The Brooklyn Nets franchise is one of the oldest NBA squads in history, tracing its roots as far back as 1967 in the ABA.
Before relocating to the Barclays Center in Brooklyn in the 2012-13 season, the team was once called the New Jersey Americans in the ‘60s, before adopting the Nets monicker in 1977.
While the team continued to be relevant with each passing decade, the Nets have had its fair share of heartbreaks through the years. But the franchise never allowed those setbacks to define them, as the Nets also experienced triumphant feats — particularly in their early days.
Today, we will rank the 5 greatest moments in the Brooklyn/New Jersey Nets history.
5. Signing Durant and Irving (2019)
As mentioned, the Nets franchise has only begun writing their new history in Brooklyn. Still, their amazing heist in the summer of 2019 has got to go down as one of the best free-agent signings in history. Not only did the Nets emerged as the victors of the Kevin Durant sweepstakes, but they also managed to add another superstar point guard to pair him with.
Brooklyn swooped in and signed another NBA champion in Kyrie Irving, giving the team a new dynamic duo in the Eastern Conference. They also snagged All-Star center DeAndre Jordan during that span.
Of course, the jury is still out if this tandem can bring the Nets back to the promised land. KD won’t be back until next year as he continues to recover from his Achilles injury, while Irving only got to play 20 games due to shoulder impingement.
4. Acquiring Jason Kidd (2001)
While Stephon Marbury was outstanding in his early run with the Nets, it was quite evident that the team needed stability in the point guard position in order to make that next step.
While the move wasn’t as highly publicized at the time, the Nets perhaps made their best decision yet by reaching a deal with the Phoenix Suns for Jason Kidd.
That early 2000s Nets squad massively overachieved with Kidd running point. Kenyon Martin, Kerry Kittles, and a young Richard Jefferson were all talented players, but Kidd simply made them look like stars at the height of their powers.
Kidd was a terror on both sides of the ball and was truly the second coming of Magic Johnson. The 6-foot-4 facilitator even showed the willingness to work on his weaknesses. Often teased by opposing fans as “Ason” for his supposed lack of J, Kidd worked on his jumper and became a deadly 3-pointer shooter over time.
He played a total of 7 seasons in New Jersey and still leads the team in 3-point attempts (2,377), 3-point field goals (813), assists (4,620), and steals (950).
3. Back-to-back Finals appearances (2002 and 2003)
Despite falling short on both occasions, the Nets’ conquest of the East at the time was still quite the feat. As mentioned earlier, the Kidd-led team didn’t exactly look like world-beaters compared to the other powerhouse squads at the time. Still, their fast-paced and high-flying act caught a lot of teams off guard, including mighty units like the Celtics, Pistons, and Bucks.
Sadly for the Nets, their reward for reaching the Finals in ’02 was a date with the overpowered Lakers squad led by Shaq and Kobe. While they tried their darndest to keep up with LA, the Lakers made minced meat of the Nets and swept them in four games.
New Jersey used that championship experience the following year, as they once again clawed their way to the Finals. This time, they matched up against a Spurs team bannered by a prime Tim Duncan. They put up a much better fight this time around but still fell short in 6 games.
2. Signing Dr. J (1973)
While the Kidd acquisition was game-changing, the Nets being able to land Julius Erving in the ‘70s put the franchise on the basketball map. Erving was widely considered the league’s Michael Jordan, long before his Airness stopped foot into the pros.
While legal troubles prevented him from suiting up for the Milwaukee Bucks and Atlanta Hawks, the New York Nets hit the jackpot when Dr. J’s ABA team, the Virginia Squires, was forced to sell his contract. The rest, as we know of, was history. The afro-wearing high-leaper showcased breathtaking athleticism to mainstream television and became a big influence to a new generation of ballers.
While Erving will be widely remembered for his Sixers days, Dr. J certainly made the Nets cool and worth following during his three-year stay with the team.
1. Two ABL titles (1974 and 1976)
The arrival of Erving not only gave the Nets popularity — it also gave the team a taste of success that they haven’t experienced since.
Technically, Erving is only considered a one-time NBA champion with the Sixers in 1983. But considering that the ABA and NBA merged in 1976, we’ll also give his two titles with the Nets some well-deserved merit.
The team became immediate contenders upon his arrival and raced atop the standings. He once again led the league in scoring (27.4 points) in 1974 and captured the first of three consecutive MVP awards that year. The Nets dispatched Erving’s old team, the Squires, before doing the same to the Kentucky Colonels. The formidable Utah Stars awaited them in the finale. However, the Nets claimed their destiny and won the chip in five games.
While they failed to defend their title the following year, the Nets once again came out strong in 1976. Dr. J engaged in an epic duel with George Gervin and the Spurs in the first round. The series reached seven games with the Nets emerging as victors. The Nets faced another stiff challenge in the finals, in the form of the Denver Nuggets. The Dr. and company once again came out on top, as Erving averaged a magnificent 37.7 points in 6 games.