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Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Julius Erving Still Holds the Nets' Franchise Single Game Scoring Record

It is bad enough that in general the NBA pretends that ABA statistics do not exist even though ABA Numbers Should Also Count, but it is even worse when teams founded in the ABA disrespect the accomplishments of their great ABA players by being complicit in the rewriting of their franchise histories. Kyrie Irving's 60 point game versus the Orlando Magic last Tuesday was impressive, but--despite many media accounts to the contrary--it did not set the Nets' franchise single game scoring record. 

A "franchise record," by definition, spans the entire history of a franchise, regardless of relocations, league mergers, or any other circumstances. The Nets franchise was founded in 1967-68, when the team was in the ABA and was known as the New Jersey Americans. The Nets were known as the New York Nets from 1968-1977, including the last eight seasons of the ABA plus the first season after the ABA-NBA merger. The Nets were known as the New Jersey Nets from 1977 until 2012, when the franchise moved to Brooklyn and became the Brooklyn Nets. The Nets have played in two leagues and several different arenas while being known by four different names, but they have been the same franchise throughout their history.

The Nets' franchise single game scoring record is 63 points, set by Julius Erving in a four overtime game on February 14, 1975. The Nets lost 176-166 to the San Diego Conquistadors in that contest. Erving scored 45 points in regulation and 16 points in the first two overtimes. Erving was limited by a sprained ankle during the final three overtimes, but he played in 66 out of a possible 68 minutes, which may be incomprehensible to fans who have grown accustomed to "load management" and to players missing games for minor injuries. Erving shot 25-51 from the field, including 0-5 from three point range. Erving's 25 field goals made tied the ABA single game record, his 46 two point field goal attempts set an ABA record, and he fell just four points short of matching Larry Miller's ABA single game scoring record of 67 points. Erving grabbed a game-high 23 rebounds, and he dished for a game-high eight assists.

Erving's three point misfires during his 63 point game were an aberration, as he shot 29-87 (.333) from three point range that season, ranking sixth in the league in three point field goal percentage; it is important to remember that three pointers were not attempted nearly as frequently even in the freewheeling ABA as they are in today's analytics-driven NBA: Erving ranked 11th in the ABA in three point field goals made in 1974-75, and in 1975-76 he ranked fifth in three point field goals made (34) and sixth in three point field goal percentage (.330). 

After his 63 point game, Erving said, "I've never been in a game like this one, and I hope I'm never in one like this again--unless we win, that is. It's just so disheartening to lose when you put so much into it."

Erving had many other spectacular games that the NBA pretends never happened, including a 53 point playoff game as a rookie in 1972, tying the ABA's playoff single game record held by Roger Brown. Erving's 53 point playoff game matched Wilt Chamberlain's professional rookie single game playoff scoring record, and set the mark for the most points ever scored by a rookie in his first road playoff game. Erving averaged 33.3 ppg, 20.4 rpg and 6.5 apg during the 1972 playoffs while shooting .518 from the field and .835 from the free throw line. He averaged 45.8 mpg during the 1972 playoffs while leading the ABA in playoff scoring average and playoff rebounding average, and ranking second in both minutes per game and assists per game. The only other player in ABA/NBA history who averaged at least 30 ppg and at least 20 rpg in the same postseason is Wilt Chamberlain (1960-62, 64); the only other players who led the NBA or ABA in playoff scoring average and playoff rebounding average during the same postseason are George Mikan (1952 NBA), Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (1977 NBA), Hakeem Olajuwon (1988 NBA) and Shaquille O'Neal (2000 NBA). None of those four players came close to matching Erving's 6.5 apg average. 

The incredible numbers posted by Julius Erving, Roger Brown, Rick Barry, and other ABA players are no less real and no less significant than the numbers posted by Joe Namath and other AFL players who are recognized in the NFL's official record book.

The NBA, its teams, and its media partners must do better, because the longstanding practice of pretending that the ABA did not exist is disgraceful and inexcusable.

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posted by David Friedman @ 1:14 AM



At Tuesday, March 22, 2022 4:26:00 PM, Anonymous Eric L said...

I was awaiting your article about Irving's NBA-franchise record for the Nets and how the league and even the Nets completely disregarded Erving's 63 point team record. Thank you for shedding light to this night from Julius.

At Tuesday, March 22, 2022 4:38:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Eric L:

You're welcome!


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