The New Jersey Nets: Team History
Established in 1967, the New Jersey Nets, recently rebranded as the Brooklyn Nets, ranks among history’s most popular NBA franchises. The team started as the New Jersey Americans, and despite representing NJ, they played some of their first home games in another city. This was the start of a New Jersey professional basketball team being transformed, which is discussed in detail below.
The Early Years
The first six years as a franchise saw the New Jersey Nets struggle to gain any success. This quickly changed when the team recruited the services of Julius “Dr J” Erving. He managed to lead the team to two ABA (American Basketball Association) finals in 1974 and 1976. While things seemed to be going well, the team hit a rough patch as the ABA, and the NBA merged.
Since the New Jersey Nets were among the smaller teams in the league, the $8 million figure to secure a position as an NBA team was steep. To the dismay of New Jersey basketball fans, Julius Erving was sold to the Philadelphia 76ers, and this was just the tip of the iceberg. Their best player was gone, and they suffered numerous defeats within their first five seasons.
With accumulated losses, the franchise was moved back to the Garden State in 1977, with home games played at the Rutgers University Stadium. The year 1981 saw the team switch stadiums to the Meadowlands. This also prompted fresh talents to be recruited, which saw rising prospect Buck Williams being added to the roster. After a successful 1982 season, the team didn’t capture another championship but became a considerable force in the league.
While the team and the fans enjoyed a few stellar campaigns, the Nets relinquished its success and saw five seasons of competitive misfortune. This continued until drafting Derrick Coleman, Drazen Petrovic, and Kenny Anderson.
A Brief History of Name Changes
Before moving to Long Island, the team played their home games in Teaneck, NJ. The move to New York prompted the name change to become the New York Nets. New Jersey Nets was chosen once the team returned to the Garden State. In 2012, the franchise moved to Brooklyn, which brought about the current denomination Brooklyn Nets.
Below is a timeline of the name changes of the team:
- 1968 – New Jersey Americans (ABA)
- 1969 – 1976 – New York Nets (ABA)
- 1977 – New York Nets (NBA)
- 1978 – 2012 – New Jersey Nets (NBA)
- 2013 – 2021 – Brooklyn Nets (NBA)
New Jersey Nets Players
While the New Jersey basketball team experienced inconsistent results over multiple seasons, some players made a huge difference. Below are three of the most notable players that significantly impacted the team’s success.
As soon as Jason Kidd arrived on the scene, the team culture swiftly changed. In the 2001- 2002 season, the Nets finished with a 52-30 record but ultimately lost in the finals. Kidd’s career averages are:
- 9.2 APG
- 7.3 RPG
- 14.4 PPG
Kidd played an essential part in the success of the Nets as a player; however, his role as the team’s coach was riddled with controversy. He also took a coaching role with the Milwaukee Bucks in 2014 in exchange for second-round draft picks.
Arguably, one of the best players the Nets had during his era, Julius Erving, better known as Dr J, spent three years with the franchise in the ABA. Erving helped the Nets secure two titles and holds the number six spot in all-time scorers in Nets history with 7,104 points scored. His career averages are:
- 5.0 APG
- 10.7 RPG
- 27.4 PPG
Dr J could be regarded as the greatest player in the franchise’s history; however, this would detract from what he did with the Philadelphia 76ers.
Charles Linwood “Buck” Williams spent seven years with the Nets before his final season during 1988 – 1989. Furthermore, Buck Williams made the NBA All-Star team on three occasions, 1982, 1983, and 1986, while also being named in the 1981-82 All-Rookie First Team, the 1982-83 All-NBA Second Team, as well as the 1987-88 All-Defensive Second Team. Williams’ average career stats are as follows:
- 1.3 APG
- 10.0 RPG
- 12.8 PPG
While Williams went on to play for the Portland Trailblazers and the New York Knicks, he can be regarded as one of the greatest New Jersey Nets players of all time.
Fan Bases in the State of New Jersey
When it comes to NJ teams, one thing we can all agree on is that everyone loves to disagree! From a place of good intentions and friendly debates, arguments such as the classic pork roll vs. Taylor Ham will never cease. Additionally, loyalty to a New Jersey professional basketball team often depends on which borough they come from.
Southern NJ tends to support teams in Philadelphia, whereas the northern part leans toward teams based in New York.
The majority of Nets fans are either Brooklyn residents or die-hard residents that have supported the team since the ABA era. The reality is that most sports fans, particularly basketball fans, are no longer tied to the team based in their respective regions.
Instead, teams will gain support if it’s passed down via family members or friends, or they’ll choose teams based on success if they’re newcomers to the sport.
Overall, it’s unlikely that New Jersey will be represented by another NBA team.