MEMORIES OF DOUG McINTYRE: "I loved the ABA! I saw my first game on January 9th, 1970 at the Island Garden in Hempstead, Long Island... Nets/Pacers... I was hooked. Still am. For me, pro basketball ended after the merger. I probably saw 150 games before the league folded, including some doozies. I remember a 1972 playoff game against the Virginia Squires, which was a classic. It was the Eastern Division Finals. Erving was with the Squires as a rookie. The Squires had the home court. They hosted (and won) the first two games of the series. For Games 3 and 4 in New York, the Nets asked the league for a ten day delay, so they could play at the brand new Nassau Coliseum.... The building was booked during those ten days (also, it was not yet wholly finished, and there were huge sections which still didn't have seats...not that that was a problem for the ABA in those days). When they finally played Game 3, Barry hit three 3-pointers in the first ninety seconds of the game. Then he stole an inbounds pass for a layup. Al Bianchi called time out and the score was Rick Barry 11, Virginia Squires 0. But, in the third quarter, Julius went crazy. He scored twenty five points in that quarter, and the game was neck and neck to the finish. With fifteen seconds on the clock, the Nets had the ball and the score was tied (or the Nets were down by one, I can't remember which....). Barry took the ball upcourt and everyone else cleared off to the far side of the court. He dribbled at the top of the three point arch -- waiting for the clock to tick down. Erving was covering him-- it was one-on-one for the game. The crowd was on its feet, and I clearly remember Barry looking up at the clock until there was only six seconds or so left. Then he backed in towards the basket. He faked right, but went left with a little soft hook shot which banked in off the glass as the buzzer sounded. The Nets won by a point (or two). What a game, I remember it like it was yesterday...
I will also say this: I love Julius, and he was astonishing to watch in his ABA days. But the best player I ever saw was Barry. At the top of his game he was unstoppable, and a very good defender when he needed to be."
MEMORIES OF DAN C.: "Growing up on Long Island in the late 1960's and early 1970's, I became a lifelong fan of the Nets. My most memorable times were sitting court side at the Island Garden in West Hempstead, New York, watching my heroes play. It cost $5 to sit court side and $1.50 to sit near the top of the 25% full 5,000 seat arena. Being in that small arena was like watching the game in your living room. My favorite moment was watching my all-time favorite player, Rick Barry, fight with the ever-ornery John Brisker of the Pittsburgh Condors. I sat in my seat eating hot dogs while, only a few feet in front of me, both guys swung it out. Barry scored 53 points that night, but the Nets lost anyway. That same year, the Nets had two 7' 2" players named Ron Taylor and John Smith. The Nets thought they help the team height-wise, and relieve Barry of his rebounding chores. The only problem was that neither player could move fast enough to get out of his own way. As far as the league itself, where can you see genuine entertainment like the ABA nowadays? People back then did not appreciate how fun the ABA was. Sitting court side at Madison Square Garden today to watch action that is not nearly as entertaining costs $1,000 per game, as opposed to the $5 per game that I used to pay to watch ABA action. When the ABA merged with the NBA, my heart was broken."
MEMORIES OF DAVID RUBIN: "I was a huge fan of the ABA, and a Nets fan in particular. In fact, I still cringe at the name "Roy Boe." I have a lot of ABA memories, but perhaps the best one is my earliest one. My dad was an original season ticket holder to the New York Islanders hockey team, and I enjoyed going to the first Islanders games with him in 1971. But I really wanted to see those guys bouncing that wild red, white and blue basketball. My father always talked about Rick Barry, the underhand foul shooter, and how Barry would bring respect to this new league...so we HAD to go see him play. About a week before the Nets were to play the Kentucky Colonels, my dad came home from work and asked me to guess what he had behind his back. I couldn't wait, so I pried his hands open and found two tickets to my very first basketball game! The excitement built up for me, as for two nights before the "big" game, I couldn't sleep! Finally, it was the day of the game, and dad and I set out for our trip (all of 30 minutes by car, but that was a long time to an eight-year old). I was so excited about the game that I made my father go over the roster with me over and over, as I couldn't believe that someone was actually named "Bill Melchionni." We were silent when the sports reports came on the car radio, and it was then that I first learned of disappointment in the sports world -- Rick Barry would not be playing that evening, due to the flu. The star player that I had been hearing about for months was not going to be at the game -- and we were already moments away from the Nassau Coliseum. Dad asked if I wanted to exchange our tickets for another night, but I told him that if Rick Barry wasn't going to play tonight, what guarantee did I have that he would show up at the next game we would go to? (Man- what instincts for an 8-yr old- huh?) We sat down to watch the game, after purchasing hot dogs, pop corn, sodas, candy, and a program (all of which cost less than a program alone costs today!). Once I saw the arena lights go down and the players introduced -- Rick Barry or no Rick Barry -- I was HOOKED! And Barry's absence was barely noticed that evening, as the unheralded JOHN ROCHE played perhaps his best game as a pro. Roche led the hometown Nets to a victory- the first, but FAR from the last that I would see at the Coliseum. If Barry's name was uttered all the way to the game, it was Roche's that was shouted all the way home (not to mention Mr. Melchionni's as well!)...and an ABA fan was born! It was an incredible feeling, knowing that those of us at the game had seen what seemed to be a star in the making. It was also an incredible feeling when I first saw Julius Erving play AGAINST the Nets as a Virginia Squire -- and then FOR the Nets when they won the ABA championship. And then Roy Boe (oh- I cringe again) changed my life as a sports fan forever...but that's a story for another day."
MEMORIES OF LARRY LAPKA: "I was a huge Knicks fan growing up in South Jamaica, Queens, N.Y., and followed them feverishly when they won their first NBA championship in 1970. However, unlike most of my friends, I also supported the relatively new Long Island-based New York Nets as well.
I remember going with my father to a game at the old Island Garden. You couldn't beat our seats - about three rows behind the Nets bench. How much would similar seats cost at Madison Square Garden, even back then? I know the Nets won and Levern Tart was the star of the night. I have no recollection who they played, but I was hooked. When Nassau Coliseum was built, my family had already moved to Long Island, so I followed the red, white and blue bouncing ball, and attending Nets games was a natural for me through high school. I went with my father to about a half dozen games a year, and went with my friends for a half dozen more.
I was at the final games of the ABA in 1976 when the Nets beat the Nuggets for the ABA championship. I was at the entire series on Long Island. We knew an era was coming to and end, and we were happy to be on the winning side. Little did we know how the era would come to an end. As an NBA franchise, the Nets showed little from their ABA years. It was an inept organization, it did not retain Julius Erving, and it had poor promotion. The Nets moved back to New Jersey, and I lost interest. Here, so many years later, I am a Knicks fan, but those days of the ABA were a part of my childhood that I will never forget."
MEMORIES OF KEVIN FLOOD: "Growing up on Long Island in the late 1960's and early 70's and being an avid basketball fan with little or no money to afford a train ride and ticket to a Knicks game, the Nets offered a reasonable and exciting "night out on the town" for a kid! For about $3 - 5 dollars you could enjoy a great couple of hours of fun which might have included dancing with "Dancing Harry" in the audience, and watching some care-free gifted athletes showcase their raw talent on the court. The game always seemed like a circus (in a good way!). The outfits were colorful, the hair was long, and the scoring and the Afros were high! The three pointer was a great addition to the game because good shooting guards could now join in on the fun. Dunking in the ABA seemed to bring the most excitement, though...watching Dr. J perform his artistry was like watching Jimi Hendrix play guitar...no rules, just pure talent!
I remember always waiting around after the games to ask for autographs of the players. Although my friends and I were more interested in getting the Nets players like Dr J, Bill Melchionni, Billy Paultz, etc., it was just as exciting to get the autographs of the visiting players and their mascots! That's my only explanation of why I have all of the autographs of the Memphis Tams players including Randy Denton, Johnny Neumann, and Wil Jones.
As I look back, having had a chance to experience the ABA and all it's wonderful characters will always be a great memory for me, and another reason why growing up on Long Island during that era was so much fun."
MEMORIES OF ROD FRESSEN: "I remember the New York Nets very well. As a kid in NYC, many games were shown on TV. I got to see Rick Barry, Dr. J, Mr. K, the Big Whopper, Super John…and on the other teams, David Thompson, George McGinnis, and George Gervin. One great memory I have is from a game between the Nets and the Colonels. The Colonels had Artis Gilmore - 7 feet plus, and a fro to match. As I remember the play, Ollie Taylor drove to the basket. Gilmore rejected his shot so hard that it actually bounced all the way to half court and bounced out of bounds. Then the legend begins...
Within seconds the ball was inbounded to Ollie Taylor. This time Ollie fearlessly drove into the lane, challenged Gilmore…and STUFFED the ball hard over an extended Gilmore (we called that a " facial" because the ball was jammed in his face!). I was in my living room, watching on black and white TV, and shouting in excitement. Ollie Taylor…at least a foot shorter than Gilmore…with a sprint dribble from half court…and a hard jam. Beautiful.
Before Michael…there was the great play of the ABA. …I am sure that film of some of these great games is out there somewhere."
MEMORIES OF WALTER CHERNIAK: "In the early 1970s, while living in Connecticut, I used to listen to Al Albert broadcast New York Nets games on WHN-AM. I remember getting very caught up in the Nets' 1972 playoff run. That year, the Nets upset Kentucky, which had Issel, Dampier and Gilmore. They also defeated Virginia, which had Julius Erving. For part of the series with Kentucky, Barry was hurt. During most of the playoffs, the Nets were also missing star point guard Bill Melchionni. The playoff star for the Nets -- by far -- was guard John Roche, who had been a so-so player during the year, but scored 20 to 30 points per game in the playoffs. Injuries had left the Nets so thin that Ollie Taylor -- who was only 6-2 but a great leaper -- played forward. Billy Paultz was the center, and Tom Washington was the power forward, doing a tremendous defensive job on Issel and Erving. (He couldn't handle McGinnis, though). Melchionni and Roche were the guards, while Taylor and Sonny Dove (of St. John's fame) were key subs. The Nets team that came later, with Erving, Kenon, John Williamson, Brian Taylor, et al, had a lot more talent, but that '72 team was something special.
Growing up in Connecticut, I'm actually a lifelong Celtics fan, but like so many basketball fans in the early 1970's, I found the NBA game boring. The ABA was more wide-open, and there was something about the three-pointer and watching that red, white and blue ball spin on Rick Barry's underhanded free throws. What made it easy to follow the Nets was that I could get all their games on the radio from New York. Our rooftop TV antenna could also bring us games on Channel 11, which carried the Nets on Saturday nights. That was where I first saw Julius Erving, Roger Brown, and Charlie Scott. Those were the days!"
At the end of the 1971-72 season, Nets coach Lou Carnesecca (above left) finally had some fun. Behind the ever-consistent Rick Barry (above right) and rookie miracle-worker John Roche (right), the Nets steamrolled through the ABA Playoffs and gave the Pacers all they could handle in the Finals.
(ABA publicity photos courtesy of Jon Singer)
MEMORIES OF PHIL LYNCH: "The Nets' Tom Washington was one of the most underrated players in the league. He was a terrific defensive player, a strong rebounder and a team leader. He gave the Nets the balance necessary to become a winning team. And he did it all without a lot of hype from the press."
MEMORIES OF AL SCHOCH: "I grew up in the Pocono Mountains in northeastern Pennsylvania in the early 1970's, and our cable television system (one of the first ever) carried several New York stations. So we saw the Knicks in their glory days (we all knew the starters by memory). One year I purchased a pre-season pro basketball magazine and it included the ABA teams. We had actually seen the Indiana Pacers host a playoff game (on CBS?) the previous spring. We were already intrigued by the three-point shot. Plus, at that time, the Fairgrounds Coliseum floor was painted blue inside the three-point area, with the lane left unpainted. We thought that was cool as all get out. The new magazine articles further heightened our interest.
Then, WPIX Channel 11 (which carried the Yankees) announced a special Saturday night package of New York Nets games. That season the Nets roster included Rick Barry and Bill Melchionni, plus the "Whopper" Billy Paultz. Legendary announcer Marty Glickman did the play-by-play. Once he waved to the cameras from his position at the scorer's table, to show us his perspective of the game. The WPIX Nets opening montage had still headshots of the players shown to the tune of "Ball of Confusion." I remember seeing the visiting arenas with a lot of empty seats. The scoreboard horns across the league all sounded the same, sort of a high-pitched whine combined with a buzzer. One night, the Virginia Squires had three guys in Norfolk playing trombone in the stands. It wasn't clear if they were hired by the Squires, or just showed up and started playing (I distinctly remember the trio belting out "If I Had a Hammer"). The most anticipated WPIX game that season was the only home telecast from Island Gardens. In that game, I recall that the area behind the team benches was just a wall covered with a blue curtain plus the Nets logo.
A year or so later brought Doctor J. After that, the broadcasts really became something, because the games were exciting. I remember a game against the Carolina Cougars where the rest of the Nets got out of the way to allow the Doctor to go one-on-one with a defender in the closing seconds. He was the greatest. In one road game, he dunked several times and, in the closing minutes, was booed by the crowd on a breakaway layup. Steve Albert later announced the games when the Nets moved to WOR Channel 9. The opening of those broadcasts showed the moon rising and dissolving into the Nets logo, with a voice over saying "And now, the A-B-A Champions of the World..." All of this was to the tune of Odyssey Rock (the disco version of the theme from 2001: A Space Oddessy)."