The 1 and only… Net to win a scoring title: Julius Erving
The Time: 1973-74 and 1975-76
The Background: The New York Nets acquired Erving from the Virginia Squires in 1973, just after the Long Island native had led the American Basketball Association with a career-high 31.9 points per game. The deal sent $750,000, George Carter and the draft rights to Kermit Washington to the Squires for Erving and Willie Sojourner, while also sending cash to the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks, with whom Erving had signed in 1972, though he never played a regular-season game for them. When he arrived to the Nets, they had just one winning season in six years of existence.
The Skinny: Dr. J immediately turned the franchise around, lifting the Nets to ABA titles in 1974 and 1976 with a pair of playoff MVPs to show for it. He led the league in scoring both of those seasons, dropping 27.4 ppg in 1973-74 and 29.3 ppg in 1975-76. The electrifying forward got crowds buzzing with his acrobatic dunks and took it up another notch in the postseason, averaging 31.1 ppg during the championship runs.
The Others Who Came Closest: Rick Barry’s 31.5 points per game were the second-highest in the ABA in 1971-72 and still stand as the franchise’s single-season record. Vince Carter had a pair of top-10 finishes in 2004-05 (27.5 as a Net after a trade from Toronto) and 2006-07 (25.2), as did Stephon Marbury, in 2000-01 (23.9) and 1998-99 (23.4 as a Net after a trade from Minnesota).
The Quote: “I’m not sure who’s bigger in New York right now, us or the Twin Towers!” — Erving after the Nets’ won the ABA championship in 1974.
The Aftermath: Months after the Nets’ 1976 title, the ABA and NBA merged. The problem was that the Nets had to pay a $3.2 million expansion fee, plus an additional $4.8 million indemnity to the Knicks. They offered Erving in exchange for waiving the fee, but the Knicks declined. Instead, the Nets sold Erving to the 76ers to be able to pay their way into the NBA.
The Legacy: The Hall of Famer went on to play 11 seasons in the NBA, all of them All-Star campaigns in Philadelphia. He averaged 22 ppg with the 76ers, but is still widely regarded as the greatest Net.