May-13-1976 Dr. J Rallies Nets to Win Last ABA Championship
Forty years ago today, the American Basketball Association went out in style, with
- its biggest star – Julius Erving (31 points, 19 rebounded)
- leading its marque franchise – New York Nets
- in a 20 point 4th Quarter comeback to overtake the Denver Nuggets and Rookie of the Year David Thompson (42 points) to win their second championship in the final game in ABA history.
The season began with a defeat for both teams, as courts blocked an attempt by the Nets and Nuggets to join the NBA at the start of the season. Instead the two teams played in the ABA’s final season in which two of the ten teams folded during the season.
The league which was known for innovations such as its tri-colored ball and three-point shot, added one last one innovation during its final All-Star Game – the Slam Dunk Competition whose highlight was Dr. J’s dunk from the foul line.
The month following the Nets victory, four ABA teams – the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers, New York Nets and San Antonio Spurs – were admitted into the NBA with the remaining teams folding. It was not called a meger since each team had to pay a $3.2 million expansion fee, with the Nets having to pay an additional $4.8 million to the New York Knicks for moving into their market.
The Nets offered their superstar forward Julius Erving to the Knicks in return for waiving the $4.8 million territorial penalty fee, but the Knicks declined the offer. Instead, Erving was sold to the Philadelphia 76ers for $3 million. In effect, the Nets traded their franchise player for a berth in the NBA.
The ABA players had an immediate impact on the new league. In the first season after the “merger”, 10 of the 24 NBA All Stars were former ABA players and in the NBA Finals five of the ten starting players were former ABA players.
A former ABA player led the league in points, assists or rebounds for the first 9 years.
Only one ABA team, however, has won a championship – the San Antonio Spurs who have won five NBA titles.