A Brief History of the New Jersey Nets – Since We’re Losing Them at the End of This Season

by Alice Magdziak • April 11, 2012 • Sports & LeisureComments (0)1855

Time to say goodbye.


The Barclays Center Arena is being built and is scheduled to open on September 12, 2012 with a team called the Brooklyn Nets. This isn’t the first name change for the team that’s currently known as the New Jersey Nets.

It all started in 1967 when The New Jersey Americans played in a converted armory in Teaneck. They began playing on October 23rd against the Pittsburgh Pipers with a group of semi-pro players. The brand new American Basketball Association was trying to take on the National Basketball Association in popularity and doing a poor job at it. The Americans were also doing a poor job of creating fans in the NY/NJ area and drew less then 1,000 fans per game while ending the season with a 36-42 record. To make matters worse, the Americans were due to play the Kentucky Colonels to qualify for the playoffs despite their horrible record and had to forfeit the game because a circus group had left the Teaneck Armory in such bad condition that the game couldn’t be played!

After just the one season in New Jersey, the franchise moved to a city on Long Island called Commack. Once the move was announced, a new name was also put into play.  A suggestion to the owner that the team be named Nets since it rhymed with the baseball Mets and football Jets was taken seriously and the name change took hold. Again, only one year was spent at the new home in Commack when the very next year, in 1969, the Nets changed owners and home towns by moving to the Island Garden in West Hempstead.

Several lack-luster years followed the move to West Hempstead but big things started happening in 1973 when the Nets acquired future superstar Julius Erving (Dr. J) from the Virginia Squires. Dr. J became an instant sensation, winning the ABA’s MVP while leading the league in scoring and leading the Nets to their first Division title with a 55-29 record. The Nets steam-rolled over the Utah Stars in the 1974-75 season winning the ABA Championship before 15,934 fans at the Nassau Coliseum 111-100.

The Nets continued to be good but didn’t win another championship before, along with the Denver Nuggets, they applied for membership in the NBA. The handwriting was on the wall for the American Basketball Association.  The Nets were ordered by the court to stay in the ABA but it was pretty clear that the league was failing. The Nets captured the final ABA Championship with a 112-116 victory on May 13th, 1976 before a sold out Nassau Coliseum. A month following the season the Nets along with Nuggets, Spurs, and Indiana Pacers were granted admission in the NBA as the ABA folded.

After joining the NBA in 1976, a contract dispute developed with their biggest star Julius Erving. After paying $8 million to join the NBA, the Nets were in financial trouble and were forced to sell Dr. J. to the Philadelphia 76ers for $3 million. The move would go down as one of the worst deals in NBA history as the Nets went from ABA Championship to NBA basement with a 22-60 record.

The 1977-78 season brought the Nets back to New Jersey while they played at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway. A new arena was being built in the Meadowlands. Now known as the New Jersey Nets the team still finished dead last with a 24-58 record. Several seasons later, they still weren’t that good. In 1981, with a new arena in the Meadowlands the Nets made the playoffs with a 44-38 record–their first NBA season with a winning record! 1982 through 1986, were years of some successes but no championships to speak of.  By the 1987/88 season, the Nets set the dubious NBA record of most missed games by their players ecause of injury than any other team in league history, during an awful last place 19-63 season.  That season was followed by many more abysmal seasons until 1992 when they made the headlines by hiring Coach Chuck Daly who had previously guided the Detroit Pistons to two NBA Championships and led the original Olympic Dream Team. 1992 through 1994 looked like rebuilding years but Daly was never able to turn the Nets into a championship team and resigned at the end of 1994.

The rest of the nineties were nothing to talk about but in 2001, the franchise got a huge step up when they got Point Guard Jason Kidd. This looked like their season as Kidd led a finally healthy team through the regular season looking like the team to beat in the playoffs.  Unfortunately, though, once they reached the Finals, they are swept by the Los Angeles Lakers in four straight games.

The 2002/03 season also seemed like their year but controversy on and off the court derailed any steam they were able to build up.   Same with the all the seasons that Jason Kidd had with the Nets.  He just couldn’t get the team to the ultimate prize.  In February 2008, as the trade deadline approached the Nets made the tough decision of trading Jason Kidd to the Dallas Mavericks and so a storied part of the New Jersey Nets’ chances at a championship seemed to fade into the distance.

Finally, at the beginning of the 2009/10 season, the Nets were sold to Mikhail Prokhorov, an eccentric Russian Billionaire. The team was moved to Newark’s Prudential Center in hopes that a fresh arena would spark interest in the fading team.  It seems to have done some toward that goal but it also seems like New Jersey has just given up on the Nets. Tickets to Nets games can be had for less than $10 on StubHub.

So, you have a few more games to go see your New Jersey Nets play in Newark before they pack up and head off to Brooklyn.  And, so we’re left with only one officially-New Jersey professional team, the NJ Devils.  They aren’t looking to move, are they??

Read more at these links:

Sports eCyclopedia – New Jersey Nets

Inside Hoops – Brooklyn Nets


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