah Stars. Game four was played at the Nets’ Nassau Coliseum before a record crowd of 15,934 fans. The team emerged victorious 111-100 sending the fans and payers into Euphoria.
The Nets had bad luck when it came to retaining their stars. In 1973, Rick Barry who had signed from the NBA’s Golden State Warriors was snatched from them after a court found irregularities in breaking his previous contract with the Warriors and ordered him to honor it. Again in 1976, just as they prepared for their first season in the NBA, they were forced to pay the Knicks 4.8 million. They had to sell Julius Erving to raise the money.
The Nets’ most Notable Players
Rick Barry was the standout performer for the Nets during the early years of the franchise. He led the team in scoring in 1970/71 and 1971/72 with 29.4 ppg and 31.5 ppg respectively. He was however forced by court order in 1972 to go back to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors and honor his contract.
Julius Erving joined the Nets in 1973 following the departure of Rick Barry and helped to rekindle the team’s competitive edge. He led the team to two ABA titles and won league MVP in each of his three seasons with the nets. Erving went on to become one of the best players in the NBA scoring a total of 30,026 career points.
Other notable players include Brian Taylor, Wendell Ladner and Bill Melchionni.
What Happened to the New York Nets?
The territorial wars with the Knicks had always been a pain in the neck for the Knicks. Following the move to the NBA, the Nets were forced to pay the Knicks $4.8 million for infringement of territory. This was in addition to 3.2 million paid as entry fees. The team had to sell Erving to cover these costs. Without their star player, the Nets performed poorly and fan turnout declined. By the end of the 1976/77 season it was clear there was no future for the team in Long Island. As a result the team moved to Newark, New Jersey where they were guaranteed a larger fan base, even though they had to pay the Knicks another $4 million to allow the move. The team was renamed the “New Jersey Nets.”