The Last ABA Champion

May 13, 1976 – In an astonishing comeback from a 22-point deficit with 17 minutes left in the game, the New York Nets defeated the Denver Nuggets, 112-106, winning the championship of the American Basketball Association.  It was the second championship in three seasons for the Nets, who began life as the New Jersey Americans when the league was founded in 1967.

It was a team effort. Julius Erving, who was brilliant throughout the series and was the unanimous choice for MVP, scored 31 points and had five steals during the Nets' surge. John Williamson got 24 of his 28 points in the second half and was a scoring assassin, seemingly putting in a basket every time his team needed one. Brian Taylor had 24 points and broke up Denver's defense with his drives down the middle. Even Rich Jones, a seven-year ABA veteran, survived an awful shooting night (1 for 12) and contributed four steals and nine rebounds to the comeback.  (In a losing effort, David Thompson of the Nuggets scored a game-high 42.)

"This is my first championship, man, and it's so beautiful I don't know what to say," Jones said. "I don't know what the future is going to bring for this league, but I want to enjoy this night."

However, this would indeed be the last ABA game ever played, with four of the seven remaining teams, the Nets, Denver Nuggets, San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers being absorbed by the NBA. The Nets, who faced financial problems, sold Julius Erving's contract to the Philadelphia 76ers during the following preseason.

Julius Erving (31pts/19rebs) vs. Nuggets (1976 ABA Finals/Last ABA Game):


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