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  • Julius Erving
    Winfield Erving II (born February 22, 1950), commonly known by the nickname Dr. J, is an American retired basketball player who helped popularize a modern style of play that emphasizes leaping and play...

The New York Nets were founded as the New York Americans, a charter franchise of the American Basketball Association (ABA). They played their games during the first season as the New Jersey Americans at the Teaneck Armory in Teaneck, New Jersey.

The Americans played fairly well in their first season, tying the Kentucky Colonels for the fourth (and final) playoff spot in the Eastern Division. However, the Teaneck Armory was booked, forcing the Americans to scramble for a last-minute replacement. They found one in the Long Island Arena in Commack, New York.

However, when the Americans and Colonels arrived, they found that the floor had several missing boards and bolts, and was unstable in several areas (one player claimed to have seen one side of the floor come up when he stepped on another). There was no padding on the backboards or basket supports, and one basket appeared to be higher than the other. There was also a large amount of condensation from a hockey game the previous night. After the Colonels refused to play under these conditions, league commissioner George Mikan ruled that the Americans had failed to provide acceptable playing facilities and forfeited the game to the Colonels, 2–0.

After a planned move to Newark, New Jersey fell through the team opted to stay at the Long Island Arena for the second year, and changed its name to the New York Nets. The name "Nets" was used because it rhymes with the names of two other professional sports teams that played in the New York metropolitan area at the time: Major League Baseball's New York Mets and the American Football League's New York Jets, and because it relates to basketball in general, as it is part of the basket.

The team finished last in its first New York season and drew a paltry 1,108 a game, about half of what it had drawn a year earlier. They posted a 17–61 record, and shuffled 23 different players on and off the roster. Brown sold the team to clothing manufacturer Roy Boe after that season. Boe started off his ownership with big hopes for the offseason. Desperate for a star, the team pursued UCLA star Lew Alcindor, and won rights to him in a secret ABA draft. Alcindor was reportedly interested in playing in his native New York, but after contemplating his options for a month, he instead opted to sign with the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks. Nonetheless the Nets moved on with their offseason plans to relocate to the Island Garden in West Hempstead. Led by an ABA top-3 scoring guard Levern Tart, the Nets finished in fourth place and made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in the 1969–70 season, and attendance went up threefold to 3,504. During the 1970 offseason, the team finally managed to acquire a star in Rick Barry after trading their No. 1 pick and cash to the Virginia Squires. After another playoff season at the Island Garden, the team moved to the brand new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale for the end of the 1971–72 season.

In 1972, two years after the acquisition of Barry, the Nets advanced to their first ABA finals.[8] However, they could not overcome the Indiana Pacers and lost the series four games to two. Barry left after that postseason, sending the Nets into rebuilding mode. The 1972–73 season was one of disappointment, as the Nets only managed to win 30 games.

The 1973–74 season saw the Nets finally put all the pieces together. The key event of the season though would come in the 1973 offseason, as the Nets acquired Julius Erving from the Virginia Squires. With Erving, who was affectionately known as "Dr. J", the Nets ended the season with a franchise record 55 victories. After Erving was voted the ABA's MVP, the Nets advanced in the playoffs and won their first title, defeating the Utah Stars in the 1974 ABA Finals.

The success continued into the 1974–75 season as they topped the previous season's win record by winning 58 games—a record that still stands to this day. The Nets, though, were eliminated four games to one, by the Spirits of St. Louis in the first round of the 1975 ABA playoffs.

Tragedy struck the Nets on the afternoon of June 24, 1975, when forward Wendell Ladner was killed when Eastern Air Lines Flight 66 crashed after being struck by lightning upon final approach to John F. Kennedy International Airport.

The Nets continued their winning ways in the 1975–76 season—the final season for the ABA—with Erving leading them to a successful 55–win season; he also was named MVP again that year. After a grueling series with the Denver Nuggets, the Nets won the last ABA championship series in league history in six games. The series clincher had Erving leading the Nets on a massive fourth quarter comeback at the Nassau Coliseum after being down 22 points in the third quarter. The win gave the team their second championship in three years.