Julius Erving played for the Nets in the ABA then 76ers in the NBA.
But with Brooklyn and Philadelphia vying for the Eastern Conference title, there’s no question where his loyalties lie.
“It’s reminiscent of how the Yankees used to do it all the time. They load up – they call it ‘buying a championship.’ The Lakers are known for doing that too.
“They’re getting all these pieces … they don’t know at the end of the season what it’s going to look like or what it’s going to feel like, but they’re going to be formidable. You’ve got a team with six former All-Stars, and three [All-NBA] guys who have been there and succeeded in the playoffs.”
This is unfair to Brooklyn. Unlike the New York Yankees, the Nets play in a salary-cap sport. Though a willingness to pay the luxury tax helps, Brooklyn still faces significant limitations – set by the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement – for adding payroll.
The Nets built a winning culture from scratch and kept financial flexibility to lure Durant and Irving. Brooklyn then traded three first-round picks, four first-round pick swaps and promising youngsters Caris LeVert and Jarrett Allen for Harden. The Nets are effectively mortgaging their future – wise tradeoff for their situation, but not really “buying a championship. The bill will come due.
There’s something to the idea Brooklyn is accumulating pieces without knowing how the final puzzle will look. Post-buyout signings Blake Griffin and LaMarcus Aldridge are bigger names than clear fits. But their significance to this team’s championship odds has been overstated.
Ironically, Erving’s 76ers came far closer to “buying a championship.”
Philadelphia paid the Nets $3 million to acquire Erving then signed Erving to a renegotiated $3 million contract in 1976. The 76ers – who were already paying George McGinnis Doug Collins, Fred Carter, Caldwell Jones and Darryl Dawkins what The New York Times called “huge salaries” – immediately became a championship contender.
Philadelphia then signed Moses Malone to a contract worth $11.8 million-$15 million in 1982. With Malone and Erving, the 76ers won the 1983 title.
In 1984, the NBA instituted its first salary cap.