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50 years on, Nets celebrate their birth

Rich Jewett Collection

On October 23, your Brooklyn/New Jersey/New York Nets/Americans will celebrate 50 years of professional basketball. On October 23, 1967, the New Jersey Americans took the court for the first time against the Pittsburgh Pipers, opening night of the inaugural season of the American Basketball Association.

And the anniversary celebrations have begun. On a recent afternoon, six of the 17 players who took to the court that night were re-united, along with their official scorer, Herb Turetzky, and announcer, Spencer Ross. Appropriately, the lunch took place at Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse in Grand Central Terminal.

As Tom Dowd of the Nets website notes, “some of them having not seen one another since their last game together.”

The reunion couldn’t have taken place without Turetzky who remains in the same place if not the same arena he did that night. Dan Anderson and Bruce Spraggins had the idea, but it was Turetzky who executed it.

“He was the one I knew how to get a hold of,” Anderson told Dowd. As Dowd writes...

The connections were made one by one, based on who had whose number, the same way Anderson reached out to Spraggins, until they gathered on an evening in late August. Fifty years earlier, they came together a bit more randomly.

Bobby Lloyd, the Rutgers all-American, was just out of college. Only a handful had NBA experience, the rest of them were a hodge-podge of Eastern Leaguers or European vets.

Now, a half-century later, they’re retired (except for Turetzky of course) with careers across the spectrum of American life. Their only Brooklyn native, Hank Whitney, returned to teaching and was principal at his old junior high school for 25 years. Lloyd who teamed with Jimmy Valvano in the Rutgers backcourt from 1963 through 1967, worked with the V Foundation for Cancer Research for 25 years, serving as the foundation’s Chairman for 20 years.

There’s no plans (that we know of) to honor them at a Nets game in this, the team’s 50th anniversary. It would be a shame if it couldn’t be arranged.