Debby Wong-US PRESSWIRE
The Brooklyn Nets came into existence in the inaugural season of the ABA in 1967-68 as the New Jersey Americans, which gives us 44 seasons of the Nets and New York Knicks coexisting in the area's basketball scene. Amazingly enough, there have only been seven seasons when both teams finished .500 or better in the same year. It's looking like this year will be the eighth, with both the Nets and Knicks atop the Atlantic Division and seemingly on their way to a playoff berth. Here are the Top 5 seasons, calculated by combined winning percentage (the other two years not on this list are 1971-'72, with a combined winning percentage of .554 and both teams losing in their respective league finals, and 1997-'98, with a .524 combined winning percentage and each team finishing with duplicate 43-39 records).
5. 1983-'84, combined .561 winning percentage (92-72): The Hubie Brown-led Knicks finished in third place, with a 47-35 mark, and then went on defeat the Detroit Pistons, three games to two (winning Game 5 in overtime), in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the eventual champion Boston Celtics in seven games. An in-his-prime Bernard King led the Knicks in scoring, with a 26.3 per-game average, which earned him a spot on the All-Star team. Bill Cartwright averaged 17 point a game and 8.4 rebounds, while Truck Robinson also hauled 8.4 boards per game. Rory Sparrow led the team in assists, dishing out 6.8 per game. The Nets finished right behind the Knicks, with a 45-37 record. Stan Albeck led his team to one of the great NBA upsets, when the Nets shocked the previous season's champion, the Philadelphia 76ers, three games to two, in the playoffs. They couldn't keep the momentum going, though, losing to the Milwaukee Bucks in the next round. Otis Birdsong was the top scorer for the Nets that season (19.8), while Buck Williams led the team in rebounding (12.3) and Kelvin Ransey in assists (6.0). Darryl Dawkins (16.8 points, 6.7 rebounds), Albert King, Michael Ray Richardson and Mike Gminski were also on that team.
4. 1982-'83, combined .567 winning percentage (93-71): This was the best Nets team since they joined the NBA, but Larry Brown's acceptance of the University of Kansas coaching job before the season ended sabotaged the team, as he was suspended by the Nets, with Bill Blair taking over the coaching duties to finish out the year. It was their second season playing in the Meadowlands, and they finished in third place, with a 49-33 record, but lost to the Knicks, two games to none, in the first round of the playoffs. Buck Williams was their leading score (17.0) and rebounder (12.5), with Albert King also averaging 17 points per game. Richardson led the Nets in assists (6.0), while Birdsong averaged 15.1 points that season. The fourth-place Knicks sported a 44-38 mark that season, and after defeating the Nets in the playoffs, they were swept by the champion 76ers. Bernard King led the team in scoring (21.9 points), Truck Robinson in rebounding (8.1) and Paul Westphal in assists (5.5). Sparrow averaged 5.0 assists per game, and Cartwright scored 15.7 points a game with 7.2 rebounds.
3. 1993-'94, combined .622 winning percentage (102-62): It was the celebrated spring of '94 at the Garden, and the Knicks and Rangers would have been the first NBA/NHL co-tenants to win a title in the same year if the Knicks didn't fall one step short, by losing to the Houston Rockets in the finals that year (maybe we should blame O.J. Simpson for distracting everyone with his wild Ford Bronco freeway chase while the Knicks were in the midst of their series with Houston -- or maybe it had more to do with John Starks famously shooting 2-for-18 in Game 7). Pat Riley's Knicks finished in first place, with a 57-25 record, and defeated the Nets, the Michael Jordan-less Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers (despite Reggie Miller's Game 5 fourth-quarter explosion) in the playoffs. Patrick Ewing led the team in scoring (24.5 points, and 11.2 rebounds), Charles Oakley was the rebounding leader (11.8) and Starks averaged 19 points a game and 5.9 assists. The Nets, though, had to deal with tragedy, as Drazen Petrovic was killed in the summer before the 1993-94 season, but Chuck Daly rallied his team to a third-place finish, going 45-37. Derrick Coleman led the team in scoring (20.2) and rebounding (11.3), while Kenny Anderson was the top assist man for the Nets that season, with a 9.6 per-game average (and he scored 18.8 points per game). Daly resigned after the season, Butch Beard took over and everything fell apart for the Nets after that.
2. 1973-'74, combined .627 winning percentage (104-62): It was Julius Erving's first year in New York, and he led the Nets to the best record in the ABA (55-29) and the league championship, while winning the MVP. The Nets defeated Dr. J's old team, the Virginia Squires, along with the Kentucky Colonels in the first two rounds of the playoffs before vanquishing the Utah Stars in the finals. Erving averaged 27.4 points per game, led the team with 5.2 assists and averaged 10.7 rebounds. They had two other players in double figures in rebounds: Billy Paultz (10.2, 16.4 points) and Larry Kenon (11.5, 15.9 points). On a side note: Why didn't anyone toss around the idea of a Super Bowl-like NBA-ABA title game back then? The last three or four years of the ABA featured a handful of powerhouse teams, like the Nets, the Pacers, Larry Brown's Denver Nuggets and Hubie Brown's Colonels, which could certainly compete with the best of the NBA. A Celtics-Nets matchup in '74 and '76 and a Warriors-Colonels game in '75 would have been something to see. It was the beginning of the end for the Knicks that year, though. They finished in second place, with a 49-33 record, and, after beating the Capitol Bullets, reached the Eastern Conference Finals, but lost to the Celtics. Walt Frazier led the team in scoring (20.5) and assists (6.9), but it was the final season for Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Dick Barnett and Jerry Lucas.
1. 1992-'93, combined .628 winning percentage (103-61): This was Pat Riley's second year with the Knicks, as they carved out an identity as a tough, physical, defensive-minded team. Their 60-22 record was good for first place, and the 60-win total is tied with the 1969-'70 Knicks as the most in franchise history. They beat the Pacers and Charlotte Hornets in the postseason but just couldn't beat Michael Jordan's Bulls. Patrick Ewing led the team in scoring (24.2) and rebounding (12.1), while Doc Rivers led in assists (5.3), with John Starks chipping in with 5.1 assists and 17.5 point a game. Chuck Daly took over the Nets that year, and led them to a 43-39 record and a third-place finish, but lost to Cleveland, three games to two, in the playoffs. Petrovic averaged 22.3 points per game in his final season, while Derrick Coleman added 20.7 points and Kenny Anderson 16.9 points and 8.2 assists. This was Bernard King's swan-song season, as he averaged seven points coming off the bench for the Nets.