The last time the NBA Finals went through New Jersey
The Brooklyn Nets are in the midst of an NBA playoff series with their rivals, the Boston Celtics. While sports fans wait to see the outcome of the series, longtime NBA fans in New Jersey are reminiscing about the last time our state was a force to be reckoned with in the basketball world.
In 2012, the Nets made their Brooklyn debut, but before that, New Jersey was their home dating back to 1977.
The franchise has had a habit of bouncing around since its inception, but its tenure in New Jersey was the longest.
The franchise was born in 1967, under the name the New Jersey Americans. They played their games in Teaneck as part of the American Basketball Association. A year later they moved to Long Island, becoming the New York Nets.
It was there the team won two ABA championships in 1973-74 and 1975-76. The very next year the Nets, along with three other basketball franchises, were absorbed into the NBA as part of a merger deal, abolishing the ABA. The other teams absorbed were the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs.
When the Nets first moved to New Jersey, they played their home games at the Rutgers Athletic Center in Piscataway. Then in 1981, they moved into the home many of us remember them in the most, the Brendan Byrne Arena in the Meadowlands in East Rutherford (later named the Continental Airlines Arena, then Izod Center).
Before moving to Brooklyn, the Nets closed out their tenure as NJ's sole NBA team at the Prudential Center in Newark.
After the Nets' arrival in New Jersey, decades of mediocre to below-average basketball ensued, winning only one playoff series between 1977 and 2001, but then things began to change.
With Byron Scott at the helm as head coach, a nucleus of Jason Kidd, Kenyon Martin, Keith Van Horn, Richard Jefferson, and Kerry Kittles helped take the New Jersey Nets from laughing stock to the NBA Finals, which they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers.
The next season, 2002-03, the Nets kept the momentum going, appearing in their second straight NBA Finals. This time losing to the San Antonio Spurs, one of the four teams, along with the Nets, to be absorbed into the NBA decades earlier. It would be the last time the Nets sniffed the championship.
Though it's disappointing the Nets did not bring New Jersey a ring in either of those seasons, it's worth mentioning that in both instances, they ran into buzzsaw, dynasty-type talent at the wrong time.
While the Nets never made it back to the NBA Finals, the team that went all the way to the championship in two straight years has become a part of NJ lore forever.
Here's a look back at the roster the last year the Nets were in the finals
The post above reflects the thoughts and observations of New Jersey 101.5 producer, writer, and host Joe Votruba. Any opinions expressed are his own.
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