There was a time when Julius Erving was the touchstone of the Nets and the ABA. The only championships in franchise history came when “Dr. J” was in the house, Nassau Coliseum to be specific. In 1987, the Nets officially retired his jersey.
Then came the Jason Kidd era and arguments about who was truly the best player in Nets history: the Doctor who won two ABA titles or JKidd who took the Nets to two straight NBA Finals.
After that, Erving became a team “ambassador” for the 76ers, the club he led to an NBA championship in 1983. In fact, Erving has never attended a game at Barclays Center. That changes next Friday, Marvel Super Hero Night, when the first 10,000 fans will get the Dr. J inspired by “Black Panther” bobblehead, and Dr. J is honored by the Nets.
“The Nets have gotten to the Finals. But because of the evolution of the game — the franchise moving from Long Island to Piscataway, then the big arena, now over to Brooklyn — it’s been a franchise in transition,” Erving told The Post.
“Now there’s stability, bringing it to Brooklyn. I think they’ll be there forever. Maybe it’s time to bring [a title] home in a place that really is home instead of places they’re just calling home. Absolutely, [it’ll help].”
The question is whether Erving’s relationship with the Nets is about to expand. He is no longer the 76ers “ambassador.” That role is now held by World B. Free, according to the 76ers Media Guide.
No one is saying (yet), but before the Sixers named Dr. J their ambassador back in 2012, the Nets also had spoken with him, according to a team insider. Erving, in his comments to Brian Lewis, certainly sounded willing.
“It’s something I feel like would be good part of the Nets history,” Erving said, speaking about his upcoming night. “Kyrie [Irving] talking about the last time the Nets won a championship there was an Erving on the team. So I think the stars are aligning to open the door for some things more things to do.”
Kenny Atkinson appears to be on board.
“I used to be in the backyard pretending to be Dr. J. … I used to listen when they were in Jersey on my transistor radio because of Dr. J,” Atkinson told Lewis. “I’ll be the first one to greet him. I’ll put the red carpet out. … He’s a Net in my mind, in the red, white and blue uniform with the stripes and the ABA ball.”
At the least, he could give Jarrett Allen ‘Fro tips.
There are some rumors as well as another of the ABA champion Nets re-establishing a connection with the Nets. Brian Taylor of Perth Amboy heritage and Princeton fame was Erving’s teammate in 1974 and 1976.
He told our Chris Milholen last week that he would welcome a return as well. Taylor pioneered the use of the 3-pointer both with the ABA, then when the NBA adopted it after the leagues’ merger.
He told the Wingspan podcast that he would heavily consider taking a position with the Nets organization if offered. He added he would love to work with the community.
“I’m not a spring chicken,” said Taylor at 68 is two years younger than Erving. “I would do some stuff with them in the community. I would love to do some stuff with them in the community.”
Interestingly, both Erving and Taylor have stronger connections with the Long Island Nets, the G League team who plays at the Coliseum. Erving had his number retired by Long Island on opening night in 2017, the return of pro basketball to the Coliseum. And Taylor has served as a mentor to Long Island —and Princeton’s— Devin Cannady who like Taylor is a 6’2” Ivy League sharpshooter.
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