Brooklyn Nets: History of Nets on All-Star Saturday

Brooklyn Nets Spencer Dinwiddie All-Star Saturday Night (Photo by Philip Pacheco/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Spencer Dinwiddie All-Star Saturday Night (Photo by Philip Pacheco/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images) /
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Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1974 NBAE (Photo by Jim Cummins/NBAE via Getty Images) /

The first Slam Dunk Contest

The American Basketball Association was in its waning days by late January 1976, when its All-Star Game was set for the new McNichols Sports Arena in Denver.

The league had taken some body blows in what would be its final season. The Baltimore Claws, relocated from Memphis in the offseason, folded before even making it to the season opener.

In mid-November, the San Diego Sails closed up shop and on Dec. 1, the Utah Stars joined them.

That left the ABA with just seven teams in one league, with the divisions eliminated.

For the All-Star Game, the plan was to have the team with the best record play a team of All-Stars made up from the other six teams.

As luck would have it, that team was the Denver Nuggets.

But the ABA, always an innovative organization as it fought for a place on a stage dominated by the established NBA, threw in a wrinkle for its All-Star festivities.

A Slam Dunk Contest would be held at halftime of the All-Star Game with four competitors — David Thompson of the host Nuggets, Artis Gilmore of the Kentucky Colonels, George Gervin of the San Antonio Spurs and Julius Erving of the New York Nets, the two-time reigning league MVP.

In what has become part of basketball lore, Erving blew the competition away with a then-unheard of dunk from the free throw line, a dunk that many more people than the 17,798 in the arena swear they saw live and in person.

It was a feat made more remarkable by the fact that Erving didn’t come in with fresh legs, having just played a half of basketball for the ABA All-Stars.

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Erving was known as Dr. J throughout his Hall of Fame career that spanned 16 seasons across two leagues, but he should also be remembered as the father of the modern dunk contest for that now-legendary soaring one-hander from the foul line.