In terms of achievement, the story of the New Jersey Nets is anything but storied. With the notable exceptions of the Jason Kidd era that saw the team rise from the depths of mediocrity and irrelevance to represent the Eastern Conference in consecutive NBA Finals, there’s not been a great deal to write home about.
Aesthetically, however, thanks to the playmaking of Kidd, Kenyon Martin and the final days of the artist now known as Vintage Vince, signature moments have not been in short supply the past dozen years. More on this momentarily.
Some will point out, rightfully, that Nets’ highlight history began a quarter century before Kidd’s arrival and peaked three decades before VC hit the turnpike. This, of course, is in reference to the franchise’s days on Long Island, when a young Julius Erving, one of the game’s early skywalkers, starred for the ABA’s New York Nets. Erving’s place in Nets’ history is beyond reproach- he was named league MVP each of his three seasons with the team, never averaging worse than 27.4 points, 10.4 rebounds and 5 assists, and led the Nets to a pair of ABA championships.
Unfortunately, due to a paucity of identifiable highlights (hell, whatever there is of Dr. J’s ABA highlights, ID’able or not, doesn’t measure up to the accounts of his greatness) the Doctor is absent from the body of this retrospective.
There- no elephants in this room.
Now, without further ado, to the swampland!
Devin Harris' halfcourt buzzer beater against Philadelphia
If you’re going to lose money on a bet made simply because you’d be attending he game in question, this is the way to do it. With 1.8 seconds remaining and the score sitting at 96-95 in favor of the visiting Sixers and the Nets out of timeouts, I stood ~20 rows behind the basket, “Sixers -115” in my pocket, secure in the “knowledge” that like my ticket (buddy’s company), concessions for the evening would also be taken care of.
With their final gasp, the Nets inbounded the ball to Devin Harris, whose 36-point, 8-assist gem was about to go to waste. He caught the ball near the top of the key, headed straight for the sideline…
Excellent! He’s not even going to get a shot up.
In under a second, Harris managed to gain control of the ball, turn up and get near(ish) midcourt… but here comes all-word defender Andre Iguodala to snuff out any hint of a threat.
That was impressive, but Iggy’s got this. Just don’t foul him.
With about a second left Iguodala stupidly (but cleanly) reaches in on Harris, who momentarily loses his grip…
Heart attack becomes a sigh of relief. Now just kick it away and let’s call it a night.
Before regaining control, possibly traveling and heaving up a runner from just under his right ear…
Wow, that’s gonna be close. A little drama to end the game, but still collect… the fuck?!?!
Sometimes you can win for losing.
Jason Kidd hits Vince Carter for a perfect reverse oop
This is the epitome of a highlight.
One of the great passers in NBA history throwing a perfect nonchalant, one-handed lob to the greatest dunker in NBA history who, upon catching the ball at the peak of his jump, seems to take a momentary breather above the rim before throwing down an immaculate reverse dunk.
I’ll stop short of calling this play perfect, but whatever flaws it’s got don’t exactly jump out at you, either.
Vince Carter destroys Alonzo Mourning
Frankly not much to say here. Vintage Vince viciously throwing down on one of the best interior defenders in NBA history.
Vince Carter- one backbreaker after another in Toronto
You know those touching tales of triumph in which a victim looks a longtime tormentor in the eye, says “No more!” and sets about avenging years of abuse? Well, this tale is the opposite of that.
Imagine a bully moving away, but returning to the neighborhood a couple times a year to deliver yet another punch to gut.
Having admittedly tanked the 2004-05 season in a (successful) effort to orchestrate a move south of the border- in which the Raptors were unable to salvage more than couple of nickels on the dollar- Carter’s April 2005 return brought with 39 points, nine rebounds and an 11-point Nets win. The following January, he celebrated his second appearance at the Air Canada Centre as a visiting player- the most hated in the NBA by any one city at the time- with 42 and 10, and what he’s called the greatest shot of his career:
In the event that he’d not inflicted enough pain on the fans in his first NBA stomping ground, Vince returned in November 2008, with a ridiculous combination for good measure.
First, Carter received the ball well beyond the arc, with the Nets down three and fourth quarter expiring. He waited, staring down Anthony Parker, before proceeding to plunge a 35-foot dagger into the chests of 19,800 assembled locals. This alone was fodder for any career “Best of,” but, like any good villain, he returned.
In overtime, after the aforementioned Parker tied the game with a 3-pointer from the corner, he struck again. With roughly a second remaining, Carter, already with 37 points, got free (admittedly, from the caliber of defense that held Kobe Bryant to 81) for- seven words that are rarely used in this sequence- a two-hand reverse alley-oop buzzer beater.
Seriously, does Vince Carter have a hard-on for the people of Toronto or what?
What the hell, how about a bonus?
Kenyon Martin with two-handed block-and-catch on David Wesley in the 2002 Playoffs
I’m a sucker for any play that involves a player blocking an opponent’s shot by simply catching the ball. Doing so cleanly, (LOVE the body control to get as close as he does, but clearly not make contact), from behind, with two hands? Outstanding.
Addendum: Thanks to Devin Kharpertian (@uuords on Twitter) of Nets Are Scorching for adding some context to what I'd otherwise deemed an awesome physical display in the fourth quarter of a postseason game. David Wesley had collided earlier in the series with Jason Kidd, resulting in Kidd having to get 15 stitches- so, in addition to the intensity that accompanies a) playoff basketball and b) Kenyon Martin in general, there may have been a bit of a "fuck you" element to this as well.
AND, because I'm just that kind of guy...
As always, I'd really love to hear from you. Let me know what you think by chiming in on the highlights I’ve put forth, or supplying your own. I not only welcome your feedback, I eagerly await it.
Enjoy the weekend everyone!