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Relocated NBA Teams: The New York Nets

The New York Nets were a basketball team that played in the defunct ABA and later the NBA. The team represents the fledging stage of the Brooklyn Nets who play in the NBA today. In 1966, business man and serial sports club owner Arthur J. Brown was awarded an ABA franchise for New York. Brown who had paid $30,000 for the rights to the franchise intended to play the new team at the 69th Regiment Armory in Manhattan. However, opposition from the Knicks forced the team to move to Teaneck, New Jersey where it adopted the name New Jersey Americans. They adopted the name New York nets just before the beginning of the 1968/69 season as they relocated to Commack in Long Island. The nickname Nets was picked because it rhymed with other major New York teams, the NFL’s Jets and MBL’s Mets. The team’s home stadium was the Long Island Arena during the 1968/69 season, the Island Gardens from 1969 to 1972 and the Nassau Memorial Coliseum from 1972 to 1976.

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The Nets were major force during their NBA years. They made the ABA playoffs every year beginning 1970 and advanced to the ABA Finals three times. They won the ABA Championship twice. When the Nets made their first ABA finals in 1971/72, they had exited at the first playoff round in the previous two seasons and had not registered a winning record before. After finishing the regular season with a 44-40 record, they went past the Kentucky Colonels in six games. They then beat the Virginia Squires in seven games in the Eastern Finals. In the ABA Finals, they were matched up against the Indiana Pacers to whom they would lose narrowly in game 7. In the absence of Rick Barry who had been ordered by the courts to return to the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, the Nets had to wait till two seasons later to try and make amends. Led by Julius Erving, they finished first in the division with a 55-39 record. They then dismissed the Virginia Squires in 5 games to set up an Eastern Finals showdown with the Kentucky Colonels who they defeated in four games. In the ABA Finals, they vanquished the Utah Stars in four straight games. They would be back to the finals again in 1975/76, again inspired by Erving who won his third straight MVP. They were lined up against the Denver Nuggets in the final and they came out on top in six games for their second ABA championship.

Following a merger between the NBA and the ABA, the Nets along with the San Antonio Spurs, Denver Nuggets and Indiana Pacers joined the NBA one month after the conclusion of the season. In order to gain admission to the NBA each team had to pay a $3 million fee. The Knicks who had been a stumbling block to the Nets as they were setting up in New York during their formative years again came back to haunt them. The Nets had to pay $4.2 million for what the Knicks termed as territorial infringement. In order to raise the money, they had to sell Julius Erving’s contract to the Philadelphia 76ers. Without Erving’s services, the Nets finished last in the NBA with a 22-60 record.

Why the New York Nets Relocated

Attendance had steadily improved during the 1970s from 1,108 in 1968/69 to a peak of 9,135 in the 1974/75 season. These were not bad numbers in the ABA but when they joined the NBA, they found the going tough due to the high costs of operating in the new league. Other NBA teams had attendance figures in the mid teens and it was obvious that a move away from Long Island was the best way to guarantee a future for the team. Before the 1977/78 season began, the Nets moved back to New York and the thorn in their backside that was the Knicks pricked deeper yet again. The Knicks rushed to court to sue the Nets for anti-trust violation and the Nets were compelled to fork out another $4 million to the Knicks in order for the move to be ratified. Once the move was made official, the team rechristened to New Jersey Nets.

New York Nets most Notable Players

Julius Erving F 1973-1976

Rick Barry F 1970-1972

Bill Melchionni PG 1969-1975

Brian Taylor G 1972-1976

John Roche PG 1971-1974

Billy Pautz C 1970-1975

John Williamson SG 1973-1976

Wendell Ladner F 1973-1975

Manny Leaks C/PF 1968/69, 1970-1972

Sonny Dove SF 1969-1972

Levern Tart PG 1968-1971

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