Brooklyn Nets: Here is not a place Nets fans have been before

Brooklyn Nets Billy Paultz. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1971 NBAE (Photo by Paul Bereswill/NBAE via Getty Images)
Brooklyn Nets Billy Paultz. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 1971 NBAE (Photo by Paul Bereswill/NBAE via Getty Images) /
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Brooklyn Nets
Brooklyn Nets Julius Erving (Photo by Dan Farrell/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images) /

Lots of highs and a pair of massive lows on Long Island

The New York Nets spent nine years in all playing on Long Island, one season at Long Island Arena, followed by parts of three at Island Garden in West Hempstead before moving into the then-spanking-new Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale midway through the 1971-72 campaign.

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Those nine years included three trips to the ABA Finals, including championships in both 1974 and 1976 led by Hall of Famer Julius Erving.

But there were lows, too.

In 1969, the Nets had the first pick in the ABA Draft and would be going head-to-head with the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks for Lew Alcindor (later more well-known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), the hottest commodity coming out of college since Wilt Chamberlain.

Alcindor’s agent, Sam Gilbert, told both teams they would hear one offer each and then Alcindor would make his choice.

The ABA researched, according to former Indiana Pacers general manager Mike Storen in Loose Balls, and found that a $1 million certified check along with the rest of their offer — four years and $1 million on top of the check — would get a deal done to bring Alcindor in the ABA.

George Mikan, the ABA’s first commissioner, had the check in his pocket when he and Arthur Brown met with Gilbert and Alcindor.

But Mikan never brought the check out. Instead, it was a four-year, $1 million offer. The Bucks beat it and Alcindor went to Milwaukee.

According to Storen:

"“Mikan said, ‘We decided that it wasn’t necessary to give him our best offer. We figure when he comes back to us, then we’ll use the cbeck for the second round of talks.’ “I screamed, ‘You did what?’ “Mikan said, ‘Don’t panic, we know that he’s coming back. He’s going to get the NBA’s offer and he’ll come back to us.’ “I said, ‘Is that what he said he would do?’ “Mikan said, ‘Not exactly. The kid did say that he would make the decision.’ “I was really screaming. ‘You dumb SOBs, why did we spend all that money to find out all this information if you’re not going to use it? How could you guys not give him the check?‘”"

Shockingly, Mikan was ousted as commissioner shortly thereafter and the player who could have been the Nets’ first superstar was gone.

Later, after the Nets were accepted into the NBA as part of the merger with the ABA in 1976, then-owner Roy Boe was in a pickle.

The deal was an expensive one for the Nets, much more so than for the other three ABA clubs in the deal — the Indiana Pacers, Denver Nuggets and San Antonio Spurs.

Each team was to pay $3 million to get into the NBA.

But the Nets owed the New York Knicks an additional $4 million for invading the Knicks’ “territorial rights” and would pay another $4 million to move from Uniondale back to New Jersey in 1977, per Michael Danielson’s Home Team: Professional Sports and the American Metropolis.

As the 1976-77 season was set to begin, the Nets still owed the Knicks much of the first installment. At the same time Erving wanted a renegotiated contract.

Even as a 10-year-old Nets fan, one didn’t have to be MENSA-eligible to figure out that Boe selling Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers for $3 million in cash and the Nets owing the Knicks a lot of money was more than mere coincidence.

Erving was great and deserves all of the accolades he’s gotten. But as a young player, he never met a contract he wouldn’t sign and then want to re-do about 35 minutes later.

That seriously got the Nets’ NBA launch off to a rocky start as New York plummeted to 22 wins coming off the last ABA title and were off to New Jersey by the summer of 1977.