Somehow, the greatest Net of them all has never even attended a single Nets game in Brooklyn.
But Julius Erving will change that next week. The last man to lead the once-nomadic team to a title said now that the Nets finally have a home, it’s time they hang an NBA championship banner there.
“The Nets have gotten to the Finals. But because of the evolution of the game — the franchise moving from Long Island to Piscataway then the big arena, now over to Brooklyn — it’s been a franchise in transition,” Erving told The Post.
“Now there’s stability, bringing it to Brooklyn. I think they’ll be there forever. Maybe it’s time to bring [a title] home in a place that really is home instead of places they’re just calling home. Absolutely, [it’ll help].”
It seems the Nets are looking to bring their biggest icon back home as well. Erving starred for the New York Nets, leading them to 1974 and 1976 ABA titles in his three years on Long Island.
Living in Atlanta and associated with the 76ers, Erving hasn’t attended a Nets game in Brooklyn. But the Roosevelt, L.I., native will be at next Friday’s tilt versus the Spurs, and will be honored with his own bobblehead.
“It’s something I feel like would be good part of the Nets history,” Erving told The Post. “Kyrie [Irving] talking about the last time the Nets won a championship there was an Erving on the team. So I think the stars are aligning to open the door for some things more things to do.”
Next Friday is Marvel Super Hero Night, so the first 10,000 fans will get the Dr. J inspired by “Black Panther” bobblehead. From the 1970s afro, the red, white and blue ABA ball and the knee-high socks, it’s a clear effort to reestablish those links with Erving.
“It’s a thrill and honor to be tied together with the Brooklyn Nets, ‘Black Panther’ and the classic red, white and blue ball,” Erving said. “It has a nice clean look. Reminds me of power and grace. And I always liked to play the game that way.”
For many that grew up during Erving’s playing days, Dr. J was a superhero, from NBA stars to coaches.
“I used to be in the backyard pretending to be Dr. J. … I used to listen when they were in Jersey on my transistor radio because of Dr. J,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson told The Post. “I’ll be the first one to greet him. I’ll put the red carpet out. … He’s a Net in my mind, in the red, white and blue uniform with the stripes and the ABA ball.”
Despite not being around the organization much lately, Erving said he never felt the same camaraderie in the NBA he did with his Nets teams. His fondest memories weren’t of his highlight dunks or game-winning shots, but the bonds formed and poker played with the likes of Kevin Loughery, Rod Thorn and Dave DeBusschere.
“We’d get a poker game going. That was some fun stuff. We got to know each other so well. When I see Kevin Loughery at the golf club in Atlanta, every time I see him it’s a flashback to the wonderful experiences I had with the Nets off the court,” Erving said. “It was absolute love for each other.
“If a guy got a little publicity in Sports Illustrated or [the paper], everybody knew what was said, knew why it was said and had a feeling of benevolence. This is about us, not just about him. The ABA was like that. I never experienced that once in the NBA, not once. … I never experienced it once in the NBA as in the ABA. Maybe because I was young, but more so because it was honest.”
The Nets essentially selling Erving’s contract to Philadelphia to get into the NBA might be the worst move they’ve ever made. (The Knicks saying no when offered Dr. J is another story.)
Erving came into the league when the NBA showed its Finals on tape-delay. Now it’s a goliath, with more than $8 billion in profits and worldwide reach. And he takes a certain amount of justifiable pride in that global growth.
“I feel a great sense of participation with the development of the international game, going abroad with Converse, Spalding, [the] Olympic development team,” Erving said.
“When the ABA and NBA joined forces, the first year being MVP in the All-Star Game helped speed up the evolution of the game and appreciation of the sport globally. So I could take a little credit for being one of the catalysts, maybe even the main catalyst.”
Erving, who turned 70 on Saturday, is a Hall of Famer who has won everything and done everything there is to do on a basketball court. But that hasn’t stopped him from looking forward instead of backward.
“I like to wake up and feel like the best day of my life is in front of me,” Erving said. “I’m only a couple days [removed] from my 70th birthday, but I like to think that. I may be delusional. I’ve had so many highs, how do you top it? But I like to wake up thinking that I have a chance.”
It remains to be seen if the Nets’ best days are in front of them. But their best ever player seems confident they are.