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Coach: Steve Nash
The Brooklyn Nets have made a few moves in their history – from one league to another and from one state to another and back – but they seem settled now as one of the top contenders for the NBA title.
The trio of Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving rival any in the league right now, putting Brooklyn as a favorite to make its first trip to the NBA Finals as a franchise since 2003.
The availability of the team’s Big Three in last season’s playoffs ended up being the difference in a seven-game classic with the eventual champion Milwaukee Bucks. Now Irving’s availability due to vaccination rules in the state of New York may make it more challenging to reach the team’s full potential. But with Durant and Harden on the floor, Brooklyn is guaranteed to be in any game it plays.
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The Nets began as a franchise in the American Basketball Association in 1967 as the New Jersey Americans before becoming the New York Nets a season later. The franchise was one of the more successful in the ABA, winning two league titles led by Julius Erving before it became one of four teams absorbed into the NBA in the 1976 merger.
The team struggled for a long time to be relevant in the new league after being forced to trade Erving for financial reasons during the NBA move. After one year in the league, they also moved to New Jersey and became the New Jersey Nets. The team would win just one playoff series in its first 25 seasons in the NBA.
The peak of the team’s existence was in the early 2000s when Jason Kidd helped lead the team to back-to-back Finals appearances in 2002 and 2003. The franchise moved back to New York and became the Brooklyn Nets before the 2012-13, but despite some big-name acquisitions over the years, it has yet to reach the pinnacle of professional basketball.
Championships Won by the Brooklyn Nets
The Nets won two championships when they played in the ABA, reaching the league’s finals three times in their first nine seasons of existence. The then-New York Nets made the ABA Finals in 1972 before falling to the Indiana Pacers.
In 1974, the Nets got back to the ABA Finals, defeating the Utah Stars for their first championship. New York then defeated the Denver Nuggets in the 1976 ABA Finals for their second title – and the last championship in the league’s existence.
The Nets had their troubles in the NBA, failing to win a division title until 2002 when they earned the Atlantic Division crown and the Eastern Conference championship to earn a place in the NBA Finals for the first time.
The Los Angeles Lakers swept the then-New Jersey Nets in the 2002 NBA Finals.
New Jersey won the Atlantic Division title and the Eastern Conference championship again the following season but fell to the San Antonio Spurs in the 2003 NBA Finals in six games. The Nets have won two more division titles since then, but they have yet to advance to the Eastern Conference finals again.
Important Team Events
The most important event for the success of the Nets franchise was the acquisition of Julius Erving in a trade with the Virginia Squires in 1974. Erving won the ABA’s MVP award and led the Nets to two ABA titles, making them a desirable franchise when the NBA and ABA merged in 1976. Without that success, the Nets could have been finished after just nine years of existence.
Another trade brought the Nets to title contender status in the summer of 2001, when the team traded guard Stephon Marbury to the Phoenix Suns for Jason Kidd. The teaming of Kidd with Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson made the Nets title contenders, as they advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in the 2001-02 season.
The trio helped the Nets reach the title round again the following season, the only two appearances in the NBA Finals in franchise history.
The 2019 offseason featured a pair of big moves by the Nets, as they were able to bring in Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving as free agents. The two stars signed four-year deals to bring instant credibility back to the franchise.
Early in the 2020-21 campaign, Brooklyn traded for All-Star guard James Harden, giving the team three franchise players and making it a contender for the NBA title.
The top player in the Nets franchise’s history – at least so far – is Julius Erving. “Dr. J” had some of his greatest seasons while wearing the Nets uniform, winning two ABA titles and earning league MVP honors in 1974. Erving averaged at least 27 points, 10.5 rebounds, and five assists in each of his three seasons with the team.
Forward Buck Williams put up great stats in his six seasons with the Nets franchise, winning Rookie of the Year honors in 1982. He helped the team to just its second NBA playoff appearance in 1982, the first of five straight for the franchise. He remains the team’s all-time leader in both games played (635) and rebounds (7,576).
Jason Kidd brought the Nets instant credibility in 2001 when he joined the team in a trade, helping New Jersey to its only two NBA Finals appearances. Kidd was named All-NBA first team twice and second team once in his six-plus seasons with the team, also earning All-Defensive team honors after each of his full campaigns with the Nets.
He was second in NBA MVP voting in his initial season with the team and led the league in assists per game in his final five full seasons in New Jersey.
The list of men who have been head coaches of the Nets is distinguished, including Hall of Famers in Chuck Daly, Larry Brown, and Bill Fitch.
But the man atop the wins list as a head coach of the franchise is Kevin Loughery, who also led the team to its only two league championships with the 1974 and 1976 ABA titles. Loughery coached the team for seven seasons during the transition from the ABA to the NBA and from New York to New Jersey, racking up 297 regular-season victories and 21 playoff wins.
Byron Scott has the most playoff wins by a Nets head coach, earning 25 postseason victories over his four seasons with the team. Scott also guided the Nets to the NBA Finals twice and had 149 regular-season victories.
Lawrence Frank took over for Scott midway through the 2003-04 season and coached the Nets for five more seasons, winning the most regular-season games for the franchise in its time in the NBA with 225. Frank went 18-20 in four postseason trips, reaching the conference semifinals three times.
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Brooklyn Nets Frequently Asked Questions
Brook Lopez is the Nets’ all-time leading scorer with 10,444 points in nine seasons with the franchise.
The Nets have selected first in the NBA Draft twice, taking Derrick Coleman in 1990 and Kenyon Martin in 2000.
The Celtics have appeared in the NBA Finals twice (2002 and 2003).
Kevin Loughery won 297 regular-season games while coaching the Nets.
Two Nets players have won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award: Buck Williams (1981-82) and Derrick Coleman (1990-91).