On May 13, 1976, Julius Erving led the New York Nets to a 112-106 Game 6 win over the Denver Nuggets, clinching the second Nets ABA championship in three years. It marked not only a title win for the Nets franchise, but the final game in the ABA’s weird history and the last time Erving would don a Nets uniform.
The Nets merged with the NBA the next year, have called five different arenas in New York and New Jersey home, and have won as many titles as you’d expect… zero.
ESPN’s Tom Haberstroh devised a metric called “expected titles,” assessing how many titles an NBA franchise should have won in its history based on its regular season performance that year since the ABA-NBA merger. If you’re a team with 55-plus wins every year (hello, San Antonio Spurs), you’re expected to win a bunch of titles. If your team more often sneaks into the end of the playoffs rather than busting the door down, you probably don’t rank highly.
For example: the Los Angeles Lakers have a total of 4.1 expected championships, but have won 10 times since the merger, making them the NBA’s most “over-achieving” team. On the other side, the Phoenix Suns have 1.9 expected titles, but never won it all. Stinks to be good in the Michael Jordan era.
Sure enough, the Nets franchise has an “expected title” total of 0.3 championships in its 39-year NBA history — or to be more succinct, zilch. They’re one of nine NBA franchises who garner zero “expected titles” in their not-so-illustrious histories, and only one of three teams who have been around since the merger to amass zero expected & total championships.[note]To make matters worse: the other two teams? The Warriors and Clippers, who are both strong contenders to win it all this season.[/note]
Since the metric is devised from won-loss records, it’s not a surprise: the Nets have never won more than 52 games in an NBA season. Their only real shot to win a title came in 2003 against the Spurs: down 3-2 in the series, the Nets held a ten-point lead in the fourth quarter before collapsing and losing by 11.
It remains to be seen when their next shot will be. Is Julius Erving available in free agency?