Julius Erving and the Nets’ Glory Days on Long Island

first_imgSign up for our COVID-19 newsletter to stay up-to-date on the latest coronavirus news throughout New York Shrieks of joy reverberated through Nassau Coliseum as jubilant New York Nets fans rushed the court with just three seconds left to go in the 1976 American Basketball Association (ABA) championship.Nets forward Rich Jones had just flicked a layup through the net, giving the Nets a 112-106 lead over the Denver Nuggets, the bucket sewing up the Nets’ second ABA title in three seasons.“Pandemonium!” the broadcaster blared over the airwaves.The Nets barreled into their locker room, sharing sweaty hugs and champagne showers. Julius Erving—the pride of Hempstead and Roosevelt, and the best player in the league—emptied a bottle onto a reporter’s head and smiled.“It’s as sweet as it ever was, I tell ya,” he exhaled.Erving, the league’s most popular player and a three-time ABA MVP—all with the Nets—scored 31 points as he led a dizzying comeback that saw his team erase a 22-point deficit with 17 minutes left in Game 6. It was another historic achievement for the hometown kid whose rim-rattling dunks had been revolutionizing basketball and inspiring legions of youngsters, such as future Chicago Bulls legend Michael Jordan—who’s now considered the greatest, ever.Yet before Jordan dazzled crowds with his high-octane performances, it was Erving who filled the usually sparse ABA arenas with his above-the-rim game and rocket-like adventures soaring through the air.Because ABA games weren’t nationally televised—back then National Basketball Association games were—much of what the country knew of Erving they had read in newspapers or Sports Illustrated, which put Erving on its cover the week after the finals with the headline: “Dr. J Slices ‘Em Up.”“Too bad, America, but you missed one of the greatest basketball shows on Earth,” Pat Putnam wrote in the May 17, 1976 issue of SI. “Or, rather, one just a few feet off the Earth. That was Julius Erving last week, launching himself from various points on courts in Denver and New York, soaring and scoring, passing, rebounding, blocking and stealing—all in the undeserved obscurity of the ABA championship finals. By Saturday night Erving and his underdog New York Nets had Denver down three games to one, which is what can happen when humans go five-on-one with a helicopter.”Erving would take off from Long Island that summer, never to return to the Nets again. The greatest player in the team’s brief, nine-year history on LI was entangled in a contract dispute following the ’76 season, and Roy Boe, the Nets owner, then struggling to pay the enormous entrance fees to get his team into the NBA, sold Erving to the Philadelphia 76ers. There he’d win yet another championship, catapulting “The Doctor” to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.Although the world’s sports fans may not have gotten a chance to watch Dr. J’s dominance from the comfort of their living rooms, the memories of Erving and the Nets’ exploits on LI from 1967 to 1976 are forever ingrained in the minds of those lucky few who witnessed some of the most exciting—and comical—basketball of any generation firsthand.Basketball BoondocksIn 1967, Arthur Brown purchased the New York Americans with the goal of developing a New York-based franchise for the upstart ABA. But Brown failed to get an arena deal and was forced to set up shop across the Hudson, at the Teaneck Armory in New Jersey—a cavernous monolith that only seated 3,500.Herb Turetzky, the team’s original official scorer, traces his ties to the Nets back to their roots in the American Basketball Association. [Photo by Jon Sasala/Long Island Press]“The original idea was to be a New York City team, and the story is basically the Knicks more or less blackballed them from any arena in the city,” says Herb Turetzky, official scorer for the now-Brooklyn Nets, who has been with the organization since its inception. (Turetzky was so beloved by the team that the now-defunct daily Long Island Press noted one of his few absences in December 1973, for his daughter’s birth, “the newest Nets fan,” it read.)The Americans had a lousy inaugural season (24-58) in Jersey, but miraculously tied for the final playoff spot because the other ABA teams were just as woeful. The folks running the Armory hadn’t planned on the Nets advancing to the postseason, though, and had booked a circus event there instead.That’s when the Americans made their first trip to the Long Island Arena, aka Commack Arena.“Well, we got out there; the facility was in terrible shape,” recalls Turetzky. “The floor had holes in it, cracks, warps, and it was really unfit to use, and we couldn’t play the game. We ended up forfeiting the game to the Kentucky Colonels, and that was the end of our season.”Despite the Arena’s faulty hardwood floor and freezing temperatures inside, Brown relocated the team to Commack for the 1968-1969 season and renamed them the Nets—supposedly to make the team rhyme with the Jets and Mets—before fashion entrepreneur, Roy Boe, purchased the team and moved it to Island Garden in West Hempstead.It’s a wonder the Nets actually played an entire season in there.“Visiting teams would get dressed at their hotel and come to the Arena in their warm-ups, because the locker rooms were freezing,” Turetzky says. Some players on the bench opted to wear overcoats over their red, white and blue jerseys and refused to disrobe until they were coming into the game.The minor league hockey team known as the Long Island Ducks also called Commack Arena home. Once condensation from the ice rink  seeped through the court floor so severely that officials had to cancel a Nets preseason game—nearly sparking a riot outside.“The court was so slippery,” laughs Don Ryan, a Hempstead village trustee who coached Erving on Hempstead’s Salvation Army team. “I mean it was almost like we were some sort of prelim for comedy or something.”Real change finally came in 1974 in the form of a high-flying, charismatic forward with a funny nickname, who, as rumor had it, glided poetically over defenders, whirling his body in strange positions, stretching his arms like they were molded out of clay, and almost hiding the red, white and blue basketball in his enormous hands. And he came to town just in time for the Nassau Coliseum’s opening in Uniondale.These ticket stubs [above] mark the last time the Nets were champions of their basketball world. They owed that play-off win to Julius Erving, who began his stellar career when he was 12 and playing for this Salvation Army team in Hempstead [right].The Operating Room is OpenThe Nets scored Erving in a complicated $4-million package in 1973.“I mean, there were so many players and agents and team executives and league officials involved, and we were spending so much money in legal fees, it was just insane,” Boe, the Nets owner, told Vincent Mallozzi for his book, Doc: The Rise and Rise of Julius Erving.Erving had begun playing recreation ball in Hempstead for the local Salvation Army team when he was 12 before starring at Roosevelt High School and eventually the University of Massachusetts. He landed in Nassau County with much fanfare after averaging 32 points per game the previous year with Virginia.“Coming back to Long Island, life could not have been better,” Erving said in The Doctor, an NBA TV documentary, which premiered last June. “My time here, my era here, I think was very special.”For Ryan, the Hempstead village trustee and coach, Erving’s arrival meant a reconnection with his former star player, who had walked into his gym, now a half-century ago, with raw talent and sheer determination.“He got better every day,” Ryan recalls, two black-and-white photos of a teenage Erving splayed across a table.Ryan proudly shares a May 2005 New York Post article in which Erving compares his fondest memory in the ABA to Ryan’s teams in Hempstead.“The first year in Virginia was almost like going back to my basketball days with the Salvation Army,” Erving told the paper.When he stepped out on the Coliseum’s court, Erving didn’t experience the hometown jitters that have befuddled other athletes playing in front of friends and families.“The Doctor” averaged 27 points per game in his first season with the team and was crowned the league’s MVP, leading the Nets to their first ABA title. Erving was awarded MVP honors the next season, but the Nets failed to capture back-to-back titles. Everything came together for the Nets in their final season in the ABA, finishing second in the standings with a 55-29 record and dropping the Nuggets in six games in the finals.1975-76 NEW YORK NETSFront Row (left to right): Chuck Terry, Tim Bassett, Jim Eakins, Julius Erving, Kim Hughes, Rich Jones, Trainer Fritz Massman. Back Row (left to right): Owner Roy Boe, John Williamson, Ted McClain, Assistant Coach Bill Melchionni, Coach Kevin Loughery, Brian Taylor, George Bucci, Al Skinner.“Julius is among a group of players from the 1960s and the 1970s who epitomized style and cool,” states Bob Costas, who was also raised on LI, in Mallozzi’s Erving biography. “This guy was so much cooler than 95 percent of the athletes playing today, it’s a joke. He played the game with such style, such flair, but he never did it in away that showed up an opponent, or to show off in front of a crowd.”New York Knicks legend Walt “Clyde” Frazier laughs today when asked what it was like to play against Erving—possibly due to his memories of Erving’s legendary flights to the basket.“He was intimidating,” Frazier tells the Press. “He was magical on the court, flamboyant on the court.”Nate “Tiny” Archibald, who played in the Nets final season at Nassau Coliseum when the NBA absorbed the team, lamented missing out on the opportunity to run alongside Erving.“I came from Kansas City to Long Island,” Archibald says. “It was great coming to New York…I thought I was going to play with Erving. I was ecstatic about the trade.”Like Archibald, the Nets fans were crushed. Many of them lashed out at Boe for selling Erving to Philadelphia. ABA historians liken Boe’s decision to sell the All-Star forward to that of Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee’s December 1919 sale of Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees. In Erving’s finest moment as a Net, the 1976 championship, the future of the team and a possible dynasty were all on his mind.“Now, hopefully, we started something that we can keep and win some more championships in the years to come,” Erving told the cameras amid the champagne-filled celebration. “But we’re going to enjoy this one right now.”The Nets haven’t lifted a championship trophy ever since.—With Carly Romelast_img read more

The Latest: UNC and N.C. State to start fall classes early

first_imgGerman soccer club Dynamo Dresden has reported another case of coronavirus. The already quarantined second-division club has now had four players test positive.Dresden says on its website that the latest positive result was found in a fifth wave of tests conducted on Wednesday. It adds that another “category one” close contact of its coaching staff has also tested positive for COVID-19.The player, staff member and staff member’s contact person must now go into quarantine at home for 14 days.Dresden’s entire team was ordered by local health authorities into 14 days of quarantine on May 9 after two players tested positive.The club says that all players who tested positive before were cleared in the fourth and fifth wave of tests and that they and the rest of the team will be able to resume training on Saturday. Share This StoryFacebookTwitteremailPrintLinkedinRedditThe Latest on the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on sports around the world:___North Carolina and North Carolina State will begin fall classes on Aug. 10 and forgo fall breaks in order to finish by Thanksgiving to get ahead of a potential second wave of COVID-19. FINA says the championships scheduled for December in Abu Dhabi will now be staged Dec. 13-18, 2021, in the United Arab Emirates because of the “the uncertainty related with the evolution of the COVID-19 pandemic worldwide.”FINA president Julio C. Maglione says swimming organizers have worked closely with the United Arab Emirates’ authorities and “we believe this is the most suitable solution for all those taking part in this competition.”A general congress to elect the FINA Bureau for the years 2021-25 will be staged in Doha, Qatar, on June 5, 2021. The new members of the bureau will start their terms immediately after the Tokyo Olympics in 2021.The short course world championships are held in a 25-meter pool. The FINA world championships and the Olympics are staged in 50-meter pools.___ The move affects 68 student-athletes and nine coaches and reduces ECU’s sponsored sports from 20 to 16, including nine for women. The NCAA requires Division I FBS schools to carry minimums of 16 sports, eight for women.“The coaches and student-athletes for these respective sports have all impacted our department and the Pirate Family in a positive manner,” athletic director Jon Gilbert said in a release. “This decision was not made lightly. The history and success of the swimming and diving programs and the tennis programs will continue to be celebrated at East Carolina.”ECU interim Chancellor Ron Mitchelson stated that the athletic budget was not sustainable pre-COVID-19. The deficit began to grow significantly with the pandemic where the impact was immediate and would affect future revenue and expenses.ECU will honor scholarships for athletes who remain at the school. ___ May 21, 2020 Associated Press More AP sports: https://apnews.com/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports,Tampa Bay Lightning advance to face Dallas Stars in Stanley Cup finals, beating New York Islanders 2-1 in OT in Game 6center_img The National Museum of Racing and Hall of Fame has canceled its induction ceremony in August because of health and safety concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.Hall of Fame president John Hendrickson says the museum believes it’s “in the best interests of everyone involved and for the integrity of the event to postpone the ceremony for a year.”The Hall of Fame ceremony was scheduled for Friday, Aug. 7, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. This year’s class includes trainer Mark Casse, jockey Darrel McHargue, horses Wise Dan and Tom Bowling, and Pillars of the Turf Alice Headley Chandler, Keene Daingerfield, Jr., and George D. Widener, Jr. They will be inducted with the class of 2021.The 44th Annual Museum Ball scheduled for Aug. 14 also was canceled. It’s traditionally one of the highlights of the Saratoga summer social season.___ The Latest: UNC and N.C. State to start fall classes early UNC Chancellor Kevin M. Guskiewicz introduced a Roadmap for Fall in a letter Thursday that includes “off ramps” options if conditions change. Class sizes will be reduced with time extended between classes, some of which may be conducted remotely.Faculty and staff will return in a phased approach and should initially expect staggered and alternating work schedules. UNC will also emphasize adherence to public health guidelines, including physical distancing, wearing face coverings and increased hand washing. The school will observe Labor Day and University Day and complete the semester by Nov. 24.N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson announced that the school will begin classes nine days earlier than originally scheduled and forgo fall break to also finish by Thanksgiving. Students will not return to campus for the remainder of the year and winter commencement will be announced later.___East Carolina is eliminating its men’s and women’s tennis and swimming and diving programs to help reduce a $4.9 million budget deficit. Empty stadiums will also change the TV product.The rebates will vary based on the final position in the standings and the number of games aired live. United is in fifth place with nine games remaining.The Premier League hasn’t provided details of the broadcasting rebate.___The governing body of swimming has postponed the short course world championships for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Dresden was scheduled to play at Hannover last Sunday but couldn’t participate because of the quarantine order. That game was rescheduled for June 3.Dresden is scheduled to resume play on May 31 against Stuttgart.___Manchester United says it believes it will miss out on $24 million because the Premier League will have to make refunds to broadcasters even if the pandemic-disrupted season is completed.The league is in talks with its rights holders about rebates because of delays and changes to the broadcasting schedule. The season was suspended in March.last_img read more

Origin II sold out

first_imgThe final tickets for the match, which will see NSW chase a first series win since 2014 at ANZ Stadium tonight, were sold this afternoon.”State of Origin is a wonderful sporting contest and it has been fantastic to see our supporters get behind it again this year,” NRL CEO Todd Greenberg said.”The players are the best of the best and the entertainment they produce deserves a full stadium. It will be great to see them get it tonight.”With more than 80,000 people set to attend the match, supporters are encouraged to arrive early to take advantage of activities in the Sydney Olympic Park precinct as well as the pre-game entertainment spectacular.Fans are also reminded to allow extra time for additional security measures at entry points.The pre-match entertainment, which includes a lights-out spectacular and a performance from Aussie rockers Grinspoon, will commence at 7.30pm.With all tickets to Origin including return travel on Sydney Trains and Major Event Buses, fans are strongly encouraged to leave the car at home. Related articleUpdated Teams: NSW v Queensland – http://bit.ly/2rCmF86last_img read more