1. Acquiring Julius Erving
Do the Nets win those two titles with Erving? I’m going to say no and with good reason. The three years he spent in New York were three of his best. He was the ABA’s most dominant star. Three MVPs are just the starting point, and he averaged 28.2 points, 10.9 boards, 5.2 assists, 2.3 steals, and 2.1 blocks in those seasons.
Even more jarring than his numbers is how the Nets were able to land him. As a rookie with the Virginia Squires back in 1971-72, Erving quickly put his stud status on display. After putting up 27.3 points and 15.7 rebounds, he finished runner-up to Artis Gilmore as ABA ROY. In April of ’72, the Milwaukee Bucks selected him 12th overall and were ready to pair him with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Oscar Robertson, and Bob Dandridge. Just ponder that for a second: a hyper-talented small forward alongside Kareem who averaged 34.8 points and 16.6 rebounds during ’71-’72.
Erving, however, signed with the Hawks before being forced to return to the ABA. Legal troubles would have Atlanta fined $25,000 for every game he played for them.
The 1972-73 season was spent with the Squires, but they would have to sell his contract. As a result, the Nets were the beneficiary. The act of selling big-name players wasn’t uncommon in the ABA since the league was struggling financially, and teams needed the cash flow.
The rest, well, is history. In just three years, he changed the franchise and made his case as the team’s greatest player.