Nets All-Time Top 25: No. 15 Bill Melchionni

Point guard led ABA in assists twice and won two ABA championships

The selections for the Nets All-Time Top 25 Team were made by the author, with no input from the Brooklyn Nets organization. Selections were based on a combination of individual performance, team success and their contribution to it, and longevity with the franchise.

Arriving in the franchise’s third season, point guard Bill Melchionni was an essential piece in steadying a shaky franchise and serving as a bridge between the team’s earliest days to its growth into the ABA’s marquee team.

After starring at Villanova, Melchionni was a rookie on the legendary Philadelphia 76ers 1966-67 NBA championship team that won a then-NBA record 67 games led by Wilt Chamberlain. After two seasons with the Sixers, Melchionni played one year in the Eastern League before joining the Nets for the 1969-70 season.

Year two had been a dismal one for the franchise, which had moved from New Jersey to Long Island and rechristened itself the New York Nets. They used 23 players and finished 17-61. For the 1969-70 season, only two players remained from the inaugural year – Levern Tart and Bob McIntyre, who would play just seven games.

Melchionni was a vital addition as the team improved to 39-45, 22 more wins than the year before. Melchionni was second on the team in scoring behind Tart with 15.2 points per game and led the Nets with 5.7 assists per game.

The next two seasons, Melchionni led the ABA in assists with 8.3 and 8.4, respectively. He averaged 17.6 points in 1970-71 and a career high 21.0 points in 1971-72, helping lead the Nets to their first ABA championship series appearance. Over his first three seasons with the franchise, Melchionni averaged 17.9 points and 7.4 assists per game.

While the team took a step back in 1972-73 following the departure of top scorer Rick Barry, Melchionni made his third straight ABA All-Star Game appearance.

The arrival of Julius Erving for the 1973-74 season lifted the Nets to new heights, and Melchionni continued to contribute in a supporting role on two ABA championship teams in 1974 and 1976. The Game 6 victory over the Denver Nuggets to clinch the 1976 championship was Melchionni’s last professional game.

In seven seasons with the Nets, Melchionni averaged 12.4 points and 6.1 assists in 502 games. He’s seventh all-time in games played for the franchise, just four behind Jason Kidd. And he’s second behind Kidd in total assists with 3,044. His No. 25 has been retired by the team.


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