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New Jersey Americans

Before they were the Nets, the New Jersey Americans were one of the ABA’s founding franchises in 1967

Like most start-ups, the American Basketball Association harbored big dreams in the face of healthy skepticism. The goal was to force a way into the NBA, and the franchise that would eventually become the Brooklyn Nets was one of four teams to succeed after a nine-year journey.

When the league tipped off in 1967 though, they were the New Jersey Americans. Owner Arthur J. Brown’s plan to play at Manhattan’s 69th Regiment Armory fell through, so they set up shop at the Teaneck Armory, where they averaged 2,008 fans per game during their inaugural season.

Coached by former St. John’s and NBA star Max Zaslofsky, the Americans featured some familiar local names and major college stars. Tony Jackson was an All-American at St. John’s, and Art Heyman was the college player of the year at Duke. Bobby Lloyd starred at Rutgers.

The Americans played their first game on October 23, 1967, losing 110-107 to the eventual champion Pittsburgh Pipers led by New York legend Connie Hawkins. Dan Anderson scored 41 points for the Americans.

Levern “Jelly” Tart arrived in a midseason trade. At the time of the deal, Tart was leading the ABA in scoring with 26.9 points per game in Oakland. His production with the Americans was more modest, as Jackson ended up leading the team with 19.4 points per game.

In the five-team Eastern Division, the Nets finished 36-42 and tied for fourth with the Kentucky Colonels, forcing a tie-breaker game for the final playoff spot. But the game was never played.

Teaneck Armory was booked, so Brown arranged for the Nets to play at the Long Island Arena in Commack. Upon arrival, the Nets and Colonels found a court not ready for basketball. The floor was missing boards and bolts and the basket supports had no padding. Tart thought one of the baskets looked a little higher than the other.

Kentucky refused to play and ABA commissioner George Mikan declared the game a forfeit, awarding the Colonels a 2-0 win. While Kentucky went on to lose a five-game series to the Minnesota Muskies, the inaugural season came to a bizarre end for the New Jersey Americans.

Despite the forfeit, the team returned to Long Island the following season to make it their new home court, adopting the name New York Nets.

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