Rick Barry (139 games, 1970-72)
Rick Barry was acquired by the New York Nets in September 1970, after he worked his way out of playing for the Virginia Squires by trashing the club’s move from Washington, D.C., in a Sports Illustrated article.
The ABA and the newly transplanted Squires were hoping having one of the league’s biggest stars featured on the cover of the popular magazine would provide a boost. Instead, it created a public-relations nightmare when Barry popped off in SI’s Aug. 17, 1970, edition:
My son Scooter is supposed to go to nursery school this year. I hate to think of the complications that’ll cause in Virginia. I don’t want him to go down there to school and learn to speak with a Southern accent. He’ll come home from school saying, ‘Hi, y’all, Daad.’ I sure don’t want that.
Barry, renowned for having a less-than-easygoing personality, wasn’t done.
I’ve been to Virginia once before, to a basketball tournament in Portsmouth. It seemed all right, but then I knew I’d be leaving right away. That gives you some idea how I feel about the place. I could say a lot worse things, but I won’t … yet.
Barry became the first big-name NBA star to jump to the ABA when he left the San Francisco Warriors to sign with the Oakland Oaks in 1967. Court battles forced him to sit out a season and then after one year in Oakland, the franchise moved to Washington. A year later came the move to Virginia.
Going East was not something the New Jersey native wanted to do and he used his bitterness as leverage out of Virginia, eventually being acquired by the Nets in exchange for a first-round pick in 1971 and a reported $200,000 cash.
Then he signed a two-year deal for $250,000 with the Nets having already agreed to jump back to the Warriors for the 1972-73 season.
He was terrific in two seasons in New York, despite missing 25 games in 1970 with an ankle injury. Barry made the All-Star team both years, was an All-ABA selection both seasons and led the Nets to their first ABA Finals in 1972.
In 139 games with the club, he averaged 30.6 points, 7.2 rebounds and 4.5 assists on .462/.285/.883 shooting in 44.0 minutes per game and in 24 playoff games, put up 31.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 43.2 minutes a night while shooting .484/.420/.844.
Barry still holds single-season franchise records with 3,616 minutes played, 1.969 field-goal attempts, 641 free throws, 730 free-throw attempts, 2518 points and 45.2 minutes per game in 1971-72 and he is the only player in franchise history to average 30 points per game in a season, putting up 31.5 a night in 1971-72.
But Barry is much more well-known for his eight seasons with the Warriors, which included winning Finals MVP in 1975 when Golden State shocked a 60-win Washington Bullets club in a four-game sweep.