(Long Island, NY) This season marks the 30th anniversary of the 1975-76 New York Nets winning the last ABA championship. One of the ‘outlaw’ league’s premiere franchises captured the crown that closed the book on the ABA before the merger with the NBA.
The team started out in 1967 as the New Jersey Americans and called the Teaneck Armory home. The following season they moved to Long Island and changed their name to the New York Nets. Throughout their history, they played their home games in venues such as the Long Island Arena, the Island Garden and later the Nassau Coliseum.
The Nets captured two ABA championships in their final three seasons, the first coming in 1973-74. The team had many talented and colorful players, such as Rick Barry, “Super” John Williamson, Billy Paultz and Bill Melchionni. But their best was obviously Dr. J himself, Julius Erving.
Erving was a native Long Islander and played at Roosevelt High School. He left the University of Massachusetts after two years and signed as an undergraduate with the Virginia Squires of the ABA in 1970. The Nets acquired him in a trade in 1973 and he brought his high flying dunks home.
The Doctor became the marquee attraction for the league. The ABA went through turbulent periods throughout its history and needed a talent such as Erving and for him to make his team successful. The Nets were a more stable franchise than Virginia and in a bigger market. It was a perfect setting.
The Nets defeated the Denver Nuggets in six games in the 1975-76 ABA championship series. The Nuggets had the league’s best record during the regular season, followed by the Nets. They were a tough out and were coached by present New York Knicks head coach Larry Brown. The clinching game was played at the Nassau Coliseum.
The following season, the Nets, Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers merged with the NBA. The four clubs had to pay fees to join the league and in addition had to forfeit television revenues and draft rights. The Nets had to also pay the Knicks territory fees.
In serious financial trouble, the Nets sold Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers on the eve of their NBA opener. They lasted the one season at the Coliseum before the franchise came full circle and moved back to New Jersey.