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Nets 35 years in New Jersey comes to end tonight

Apr 23, 2012, 1:01 PM EDT

julius-erving Getty Images

There is a history lost tonight.

It is Dr. J flying through the air. It is the ABA. It is Jason Kidd leading a team to consecutive NBA finals. It is a string of hard luck breaks.

For 35 years they have been the New Jersey Nets. Tonight at the Prudential Center in Newark will be the last Nets game ever in the Garden State. Next year they are the Brooklyn Nets.

It’s been a hard history from the start — the Nets franchise won two ABA titles as the New York Nets and playing in the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum out on Long Island. They won those because they had Julius Erving — Dr. J. — leading the way. But the merger with the NBA meant coming up with a $4.8 million payment and the only way the Nets could do that was to sell Dr. J to the Philadelphia 76ers. He never played for the Nets in Jersey. Erving won titles in Philly, and the Nets were left to wonder “what if?”

So it seems to have always gone for the Nets.

When they came to the NBA the franchise moved to New Jersey, playing at Rutgers the first eight years. They were not very good. Eventually the team moved out of the college campus and to the Meadowlands, but their luck never really improved.

The drafted Derrick Coleman, who never lived up to the hype. They drafted Drazen Petrovic, who fast became one of the best shooters in the game then was killed in a tragic car accident.

Lawrence Frank, a New Jersey native, told the Associated Press the move to Brooklyn makes him sad.

“It’s hard to believe that basketball won’t be in New Jersey anymore,” said former Nets and current Pistons coach Lawrence Frank, who grew up in Teaneck, where the franchise played its first season in 1967-68 as the Americans of the ABA before a move to Long Island the following season. “Having grown up there and coached there, obviously there’s a lot of deep-seated feelings. To me, there was a little bit of separation when the team went to Newark, but the fact they’ll no longer be playing in New Jersey – it’s going to be sad.”

The Nets have been on the track to Brooklyn since real estate developer Bruce Ratner bought the team in 2004. He planed to use a new arena as a lynchpin for the development and he needed a key tenant for an arena. Both he and new owner Mikhail Prokhorov stand to make a lot of money on the real estate end of the Nets move. The Nets slid out of the Medowlands two seasons ago and have bided their time in Newark, waiting for Brooklyn to be ready.

The Nets will face the 76ers in their final New Jersey game tonight. That seems fitting.

  1. beansnfrank - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:20 PM

    Drazen was not drafted by the Nets but traded to them via Portland.

  2. jerseyfinatic - Apr 23, 2012 at 1:42 PM

    😦 I think Im gonna cry tonight. It’s been tough being a Nets fan. No media attention or respect, even through our back to back Finals. Still, however, I am proud to be a Nets fan and I will always have pride for my team. Brooklyn: Here We Come!

  3. jimeejohnson - Apr 23, 2012 at 2:00 PM

    As a kid, I saw the soles of Dr. J’s sneakers on one of his jump-shots. That was special!

  4. deadontoilet - Apr 23, 2012 at 2:01 PM

    Dražen Petrović was drafted by the Portland Trailblazers, not the Nets. He was traded to the Nets for a first-round pick after a year and a half in Portland.

  5. rexismybff - Apr 23, 2012 at 2:06 PM

    Seems wrong to write a post like this, and not mention all the good times with Vince Carter, Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin, being tied 2-games apiece in the finals against Duncan and the Spurs. There’s a lot more good that could be said about the Jason Kidd era, and some of the names that came and went through Newark during that period, including Van Horn, Marbury, Mutombo, etc…

    Fact is, they ran into the two best big-men of our time in back-to-back finals series (Shaq and Duncan), but the Nets were certainly championship worthy themselves.

  6. ibchuck33 - Apr 23, 2012 at 2:17 PM

    Dr J won one title in Philly. And the Nets did not draft Petrovic. He was traded from Portland to NJ. Nice piece of research.

  7. brianbosworthisstonecold - Apr 23, 2012 at 4:25 PM

    Mike, please put Kurt on unpaid administrative leave so he can figure out on how to use the internet and its many uses. Oh, btw, can you tell that idiot that Portland was his first nba team?

  8. cordae - Apr 23, 2012 at 4:41 PM

    “Erving won titles in Philly”

    The doc won one title in Philly. I usually dont bash Kurts articles, I dont care about grammatical errors, but knowing your s**t is different.

    Damn, can i get a job app NBC?

  9. ron05342 - Apr 23, 2012 at 5:14 PM

    Two posters beat me to it. Dr. J won “a title” with Philly in 1983.

    The other thing that bothered me about this story was the lead-in, “It is Dr. J flying through the air.” Right away I knew that was wrong, as Dr. J played for the Nets only in New York, a fact delineated later in the story.

    It’s almost like false advertising to the uninitiated, or better yet, ignorant due to age. It is misleading, and I have no idea why you wrote it that way, Kurt.

    Very disappointing. But then again, I guess MSNBC has never claimed its writers to be classic newspaper types from the ’50’s, ’60’s, and ’70’s. We are stuck with mediocrity here in the Internet Age and the 21st Century. 😦

  10. 06mustang - Apr 23, 2012 at 11:17 PM

    Yo Kurt. Show some love for the Trail Blazers. Drazen Petrovic was drafted by the Blazers then traded to the Nets later. A fan favorite, he was seen bawling in the locker room after being told of the trade. The people of Portland were very sad at his passing. He was a fan favorite and one hell of a nice man.

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