When the Brooklyn Nets won the free agency lottery during the 2019 offseason, things began looking up for them. This team had not always been considered as a serious threat in the league, but by acquiring the services of both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving that fateful summer, they instantly propelled themselves as serious contenders moving forward.
Things haven’t always been good for the Nets, though. Much like every other team in the league, the Nets were also once one of the worst teams in the NBA. There were several extended periods of obscurity for this franchise, but still, those times pale in comparison to what we will be presenting to you below. Today we look back at three of the most heartbreaking moments in the history of the Brooklyn Nets franchise.
Goodbye Dr. J
Julius Erving is widely considered as one of the best players in Philadelphia 76ers franchise history. However, what most folks probably don’t remember about his decorated career is that he was once a Net. Erving first joined the Nets in 1973, when at that time they were still the New York Nets. He had three amazing years with the team, averaging 28.2 points (on 50.8 percent shooting), 10.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 2.3 steals, and 2.1 blocks in three seasons. This resulted in thee consecutive All-Star team appearances as well as two ABA championships.
However, the Nets were cash-strapped at that time, and during the 1976 offseason, they opted to sell the rights to Erving to the Sixers. The rest, as they say, is history. The 6-foot-7 small forward went on to have a very successful career with Philly, which included a championship in 1983. Had the Nets opted to keep Irving on board, then perhaps they too could have remained relevant in the NBA in the late-1970’s/early-1980’s.
Death of Drazen Petrovic
In January of 1991, the Nets got a hold of 6-foot-5 shooting guard Drazen Petrovic from the Portland Trail Blazers. The following season, the Croatian national emerged as the team’s best player, as he helped the team to their first playoff berth in six years. This was succeeded by another trip to the postseason the following year, behind Petrovic’s averages of 22.3 points (on 51.8 percent shooting), 2.7 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 1.3 steals. At 28, he was in his prime, and looked to be the man to lead the team to success moving forward.
After the 1992-93 campaign, Petrovic flew to Berlin, Germany to join the Croatian National Team for a qualification tournament for the EuroBasket. Sadly, Petrovic was never able to return to U.S. soil. The Nets star met a tragic vehicular accident in Germany’s famed Autobahn highway. It was reported that it was Petrovic’s then-girl friend Kiara Szalantzy who was driving the vehicle when a truck crashed into them, killing Petrovic who was seated in the passenger seat.
This was a terrible moment for the Nets as they lost their star to an untimely death, and pretty much set back the franchise for another decade or so.
The 2013 Blockbuster Trade
This one is more about a series of painful developments that transpired in the span of several years as opposed to a single heart-wrenching moment. Nonetheless, the blockbuster trade of 2013 — one that is considered by many as one of the worst deals in league history — has to make it on our list today.
Here’s how the story goes: in the summer of 2013, Brooklyn pulled the trigger on a blockbuster deal that brought over Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce (among others) to the Nets. At this point, both stars were six years removed from their epic 2008 title run with the Boston Celtics, and there’s no denying that they were both on the tail end of their illustrious careers. This deal looked like it was going to make the Nets title contenders, but at the same time, there was a nagging feeling that this might not have been the smartest move. As the season progressed, it proved to be the latter.
After overcoming their early-season struggles, the Nets were able to make it to the playoffs. They even defeated the Toronto Raptors in a memorable seven-game series in the first round, setting up a semi-finals berth against the Miami Heat in the second round. LeBron James and the Heat made easy work of Brooklyn, ending the series 4-1.
Pierce was gone the following summer, with Garnett also being traded away in the middle of the succeeding season, which effectively put an end to the short-lived Garnett-Pierce era in Brooklyn. Two seasons later, the Nets lost 61 games and were back at square one.
That’s not the end of that, though. What makes this deal even worse is what the Nets had to give up during the trade. This came in the form of Gerald Wallace, Kris Humphries, Kris Joseph, Keith Bogans, MarShon Brooks, and four (!) future first-round picks. They pretty much gave up their future for the next five years. As for the Celtics, these picks turned out to be Jaylen Brown in 2016, Jayson Tatum in 2017, and Kyrie Irving in 2018 (the 2018 first-round pick was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers as part of the Irving deal). Talk about a one-sided deal.