MEMORIES OF DARREN LEEDS: "When I was growing up, the Nets actually had pretty good coverage. There were a number of TV games on Channel 9 and all of their games were on radio. I think I saw as many Nets games as Knicks games and the Knicks were good in those days. The thing I remember most about the Nets was how John Sterling, their radio announcer, called the games. If you weren't a Net fan, you would never know what he was talking about. He never used last names. It was like this: Doc, Doc to Mel, Mel to Brian, K over to Whop, back to Doc to Supe, Supe, Brian, Doc, Mel, K, Whop. I'm not kidding. This is exactly how he announced the games."
MEMORIES OF TOM HESSEMER: "My dad bought a pair of season tickets the year the Nets moved to the Nassau Coliseum. My first Nets game was played at the old Island Garden in West Hempstead, L.I., against the Indiana Pacers. I remember Roger Brown, Mel Daniels and Bob Netolicky on the Pacers. At that time Nets were led by Rick Barry and Bill Melchionni. I also saw a Nets playoff game that had to be played at Hofstra University in the early 70's.
My best Nassau Coliseum memories consisted of being there almost every Wednesday and Friday night, plus Sunday afternoons. I was at the game where Wendell Ladner threw his sneaker at an opposing player, the final game of the 1976 ABA Finals (winning the championship vs. Denver), the great games vs, the Spurs and George Gervin, the Colonels with Artis Gilmore and St. Louis with Moses Malone and Marvin Barnes. I think we sort of took Dr. J for granted. Each night he dazzled for 30 points, seemingly scoring at will. He caused countless timeouts by opponents, by getting a steal and effortless dunk at the other end.
If anyone has VHS of any of the games played at the Nassau Coliseum, undoubtedly they would see me as a 12-year old kid walking behind the announcers at halftime as I would often do."
MEMEORIES OF IRA ZIMILOVER: "For me, the most incredible thing about the early Nets teams was the ability to attend the game by riding a bicycle to the Island Garden, which was located in my hometown of West Hempstead, not Hempstead as mentioned by many fans.
I remember meeting Rick Barry outside the arena one day. He gladly signed autographs for me and my friends. I still have the official 1970-1971 Nets schedule in my office, sponsored by Dairy Barn Stores, the "Official Milk of the New York Nets." One of the Nets ball boys lived around the block from me, and Tom "Trooper" Washington used to come by in his blue Cadillac Eldorado on occasion, and shoot hoops with us.
The action was endless, you were up close, and it was certainly a fantastic entertainment value. Some of the intimacy left when the Nets moved to the "world class" Nassau Coliseum in 1972, and I am surprised that no one mentioned Nicky Net, and the abuse he used to take when missing almost every layup he attempted!
Both my brother and I were lucky enough to attend the final ABA game in May 1976, where the Nets won the championship. An amazing comeback, and truly a memorable way to finish the ABA."
MEMORIES OF MICHAEL L. HODGSON: "I spent my teen years in Amityville, New York, and graduated from Copiague High School in 1979. One year when I was playing C.Y.O. ball for Our Lady of Assumption in Copiague, our team played at halftime of a Nets vs Kentucky Colonels game. Kentucky had Artis Gilmore, Dan Issel, Bird Averitt and a few other guys I can't remember. After our game we were heading back to the locker room and the Colonels were heading back onto the court. I walked right past Artis Gilmore and I must've only been up to his knees. I was so in awe of his height, 7' 2". I wanted to be that impressive when I grew up, but of course it didn't happen. I only ended up 6' 4". Anyhow, at that game the Nets had Julius (Dr. J) Erving, Larry (Mr. K) Kenon, Brian Taylor, John Williamson (Rest in Peace), Wendell Ladner (Mr. Excitement), Billy Paultz (The Whopper), Willie Sojourner, Al Skinner, Billy Schaffer and Mike Gale. I remember the Nets won the game something like 135-121. When the Nets entered the NBA in the 1976-77 season, I was sure that they would compete for the NBA title with the team they had - especially after they acquired Nate "Tiny" Archibald. But they gave away Dr. J for pennies, and they were terrible for the next couple of decades. It was still a great experience in how I went from a Knicks fan, to a Nets fan, and back to a Knicks fan. That's a memory I wanted to share."
MEMORIES OF GEORGE GELISH: "The New Jersey Nets were NEVER "my team," but the New York Nets sure were! Being from Huntington, Long Island, I had the rather uncomfortable experience of seeing them when they played at Commack Arena. During the 1968-69 season, they shared that venue with the Long Island Ducks semipro hockey team.
The Long Island Arena (that was its official name, but all the locals called it "Commack Arena") was a huge steel Quonsett hut that had the acoustics of an oil drum. I saw many a concert there so I know this all too well. Once I went there early for a Nets game, and I walked out into the middle of the floor. I stomped my foot on the floor and the sound came back at me from all four corners of the room. You always had to bring a sweater to the Arena, even during the summer. There was only half-inch plywood separating you from the surface of the ice so if you didn't, you'd freeze your butt off.
When the Nets played there, the pounding on the basketball court would literally make water ooze out from between the cracks in the floor. The ballboys had to be careful to wipe down certain areas of the court during every time out. Puddles were a constant hazard and nasty wipe-outs were not uncommon for the players. Not to mention that it was probably the coldest basketball court ever, with the ice always underneath the court. I was not at all surprised that Nets' residence there only lasted one season.
Fortunately for the Nets, a brand new venue was completed several years later - the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale. That's where the Nets really found their home and had their heyday. The Coliseum was in those days a state-of-the-art facility, so attendance shot up quite a bit.
The Net's popularity was also greatly helped by the acquisition of Julius Erving, better known as "Dr. J." In his prime he was unquestionably the greatest player of his era - in the ABA, the NBA, or anywhere else. I don't think basketball fans today appreciate his stature, and how he changed the game. Before Dr. J., no one consistently played above the rim. In my opinion, he is the man who really brought "Showtime" to the game of basketball. He was a great showman and a great crowd-pleaser, so it was understandable that his kind of game caught on. I remember that opponents would double and triple team him, but it didn't matter. He would just soar over them.
Furthermore, this flamboyant kind of play gained acceptance in the ABA long before it did in the NBA. Even today, it is my opinion that had there not been an ABA, NBA basketball would still be more like the "pass, pick and grind-it-out" play you see in the women's game.
Nobody in the NBA ever played with Dr. J's flamboyance and grace; not even the good Doctor himself. By the time he got to the Sixers, he was past his prime. Furthermore, I think the NBA told him to tone it down a bit. He was an NBA star but he was no longer "Dr. J." He had reverted to being plain old Julius Erving, at least to me. To make matters worse, they built a new venue in swamps of Jersey and our Nets were taken from us.
Basketball has long been gone from the Nassau Coliseum, although they did hold some of the NCAA regionals there recently. It was fun to see them break out the old court, which still has the Coliseum's old logo from the 1970's painted on the wood. That's how little it's been used.
It's funny how things come full circle. When I was a kid, my Dad used to talk about the Brooklyn Dodgers with this look of reverence and delight on his face. I would get this blank expression on my face as he told me tales of Pee Wee Reese, Roy Campanella, Duke Snider, Gil Hodges, et. al. "Nobody wants to hear about that old stuff, Pop" I would say. Now I am painfully aware that my teenage daughter gets the same blank look whenever I talk about Dr. J., the New York Nets or the ABA."
MEMORIES OF PETE SPANOS: "I would like to share my childhood memories of the New York Nets. I was born, raised and still live on Long Island, just minutes from Nassau Coliseum. Today, I am married and live in the town of West Hempstead. That's just around the block from where the old Island Garden used to stand. As a young child in the early 1970's, I remember the days of when my uncles would take my older brother, sister and myself to the Island Garden for Net games because they were cheap and nearby, but also a great show. Back in those days, Manhattan was still a world away and suburban Long Island was still growing. Nets games were always family-friendly, and you could always go down onto the court and ask players for autographs while they were on the layup line. Most of the time they were more than happy to give them.
To those people who never got the chance to see with their own eyes, nothing could top watching Dr. J play basketball in his prime at the Nassau Coliseum, especially when there was a packed house. People can say whatever they like about Michael Jordan, but the Dr. J experience can never be matched. When people speak about how Jordan brought basketball to a new level, that is fine, but you also have to say that Julius Erving invented that level. The dunks! The dunks alone cannot be described. Just imagine seeing something in basketball that had never really been seen before. It's a shame that Erving's best years were never put on display in the NBA.
Another memory that stands out the most is not a happy one. In 1975, an Eastern Airlines 727 crashed just short of runway 22L at JFK airport in New York. Wendell Ladner of the Nets was on board and was killed. For some strange reason, I remember the event clearly enough to recite the airline, aircraft type and even the runway where the plane crashed. Every time I drive by the airport, I can't help but still remember that day. Maybe because it was so close to home, or maybe it was because I felt like I knew Wendell. He was one of those guys who would come out of the presume layup line to give an 8-year kid his autograph. He was one of the things that made the ABA kid friendly and family friendly. In a way, he represented how approachable players were back in those days, to the point that they even knew your name. Contrast that to the basketball players of today.
Two years after Wendell Ladner died, so did the ABA. What was left was absorbed by the NBA. In a way, Ladner's death and Thurman Munson's death in 1979 marked the beginning of the decline of sports for me. The Nets were forced to sell Julius Erving so the could pay off the Knicks to enter the NBA. Then, they moved to New Jersey and never came back. To me, the Nets will always be from New York. I still consider myself a fan and I still believe that someday they will return to Long Island. But in the meantime, I'll have to settle for watching the New Jersey Nets do what this true Net fan has waited for since the 1976 ABA/NBA merger - win an NBA championship. I honestly thought that the Nets would be the first ABA team to win an NBA championship until the Spurs won the NBA title in 1999. Deep down inside, I was happy the Spurs won (ironically against the Knicks), because I will always be an ABA fan at heart. Until the Nets return, I'll have to settle for the memories of days long past whenever I drive past the giant arch that reads 'Cherry Valley Shopping Center." That's the same arch that stood 30 years earlier when it was the Island Garden."