Published: Aug. 10, 2021

Who are the Brooklyn Nets? History and Notable Players

Even before they moved to Brooklyn and reinvented themselves in 2012, the Nets have a long and storied history. Nowadays, Brooklyn Nets tickets are in high demand because the team attracts high-profile players and has one of the NBA’s best arenas in the Barclays Center. But even before their recent changes, the franchise had a history worth talking about. After all, some of the best Brooklyn Nets players of all time are also some of the NBA’s best players of all time. Let’s dig a little deeper into the history of the Nets and some of the players who have helped to make this franchise great.

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The ABA Days

The Nets began their history in 1967 as members of the ABA, not the NBA. They were also known as the New Jersey Americans. The following year, the franchise became the Nets, although they were the New York Nets, playing their games in Long Island Arena. It wasn’t until 1970 that the New York Nets played their first playoff game, losing to the Kentucky Colonels in a seven-game series. However, it only took a few more years for the Nets to reach a championship level. The Nets won their first division title in championship history in 1974, using that as a jumping-off point toward winning the ABA championship. The Nets repeated that feat in 1976, winning two of the last three championships in ABA history.

The Merger

After the 1976 championship, the Nets were one of several teams to join the NBA when the NBA and the ABA merged. The team’s first season in the NBA was a rough one, as they went from 55-29 the previous season to 22-60. That would also be the team’s last season in New York for more than 30 years, as the Nets moved back to New Jersey ahead of the 1977-78 season, initially playing at the Rutgers Athletic Center before making a more permanent move to East Rutherford, New Jersey.

The 20-Year Drought

Success was difficult for the Nets to find and sustain after the move to New Jersey. From the time of the merger to the turn of the century, the Nets made the playoffs just 11 times, albeit with a run of five straight appearances in the 80s, winning exactly one playoff series during that time. The late 1980s and early 90s were particularly problematic for the Nets, who finished with a winning percentage under .320 in five straight seasons.

So Far, So Close

Things finally started to turn around for the Nets during the 2001-02 season. Heading into the season, it had been 17 seasons since the Nets last won a playoff series. But under coach Byron Scott, the Nets won the Atlantic Division title and then proceeded to win three playoff series, reaching the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. Alas, the Nets were swept by the Lakers in four games. But the Nets were undeterred by their failure in the Finals. They won the Atlantic again the following season and dominated the Eastern Conference playoffs, once again reaching the NBA Finals. Unfortunately, the result was the same, as the Nets fell to the Spurs in six games.

The Decline

After losing in the NBA Finals in back-to-back seasons, the Nets saw their window to win a championship close. Despite winning the Atlantic Division in two of the next three seasons, they never advanced beyond the Eastern Conference Semifinals in the playoffs. That eventually led to a five-year playoff drought in what would become the team’s last five seasons in New Jersey, including a disastrous 12-70 campaign during the 2009-10 season.

Moving to Brooklyn


On the heels of five straight losing seasons, the Nets received new life in 2012 when they moved to Brooklyn. The following year, the team hired former point guard Jason Kidd as the head coach and acquired veterans Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett in a trade to show a newfound commitment to winning. However, those moves didn’t exactly pay off as the Nets had hoped. Alas, at the start of the 2020s, the Nets acquired superstars like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Blake Griffin, creating a star-studded roster they hope will be able to bring a championship to Brooklyn.

The All-Time Greats

Of course, even before the likes of Durant and Irving came to Brooklyn, the Nets have had plenty of star players suit up for the team. To date, 13 Hall of Fame players have played for the Nets, although not all of them spent a bulk of their careers with the team. The great Julius Erving spent three seasons with the Nets, leading them to their two ABA championships. The late Dražen Petrović spent the last two seasons of his all-too-brief career with New Jersey. Jason Kidd is also a Hall of Famer who spent his prime years with the Nets, ultimately becoming one of the best players in franchise history. One final player worth mentioning is Vince Carter, who is a future Hall of Famer and spent four and a half seasons with the Nets, including some of the best years of his career.

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