J.M. Poulard is a writer for WarriorsWorld.net, the Golden State Warriors affiliate to the TrueHoop Network. Today, J.M. takes a look back at one of the biggest stars in Nets history: The Doc.
When attending Nets games (wherever they might be these days), one might notice that there are a multitude of banners hanging in the rafters. They serve as reminders of the team’s accomplishments in its rich 44-year history. Consequently, if one takes the time to glance at them, they will probably spot these almost immediately:
- Atlantic Division Champions 2001-2002
- Eastern Conference Champions 2001-2002
- Atlantic Division Champions 2002-2003
- Eastern Conference Champions 2002-2003
- Atlantic Division Champions 2003-2004
- Atlantic Division Champions 2005-2006
Although we should not minimize what those seasons meant to the franchise, they aren’t the most important banners. Instead, we should turn our attention to the banners that no longer seem to have any sort of relevance to today’s Nets franchise:
- ABA Champions
- ABA Champions
Things have changed tremendously since the New York Nets played their last game in the American Basketball Association in 1976; yet, the three banners previously mentioned are arguably the most important in franchise history.
During the 70’s, the NBA had all the stars, all the television contracts, and all the big markets. As a result, the talent that shaped the rosters of ABA teams was good, but nowhere near competing with NBA-caliber players (save for a few exceptions).
But then, something funny happened.
A player that had been terrorizing playground legends at the Rucker League decided to leave the Virginia Squires in favor of the New York Nets. Given the fact that he had grown up in Long Island, the Nets had always been his preferred destination.
Now playing in the media capital of the world, the Doctor had finally arrived. Despite the lack of media coverage of the ABA, the legend of Julius Erving would soon reach unprecedented heights.
In his first season in New York, Erving averaged 27.4 points, 10.7 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 2.3 steals and 2.4 blocks per game on 51.2 percent field goal shooting. The Doctor’s scintillating play led the Nets to the top of the Eastern Division with a 55-29 record.
By the time the postseason began, this New York Nets squad had become nearly unbeatable. They trampled the Virginia Squires in five games in the Eastern Division Semifinals and swept the Kentucky Colonels in the Eastern Division Finals. The ABA Finals were no different, as New York dispatched the Utah Stars in five games.
Julius Erving led a franchise founded just seven years earlier to its first title. In his first season with the team.
By then, Erving was not only the face of the ABA, but he was its guardian, ambassador and savior. A league that once struggled to draw crowds was able to get fans to come to games whenever the Doctor was in the building. Some would argue that Julius Erving not only saved the ABA, but he helped bring attention to other great players as well.
The following season, Erving replicated his previous season’s exploits as he routinely got fans out of their seats. For all of his production, Dr. J never sacrificed the show. In that perfect blend, he gave the ABA new life.
We’re spoiled today by the likes of Dwyane Wade, Josh Smith, Shannon Brown and JaVale McGee: guys that routinely end up on SportsCenter because of their acrobatic dunks. But back when Erving was playing, he was one-of-a-kind. A small forward listed at 6’7″ with huge hands that often made the ball look like a grapefruit, Doc would effortlessly glide through the air and dunk on players foolish enough to try to thwart his attempts.
The Nets star was a terrific all-around player whose exploits bordered on the spectacular. If you are old enough to have seen Michael Jordan’s second 3-peat, you remember how he made defenders look silly when he would grip the ball with one hand and pump fake shots and floaters. Well, Erving in his case did the same thing… in midair.
Throughout the years, we have seen players with great body control (Allen Iverson), outstanding footwork (Kobe Bryant), amazing leaping ability (Vince Carter) and an incredible ability to finish almost effortlessly at the rim despite tons of traffic (George Gervin); other than Julius Erving and Michael Jordan, we have never seen any players with all of those gifts blended so perfectly together. Only those two made basketball look so easy.
(Click Page 2 under the “Share This” Button for Part II.)