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The demise of the Nets: ABA dominance to NBA mediocrity ... in one miserable summer

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Brooklyn Nets

Curtis Harris of Pro Hoops History does a remarkable job in laying out how the Nets went from the royalty of the ABA to the gutter in the NBA, blaming equal parts Knicks greed and Nets incompetence.

Harris starts with the memorable comeback in Game 6 of the ABA Finals of 1976 with Dr. J and Super John outscoring the Nuggets 54-26 in the second half to win its second championship in three years, made all the more special by the Knicks failure to make the playoffs for the first time in eight years.

The NBA wanted to merge four of the six remaining teams into the NBA and the Nets, with the league's top star and maybe the game's best player, were among them. The cost of entry, however, was steep. The Nets had to pay $3.2 million to the league plus $4.8 million to the Knicks. Because the Knicks could veto the Nets entry, the entire deal hinged on the Nets agreeing to pay their new rivals. Roy Boe, owner of Nets and Islanders, conceded.

The deal put the Nets in a precarious position, writes Harris. Then, management, going for broke, made a strategic errors. They acquired Tiny Archibald, a future Hall of Famer, to pair with Julius Erving. Problem: Archibald made $400,000, Erving $270,000. He demanded a raise and held out. The Nets, now cash poor, decided to sell him to the Sixers. The Knicks, who knocked over the first domino, thought they would get him. Boe wouldn't deal with them.

The rest is history. The ABA champs fell into the basement of the NBA and it took six long years before they had another winning season.