Nets greats reflected on 35 years of sometimes glorious, often tortured basketball in New Jersey as the team prepares to shift to Brooklyn next season, the New York Post reported.
The final regular-season Garden State home game is Monday night against Philadelphia in Newark, the Nets’ third NBA home court after stops in Piscataway and East Rutherford.
Former players, including Kenny Anderson, Otis Birdsong, Derrick Coleman, Darwin Cook, Kendall Gill, Albert King, Kerry Kittles, Chris Morris and Mike O’Koren were scheduled to attend with a halftime ceremony.
"I’m sad to see them go," former Nets president and general manager Rod Thorn said.
Thorn, who will be in the building as Sixers president, added, "I spent 11 years with the Nets. I have great memories of some great games."
Atop the list? "Game 5 vs. Indiana," Thorn said of the legendary 2002 playoff first-round two-overtime Nets victory that "validated our season."
At the bottom? Start with the 2002 Eastern finals Game 3, where the Nets suffered the greatest playoff collapse ever, blowing a 21-point fourth quarter lead to Boston.
Add the Game 6, 2004 Eastern semis loss to Detroit, where "Jason [Kidd] couldn’t do anything but run in a straight line" with a bad knee after a 3-OT win. For the regular season, go with Dec. 28, 2000, and Milt Palacio’s halfcourt buzzer prayer off a botched Nets’ inbound for a 112-111 Boston win.
"I’d put my coat on up in the box and was getting ready to go down and celebrate," Thorn recalled, "and the kid steals a pass and throws in a daggone shot. Unbelievable."
There is a word that sums up a lot of the Nets’ history.
"If we were in New York, it would have been a great place, especially with the type of team we had," Kidd said.
The future Hall of Famer transformed the franchise, but his opening act in New Jersey, on Oct. 30, 2001, was witnessed by 8,749. "And I think that’s pushing it," he said.
It was in the Meadowlands, where Nets life began inauspiciously in preseason.
"Second quarter, the lights went out," former player and coach O’Koren remembered with a laugh. "It was so dark, we all hit the deck."
Amid the gloom were positives, like Micheal Ray Richardson, the talented but troubled star who now is coaching in Canada.
His third-strike drug relapse in 1986 made him the first player permanently banned by the league. But owner Joe Taub remained a source of support.
"To this day, we’re friends. He never turned his back on me," Richardson said. "Is [moving] sad? Yeah. But there are good memories. Beating the Sixers in 1984 [playoffs]. We won the first two there, lost the next two at home and then Julius Erving said, ‘Count on it, you might as mail in the stat sheet.’ We beat them Game 5. He’s still eating those words."
Monday night, the final memories will be made in Newark.
"I am sad," O’Koren said. "I’m as New Jersey as it gets. I grew up with the Nets, played for the Nets, coached for the Nets, did everything with the Nets. There were the great years with J-Kidd, but we had terrific teams before. But we were in with Boston and Philly. They’d win 60 every year, so no matter what we had no shot. Still, we had a ball."