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Relocated NBA Teams: The New Jersey Nets

The New Jersey Nets was a basketball team that played in the NBA from 1976 to 2012. Today the team is known as the Brooklyn Nets following a short move and name change in 2012. The franchise had begun in 1967 as the New York Americans and changed their name to New York Nets in 1968. Frustrated by the New York Knicks in their attempts to settle down in the Big Apple, the Nets moved to New Jersey in 1976 and became the New Jersey Nets. In the same year, they were among three other ABA teams to join the NBA as the two organizations merged. The Nets played their home games at different arenas including the Nassau Coliseum, Rutgers Athletic Center, Continental Airlines Arena and Prudential Center.

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Their beginnings in the NBA were miserable. Having parted with 3.4 million dollars as admission fee to the NBA, the league forced them to fork out a further 4.8 million as compensation to the Knicks for encroachment on their fan base. Forced to sell their star player Julius Erving in order to cover these costs, the Nets fell from ABA Champions to last in the NBA. The New Jersey Nets were a regular fixture in the NBA playoffs during the 80 and 90s but solid success evaded them until the turn of the millennium. The addition of Jason Kidd in 2001 was the spark they needed to turn into true title contenders. They won their first division title that year and then went on a magical run that saw them advance all the way to the NBA Finals as they vanquished the Indiana Pacers, Charlotte Hornets and Boston Celtics in that order along the way. In the Finals however, they were sent back down to earth by the mighty Los Angeles Lakers as they lost in four straight games. The following season, again led by the formidable Kidd, they cemented their place as heavy weights by returning to the NBA Finals. They were lined up against the San Antonio Spurs who sent them packing in six games. Those two years would remain the pinnacle of their New Jersey years as they failed to make another NBA Finals in subsequent seasons.

Jason Kidd has to be one of the biggest impact players in NBA history. When he joined the Nets from the Phoenix Suns in 2001, they had just come off a disappointing 26-56 season and the events of the next season must have felt like a dream to fans. Jason led the team in scoring while leading the NBA in assists and triple doubles as the Nets won their first division title, leading through the whole season and then made the NBA Finals. The Nets’ best moments coincided with Jason’s, making six straight playoffs from 2002 to 2007. When he finally decided he had had enough of the Nets in 2008, the team returned to their average selves missing the playoffs from then on.

Through their time in New Jersey, the team was riddled with comedic and often controversial moments. From player arrests to signed players failing to show up, New Jersey were the perfect team for tabloid journalists. One journalist quipped that the Nets were uncommonly accessible and that kept their affairs in the public limelight. Following a game against the Buffalo braves in October 1977, William Averitt was arrested for writing a fraudulent check and for unpaid dog roaming tickets. Another egg-on-face incident involved Rollie Massimino who had been appointed coach in 1985. After publicly accepting a 10 year deal with the nets, club officials and journalists spent a full afternoon waiting for Massimino at a news conference scheduled for 1.30 pm on June 20. He had changed his mind without informing the Nets hierarchy, leaving them embarrassed.

Why were the New Jersey Nets Relocated?

The nets were not quite able to command the kind of following the league heavyweights or even the New York Knicks enjoyed. Fans remained largely indifferent towards the team even during the eruption of form at the turn of the Millennium. In order to change this situation, the team’s new owners hatched a plan in 2004 to move the team back to New York, a larger market and the team’s true home. Further the City of Newark refused to build a new arena for the team. It was announced that the team would be relocating to Brooklyn, considered a Mecca of sorts for basketball and Hip Hop which go hand in hand. Rapper Jay Z, a Brooklyn native was appointed the new team’s public face despite owning a meager 0.07%. Legal battles held up the construction of the Barclays Centre which would serve as the team’s home but once these were cleared, ground was broken on the new stadium in 2010. The team relocated to Brooklyn in April 2012, becoming the Brooklyn Nets.

New Jersey Nets’ Most Notable Players

Otis Birdsong SG 1981-1988

Mike Gminski C 1980-1988

Jason Kid PG 2001-2008

Albert King SF 1981-1988

Derrick Coleman PF/C 1990-1996

Kenny Anderson PG 1991-1996

Kerry Kittles SG 1996-2004

Vince Carter SG 2004-2009

Richard Jefferson SF 2001-2008

Jason Collins C 2001-2008

Lucious Harris SG 1997-2004

Kenyon Martin PF 2000-2004

Jayson Williams PF 1992-1999

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