Back in 1976, during the ABA/NBA merger — the NBA welcomed four new teams: the New York Nets, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers.
The Nets had just finished a phenomenal season, winning the 1976 ABA Championship against the Nuggets, with Dr. J as the Finals MVP. They were feeling good about themselves and were excited about the new challenges to come as they were entering the NBA. Little did they know that the New York Knicks had other plans in store for them.
During that time both teams shared the city of New York, and that was never really an issue until the Knicks realized that the Nets would not only share the same backyard with them but also play in the same league. The New York Knicks were so upset that they demanded close to $5 million from the Nets for invading their NBA turf as an indemnity payment. Roy Boe, the Nets owner at the time was forced into offering Dr. J’s services to the Knicks to cover the indemnity. The Knicks refused, and this is to this day considered as one of the worst decisions in their franchise history.
Many NBA teams were interested in acquiring Dr. J from the Nets, and ultimately, The Philadelphia 76ers bought Dr. J’s contract, and this provided more than enough cash to the Nets to cover the Knicks indemnity payment. Later when asked about the merger, Roy Boe said:
The merger agreement killed the Nets as an NBA franchise. …The merger agreement got us into the NBA, but it forced me to destroy the team by selling Erving to pay the bill.
The 1976/77 season for the Nets was one of the worst in their franchise history; they finished with a 22—60 record, by far the worst in the league. This kind of performance eventually led to meager attendance and unfortunately, forced Roy Boe to take the team back to New Jersey and rebuild.
We’ve seen plenty of questionable GM decisions in the past, but can you imagine not taking Dr. J just out of spite, or, even worse, can you imagine being with the Nets and going through this entire agony? Everything happens for a reason they say, the Nets moved to Brooklyn in 2012, and have now definitely overtaken the Knicks as the best team in town.