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Tonight's sold-out game against the 76ers brings with it a close to the 35th and final season the NETS are playing in New Jersey. Former players including Kenny Anderson, Otis Birdsong, Darwin Cook, Derrick Coleman, Kendall Gill, Albert King, Kerry Kittles, Chris Morris, and Mike O' Koren will be honored at a halftime ceremony, and others unable to attend because they remain active in the league (such as Jason Kidd, Vince Carter and Lawrence Frank) recorded video tributes.

This year the second of two in Newark's Prudential Center, the team's fourth home in the Garden State, following the Teaneck Armory, Rutgers Athletic Center and IZOD Center (ne Brendan Byrne Arena) has featured some memorable moments, from All-Star point guard Deron Williams crossing over opposing point guards to Jordan Farmar's game-winning 3 against the Clippers and "The Dunk" by Gerald Green. (You know the one.)

They join a recent list that includes Devin Harris' halfcourt heave to beat the 76ers and Vince Carter's 35-foot buzzer-beating pullup against the Hawks, and Lawrence Frank's 13-0 start to a coaching career that has since led him to Detroit. But ABA beginnings as the "New Jersey Americans" were followed by a New York exodus and a return to New Jersey following the NBA-ABA merger.

By the early '80s, the Nets had built the core of a playoff team around star forward Buck Williams, surrounding him with complementary talent: super-smooth point guard Micheal Ray Richardson, scoring swingmen Otis Birdsong and Albert King, as well as flamboyant center Darryl "Chocolate Thunder" Dawkins and rugged backup Mike Gminski. The '90s brought talent through the Draft, with Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson coming to the Meadowlands, where they were eventually joined by sharpshooting Croatian guard Drazen Petrovic and Chuck Daly. The group made several playoff appearances and seemed on the verge of a breakthrough before Petrovic's tragic death in 1993.

After an era of individual accomplishment in the late '90s that featured Sam Cassell, Kendall Gill, Stephon Marbury and Keith Van Horn, the final decade began with those back-to-back Eastern Conference Championships. Coached by Byron Scott and led by All-NBA point guard Jason Kidd, the NETS made trips to the NBA Finals against the Lakers and Spurs behind star forwards Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson, as well as crucial contributors Kerry Kittles, Jason Collins and Lucious Harris. Playing team basketball to the fullest degree, they gave us "The Bowling Ball Pass," Game Five against the Pacers, and great series against the Pistons and Celtics.

Everyone here at NETS Basketball would like to show our gratitude for 35 years of support, from you the New Jersey fans. Thanks, and enjoy the game!


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