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New York’s last basketball title

Three years after the Knicks won their second title, in 1973, New York basketball won another title, when the ABA’s New York Nets beat the Denver Nuggets, 112-106, to clinch a six-game Finals victory in front of 15,434 at Long Island’s Nassau Coliseum.

Today is the 44-year anniversary of the win.

It was the final game of the ABA’s existence, and the last title for a New York basketball team. (Thanks to a talented torrenter, the full game is on YouTube.) The background: The ABA entered 1975-‘76 on its last legs. To start the year, there were 10 teams. By the end, the Baltimore Claws, Virginia Squires, San Diego Sails and Utah Stars had all folded, leaving only six. Shortly after the ‘76 Finals, a merger was agreed upon that sent the Nets, Nuggets, Spurs and Pacers to the NBA, while the ABA finally ceased operations. By the end, the league was nothing but a few cult fan bases and a handful of great players: New York’s Julius Erving; Denver’s David Thompson and Dan Issel; San Antonio’s George Gervin; Kentucky’s Artis Gilmore; St. Louis’s Marvin Barnes and Maurice Lucas; and so on. In the semifinals, the Nets beat the Spurs while the Nuggets, coached by Larry Brown, beat the Kentucky Colonels, setting up a matchup of soon-to-be NBA stars in Julius Erving and David Thomspon. The Nets, though, dominated the ABA’s final quarter, winning for themselves, the 15,000 people in Nassau Coliseum, and not much else. The Nets were supposed to receive a brand new trophy, except for the fact that then-commissioner Dave DeBusschere forgot to lock his car a few days earlier. From an archived New York Times article

“For winning what may be the last championship the depleted A.B.A. will ever have, the Nets got $95,000 ($25,000 for finishing second in the regular season and $70,000 for the playoffs) to divide as they choose. They also got the same silver trophy they won in 1974, since the A.B.A.'s new $800 silver bowl that was to be presented to the winner was stolen from Commissioner Dave DeBusschere's car in Denver earlier in the week. Denver went home with $81,000, including $30,000 for finishing first in the regular season.”

Can you miss something that ended 17 years before you were born?


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