You thought this was the lowest moment in New Jersey's
franchise history? Then you thought very wrong.

The 2009-10 New Jersey Nets -- also known as the "New Jersey Nyets" around these parts -- opened their season with 18 consecutive losses and finished with only 12 wins, earning them a spot among the worst teams in NBA history.

But, believe it or not, neither the 0-18 nor the 12-70 qualify as the worst, most embarrassing moment in New Jersey's franchise history. So come with me on a journey through another dimension, a dimension not only of sight and sound but of suck.

Yesterday, chris sent me the link to a Deadspin post about the Nets' impending name change (possibly only to the "Brooklyn Nets"). He found one sentence of that post particularly entertaining:

Yes, the Nets go back to the '60s, and are one of four remaining links to the ABA days. But a long history does not equal a storied history. Remember that time they had to forfeit a playoff game because the only arena they could get had baskets of uneven height? Remember when they sold Dr. J because they couldn't afford the cost of joining the NBA? Remember those 432 games below .500, in just 34 years in the league?
That sounds pretty sad, right? I mean, losing a playoff game by forfeit because your arena sucked? Well, put a protective cover over your shame gland, because it's even more pathetic than it sounds.

First understand that this happened back when the "Nets" were actually the New Jersey Americans of the ABA. Now...from NBA.com's New Jersey Nets History page:

1968: The Playoff Game That Never Happened

New Jersey's 36-42 finish earned the team a tie with the Kentucky Colonels for the fourth and final playoff spot in the ABA's Eastern Division. A single-game playoff was scheduled to determine which team would advance to face the Minnesota Muskies in the first round of postseason play. Unfortunately for the Americans, the Teaneck Armory was booked for a circus on the scheduled date. Owner Arthur Brown scrambled to find an alternate site and managed to reserve Commack Arena in the Long Island, New York, town of the same name.

When the teams showed up for the game, however, they found that the court was in unplayable condition, with floorboards loose, bolts unscrewed, and basket stanchions unpadded. The Colonels refused to play. ABA commissioner George Mikan ruled the game a forfeit, with Kentucky the winner. The Americans' first taste of postseason action had ended without so much as an opening jump ball.
So they had a one-game playoff -- thanks to a sparkling sub-.500 record -- and lost it by forfeit. Ouch. And notice that last sentence? That game was supposed to be New Jersey's first ever playoff contest...and they lost it by forfeit. And it was a home game. How utterly perfect. It couldn't be any more Nets-like, even if Brook Lopez travelled back in time to facepalm about it.

But don't you want more details about this ball-crusher? Of course you do.

From Remember the ABA:

For the first several months of the 1967-68 season, the Americans struggled to keep up in a series of high-scoring shootouts. On November 2, 1967, in New Orleans, the Buccaneers crushed the Americans 141-117. The 141 points for the Bucs established a new ABA high mark. On November 27, 1968, in Louisville, the Kentucky Colonels humiliated the Americans 138-100. And, on December 19, 1967, the Pipers pounded the Americans in Pittsburgh, 146-124. The 146 points for the Pipers set still another ABA high mark. And, Pittsburgh's 80-56 halftime lead also set a new ABA record for most points scored in a half.
Wow. Basketbawful before there was a Basketbawful! Let's continue...

In March 1968, the Americans went on a "mini" playoff push. ... Ultimately, the Americans tied the Kentucky Colonels for fourth place in the Eastern Division with a 36-42 record. A special one-game playoff was scheduled between the two teams to decide which team would qualify for the regular playoffs. The game was scheduled to be played at New Jersey. However, the Teaneck Armory was booked by a circus the entire week of the playoff game.

The Americans decided to move the game to Commack Arena on Long Island. What followed truly became the stuff of ABA legend.

When players, fans and reporters arrived at Commack Arena the evening of the game, the scene was chaotic. Workers hired by the Americans were feverishly trying to tape new 3-point lines onto the court. Parts of the floor appeared to have gaps and holes. Some areas of the court were unstable. There were numerous player complaints about goal padding, floor marking and even the height of the baskets.

Walt Simon observed: "This floor is a shame. You step on one side and another side comes up. That's dangerous."
No shit, Walt.

Levern Tart recited a litany of obvious problems: "One basket seems a little higher than the other. And the 25-foot arc looks a little crooked. And there isn't any padding on the backboards or basket supports. It looks like things have been put up too quickly."

Colonels coach Gene Rhodes summed up the condition of the court by saying: "It's something out of Rube Goldberg!"
Wait, wait, wait. I thought the point of a Rube Goldberg contest was designing a ridiculously complicated machine to perform a seemingly simple operation. This sounds more like inventing an obstacle course where the winning prize is death.

Others at the game also recall that parts of the court were very slippery. This was apparently the result of condensation from hockey ice directly underneath the court (Commack was the home of the Long Island Ducks of the Eastern Hockey League).

Despite the bizarre conditions, most of the Americans players were suited up and ready to play by game time. But, only 3 or 4 Colonels bothered to dress. After Kentucky refused to play, a call was placed to ABA Commissioner George Mikan in Minneapolis. After consulting with Americans and Colonels representatives, Mikan finally ordered the game forfeited in favor of the visiting Colonels. "I just don't want anyone injured," explained Mikan.

A slim crowd of about 400 had showed up for the game. Many of these fans had waited a full hour after the scheduled tipoff, hoping that the game would still go on.

When the forfeit was announced over the P.A. system, many fans in the small crowd gave a sarcastic cheer. To add insult to injury, the Americans had given out numerous free tickets to their one-game playoff, without any special markings. When a line formed for refunds, many of the free ticketholders got in line with paying customers. The arena's ticket crew mistakenly gave refunds on about 80 complimentary tickets.
Well, that was $7.28 the New Jersey owner would never see again...

A short time later, Americans owner Brown stormed out of the arena, saying to his own coach, Max Zaslofsky: "Come on, let's get out of this stinking joint."

The next day, Brown bitterly complained about Mikan's decision to forfeit the game. He threatened to sue Mikan and the ABA. In response, Mikan told the Louisville Courier-Journal: "I suppose Brown has the right to go to court. That's his opinion. I made this ruling for the good of the league. I don't want to try it in the papers."

For a short time, the league actually considered flying the Americans AND the Colonels to Minneapolis for a special "replay" of the game. The winner would have simply stayed put in Minneapolis to face the Minnesota Muskies in Game 1 of a regular 5-game playoff series. A scorecard was even printed for Minneapolis fans who (for inexplicable reasons) might have wanted to see the game. Eventually the league decided against a replay -- the Colonels started their playoff series with Minnesota and that was the end of the saga.
So let's sum this up: the Nets (then the Americans) lost their first-ever playoff game by forfeit because their normal arena was booked by a circus and their substitute arena was like a demilitarized zone. The forfeit happened because commissioner George freaking Mikan's unilateral decision to just cancel the game outright. Then fate squeezed a big, fat lemon all over the wound when the Nets/Americans accidentally refunded money on free tickets. Then they were screwed out of a replay of the game too.

Man. And we thought the Clippers were cursed.

And the kicker? Wait for it...waaaaaait for it...

After the fiasco, Brown was asked by several reporters whether the Americans might move to Commack Arena for their next season. Brown harshly responded: "I cannot see any possibility of negotiating with these people. Anyone in the arena business should know that what's here is inadequate and improper. We definitely won't be here next year!" The manager of Commack Arena, John Steele, shot back: "I wouldn't want Brown here now for all his millions and I told him so."

But in the summer of 1968, Brown decided that the Americans could not survive in New Jersey. He announced his plans to move the team into the New York area -where he had intended to base the team in the first place. It would play as the "New York Nets." And where would the Nets play all of their home games for the 1968-69 season? Commack Arena, of course!

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Blogger chris said...
Wow. All this when I thought it was just about uneven baskets.

Thanks, Bawful. I'm hoping that the Commack Arena becomes a playable venue in the Matt McHale: Technical Writer Challenge.

And wow, 400 fans actually considered showing up to this? Their grandchildren probably were the ones who braved the snow for that hyper-low-attendence Nyets game this year.

Blogger chris said...
And "Levern Tart" sounds like what Oliver Miller wishes was his name!

Anonymous Heretic said...
To top it all off the Nets were heavily featured in the god awful Queen Latifah movie "Just Wright". Near the end of the movie the Nyets win game 7 against Miami to become the eastern conference champions. That scene alone has probably cursed the Nets for the next millennium.

Blogger Leland said...
To add to the more Bawfulness of this entry, when i opened the page the WOTD was "letdown game".

can you add to that entry as part 2 of the definition being: could also refer to any regular season game played by the Nets.

The lord of Bawful clearly intervened and made this "coincidence" happen

Blogger Factfinder said...
As a former lifelong Nets fan, I appreciate this investigation into the Nets' early suckitude. Please complete the series! There's a WHOLE LOTTA suck that can be discussed. By the way, I gave up being a Nets fan when they decided to abandon NJ after a few good years. Last year's pathetic run by the Nets warmed my heart in a way that only my late grandmother's peach cobbler could.

Blogger Siddarth Sharma said...
Come on, put them on the banner already. They are begging for it.

Blogger Unknown said...
@Chris - I'd love to see this game played. It's like watching the a real life version of the "The Running Man"! Dystopian playoff basketball.

Blogger chris said...
Here's a nice little page on the bawful Long Island Arena in Commack, including the program guide for the team's first ever game as the Nyets!!!!!

Blogger chris said...
Sorbo: THIS is why we need to call up the folks at Gatorade Replay and ask that they convince the 1967-1968 Americans and Colonels to reunite to show ONCE AND FOR ALL who would've won a forgettable one-game playoff at a hazardous barn!!!!

Anonymous Mike T said...
I'm currently reading "Loose Balls", the Terry Pluto book about the ABA (this book should be on the Basketbawful required reading list). He points out that on top of all of this, the next year the Nets actually played their home games at... Commack Arena! I think I also read that Levern Tart later slipped on ice at the Arena and broke his cheek bone.

Blogger chris said...
Sports Illustrated did a 1969 piece on the Long Island Arena.

Basically, after having the worst playoff game experience known to man at the very site...the Americans/Nyets MOVED TO THIS PLACE FOR A SEASON OR TWO.

You can't make this up.

Blogger chris said...

Blogger Basketbawful said...
I'm currently reading "Loose Balls", the Terry Pluto book about the ABA (this book should be on the Basketbawful required reading list). He points out that on top of all of this, the next year the Nets actually played their home games at... Commack Arena! I think I also read that Levern Tart later slipped on ice at the Arena and broke his cheek bone.


Sports Illustrated did a 1969 piece on the Long Island Arena.

Basically, after having the worst playoff game experience known to man at the very site...the Americans/Nyets MOVED TO THIS PLACE FOR A SEASON OR TWO.

Yup, yup, yup. This was actually mentioned in the ABA article I linked to. Post updated.

Anonymous JJ said...
Maybe this is how street ball started...

Blogger chris said...
It's too bad that Long Island Arena has been in the Great Arena Graveyard In The Sky for the last 14 years. if it were around, it'd be a GREAT place for the new-look Brooklyn Nyets to temporarily play before they arrive in Brownsville!

I mean, it'll be New York after all, and the tiny seating capacity will cover just about everyone who's ever owned a Nyets ticket!

Anonymous Original said...
Alas, my love you do me wrong.

To be a Nets fan is to maintain a perpetual face palm. During the 2009-2010 season, we Nets fans remained staunchly focused on John Wall, 'that Russian billionaire dude who will just buy us wins', and Lebron. Zero of those happened. Unless Mickey P starts wheeling and dealing soon. There was also the stretch near the end where we picked up some wins due to the other teams fielding their C-squads, and we had this hope that we could trump the Timberpuppies' breathtaking 15 wins and somehow NOT be the worst of the worst. That didn't happen either.

I distinctly remember one day midway through last season that I looked at the standings and saw my Nets at 4-40. These numbers seemed wrong, even obscene. It couldn't have been right. But somehow, this was the situation I was in, and my morale sunk even lower when I saw the -10 point differential of our squad.

The only bright side was one night that my friend and I were going to a club and needed to catch up with our other friends who had been drinking for a while. So we watched the Nets on NBA TV and took a shot every time Brook Lopez touched the ball. Suffice to say, a few minutes into watching the game, we were more than caught up.

I wear my Jason Kidd Nets jersey with pride. With hope that one day we will return to glory, the glory of a time when we dominated the Leastern Conference and won the 'who gets to be horrifically abused by Shaq?' award. Todd MacCulloch, that was who. Todd MacCulloch.

Blogger chris said...
Original: And Mr. MacCulloch...

is now a pinball wizard.

Anonymous AK Dave said...
I love that Charles Barkley basically told LeBron James to take a flying fuck at a rolling doughnut on the air today.

I can't find the soundbyte, but he said something to the effect of

'I hope LeBron IS taking mental notes of who is talking about him and I hope he remembers me first! I thought the decision show was a punk move, I thought the dancing on stage in Miami was a punk move, and I thought he should have stayed in Cleveland. And if LeBron wants to talk to me about it, I'm easy to find, he can come on my show.'

AAAAAAaaaaaaah Chuck, you never cease to say what I'm thinking in a way I could never say it. My man-crush........ continues.

Blogger DC said...

I remember the Nyets' plan, after the Shaq, Duncan, and Robinson abuse, was to get a center who could stop these behemoths. So who better than Dikembe Mutombo, who coincidentally also replaced McCulloch on the 76ers when they went to the Finals in 2001?

Unfortunately, that was the beginning of the end for the "Eastern Conference Champion Nyets". Mutombo was a horrible fit for the Princeton offense system because of his horrendous hands (as opposed to McCulloch, who had perhaps the softest hands in the league). So while he may have given the Nyets something in the rebounding and defense department, he took it right back in their offense. He pretty much played his way out of the rotation because of that (and because of injuries, but the Nyets bought him out after that season anyway). Although they went to the Finals again with Mutombo on IR, they became worse and worse afterwards. Who knew that Kenyon Martin was the foundation for a conference champion? Damn crappy Eastern Conference.

Also, why do the Nyets and 76ers love to pick up each other's personnel? First, it was Keith Van Horn in the 1997 draft. Then, it was Van Horn and McCulloch for Mutombo. And now, it's Billy King and Rod Thorn. I know that they're only a New Jersey Turnpike away from each other, but c'mon.

Blogger Unknown said...
(as opposed to McCulloch, who had perhaps the softest hands in the league)

Laughing on so many levels with that statement.

Blogger Barry said...
It's like the Nets' sole purpose in this world is to bring us more Bawful. More power to them, I say!

You just couldn't make this stuff up.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
Nets=East Coast Clippers?

Anonymous JJ said...
I think Mikhail Prokhorov has been reading Bawful because he just twitted, "Don't think for one min that I haven't been taking mental notes of everyone taking shots at Nyets this summer. And I mean everyone!"

All of you who've been picking on Nyets better watch out...

Blogger Unknown said...
Anybody else here think Mikhail Prokhorov reminds them of Boris on USA's Royals Pains?

Blogger chris said...
(as opposed to McCulloch, who had perhaps the softest hands in the league)

Which no doubt helps with his pinball career, right?

Blogger chris said...
Oh yeah, is it me, or is it hillariously telling that despite giving away FREE tickets to the Playoff Game That Never Was, they still only attracted an audience of 400!?

Anonymous AdriĆ  said...
I just think that at least they made their way to the Finals twice... Even losing to the Big Clanky and the Wall Spurs Center they are better than the Clippers. It's another level of bawfulness there.

Anonymous Anonymous said...
It gets better. After moving out of Commack, they went to an arena called the Island Garden out on Long Island. In 1971 the Nets had to play all of their playoff games on the road because the arena was booked.

Anonymous Petey said...
"Nets=East Coast Clippers?"


Even down to the fact that both teams manage to compensate for their awful play by having top-notch broadcasters.

I'm always happy to watch the Nets and Clippers on teevee for the joy of Marv Albert and Ralph Lawler.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous AdriĆ  said...
It's time for a series crossover (Livin'Large & Pickup Diaries)! :D

Blogger The Sports Hayes said...
Eh....in my opinion the Nets deserve what they get. They crushed my little 16 (and 17) year old dreams of a Celtics championship.

(Ok, the 2002 Lunchpail Gang celtics had absolutely no shot of beating the Lakers that year but I was 16 and wanted to see it dammit....)

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