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Here’s the thing about the Nets:
They don’t even get full credit for authoring one of the truly great curses in the history of sports. Think about it: There was a cottage industry crafted around the Red Sox selling off Babe Ruth. There were plays written about the Cubs’ refusal to let Billy Sianis’ goat into Wrigley Field for the 1945 World Series.
Those were the Granddaddies of Curses. But even lesser ones get more burn: the Arizona Cardinals (when they were based in Chicago) having stolen the 1925 NFL Championship from the Pottsville Maroons. The Lions trading Bobby Layne in 1958. The Indians trading Rocky Colavito in 1960. The Rangers burning the mortgage inside the Stanley Cup.
On and on.
But what of the Curse of the Doctor?
What about the Nets selling Julius Erving at the absolute peak of his power, on Oct. 21, 1976? Roy Boe, the Nets’ owner, was hemorrhaging money: he owed the Knicks a $4 million indemnity fee for joining the NBA. He already had paid the NBA a $3.2 million entry fee. Erving was demanding a new $500,000 annual contract.
And Boe barely had a pot to … well, cry in.
“I got a call Monday,” Nets GM Bill Melchionni said on the day the music died for the final ABA champs, “and I was told, ‘We have no choice. Make the best deal you can.’ ”
In the short term, it began a period of grievous exodus among the New York’s kid brothers: over the next 10 months the Nets, Mets and Jets parted ways with Erving, Tom Seaver and Joe Namath, who hadn’t merely starred for their teams, but had made each one credible.
In the 45 years since, those teams have combined for one (1) title. The Mets have tortured their fans plenty. The Jets could be arrested for the mental cruelty they regularly inflict.
But the Nets …
Well, the Nets’ list of transgressions is equal parts baroque and bizarre, calamitous and catastrophic, dreadful and deplorable. They have mostly been buffoonish losers these past 45 years with the occasional dollop of prosperity, with looming dread and doom always lurking in the next room.
Maybe the Big 3 can alter that course.
Maybe Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving can slam the trunk shut on 4 ½ decades of futility that has defined just about every second the Nets have been members in good standing of the NBA.
It’s funny, too. When the Nets played with a red, white and blue ball, they were a refreshing and often feel-good alternative for New York basketball fans, even in a time when those fans were mostly engrossed by the best Knicks teams ever formed.
The 1972 Nets made the ABA Finals during Rick Barry’s brief time here. In both 1974 and 1976, the Nets won titles behind the ascending brilliance of Erving, who made dunking fashionable and allowed the Nets to fill the void of the post-championship Knicks.
That first NBA season, the Nets had a pretty formidable Big 3 lined up — Erving, Tiny Archibald, Super John Williamson. Their first NBA game, Oct. 22, 1976, against Barry and Golden State, was to be nationally televised. The Nets were fixing to zoom past the Knicks.
Then Boe called Melchionni.
And Melchionni called Pat Williams, the 76ers’ GM.
And by the time the Nets’ landed at San Francisco International, CBS had canceled the telecast. The Nets’ NBA future lay in splinters. And Super John was telling The Post’s Jim O’Brien: “What a way to enter the NBA. Damn. The season’s over for us already.”
And then came the next 45 years.
Then came 27 losing seasons — including 18 of at least 50 losses, six of at least 60 losses and one (2009-10) when they chased the 1973 Sixers all year for status of worst team, all time, when they started 0-18 and 2-29 and 3-40 before rallying to end at 10-72.
Then came an unending series of unfortunate events, beginning with Archibald tearing his Achilles 34 games into his Nets career. Bernard King was brilliant for a time with the Nets, but his battles with alcoholism quickly got him exiled to Utah, and after he straightened out, the Nets had to watch him become a folk hero across the Hudson.
Micheal Ray Richardson was a brilliant burst of energy … but that was before the three drug suspensions that ended his career at age 30. Chuck Daly once led a Nets revival behind Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson that seemed to be every bit as formidable as the one Pat Riley was building with the Knicks … until, one awful Sunday, Anderson went up for a layup, John Starks hammered him, Anderson broke his wrist and … well, that was that.
That came nine months after Drazen Petrovic, who became a crowd-pleasing star as a Net, was killed in an accident on the Autobahn in Germany. To this day Willis Reed, then the Nets’ GM, can’t speak of Petrovic without tearing up.
“A little piece of me died that day, too,” he said in 2007.
The Nets descended into slapstick, and worse. Stephon Marbury scrawled “ALL ALONE” on his ankle tape; Chris Morris etched “TRADE ME” on his sneakers. On Jan. 16, 1999, they signed Jayson Williams to a seven-year, $100 million contract; exactly 76 days and 30 games later, Williams suffered a career-ending broken leg. Within three years Williams had been accused of killing his limo driver, and he ended up serving five years for aggravated assault.
Is that enough of a curse for you, doctor?
Consider: The Nets’ lone moments of NBA glory were Jason Kidd’s doing; he was acquired for Marbury on draft night, 2001. Kidd finished second in the 2002 MVP vote, led the Nets to back-to-back Finals, engineered the NBA’s most beautiful basketball show for four years running. Then he soured on the Nets. He decided one day to not show up for work, in an effort to get coach Byron Scott fired.
Scott was fired. Kidd departed not long after. In 2013, the Nets — now in Brooklyn — stunningly brought Kidd back to coach Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Deron Williams. After a slow start, Kidd led them to their most recent playoff series win. Then he tried to pull a power play, dabbled with the Bucks job … and again a tenure with the Nets ended in flames.
Consider: The Nets will go a period of 14 years — 2014-2027 — without controlling their own first-round draft pick. The first stretch was as a result of the trade with Boston that yielded Garnett and Pierce and ultimately blew up in their face like a faulty M80. The latter will be judged based on what the Big 3 do.
Consider: The Nets have retired seven uniform jerseys.
Two died young — Petrovic (3) and Wendell Ladner (4), killed in a 1975 plane crash.
Three belong to Erving (32), Williamson (23) and Melchionni (25) — the franchise icon exiled for money; his sidekick similarly shipped to Indiana a few months later; and the franchise’s first star point guard turned GM, forced to pull the trigger on both deals.
One belongs to Kidd (5) — who twice poured gasoline on his Nets legacy.
At least there’s Buck Williams (52).
And now … the Big 3. Wherever they may lead.
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