The formation of the Brooklyn Nets began in 1967 as the New York Americans, a charter member of the American Basketball Association and it was an ugly beginning. The team bounced around in different venues in the New York and New Jersey area and they did not find a lot of wins, but they toughed it out and survived the early years; something that not every team in the ABA was able to do. After a few years of suffering and a name change to the Nets, they acquired Julius Erving from the Virginia Squires before the 1973-74 Season. The Squires were hard-up and needed the cash back from that deal, but it was the just the tonic that the Nets needed to turn everything around.
“Dr. J” was named the ABA MVP in his first season in New York, and he would repeat that again in the next two seasons. As you would imagine, this led to the Nets winning the ABA Championship in 1974 and 1976 and with Erving as their Center and best player, they were expected to have success when they merged with the NBA.
Or so they thought.
The NBA subjected them to an unexpected $4.8 million dollar penalty for invading the New York Knicks “territory”. This decimated their payroll and they were no longer able to pay Erving what they promised him, leading to Erving refusing to report. The domino effect resulted in Erving being traded to the Philadelphia 76ers for cash, and the Nets were awful for years.
The Nets moved officially to state of New Jersey for the 1977-78 campaign and they were now the New Jersey Nets and for the next twenty seasons they were average at best. The acquisition of Jason Kidd made them a contender and they would make the NBA Finals for the first time in 2002, and appear again in 2003, but would lose on both occasions. They would make the playoffs the next four seasons but would then falter. In 2013, under new owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, they went all in trading for Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce but they gave up too many picks and Garnett and Pierce were far too old to make a difference.
Prior to that trade, they moved back to New York, specifically Brooklyn and have been challenging the Knicks for ownership of the market. After hitting rock bottom, they are a team on the rise as of this writing.
This list is up to the end of the 2018-19 regular season.
Note: Basketball lists are based on an amalgamation of tenure, traditional statistics, advanced statistics, playoff statistics, and post-season accolades.