On Oct. 20, 1976, basketball legend Julius Erving was traded from the New York Nets to the Philadelphia 76ers.
Erving, also known as Dr. J, is considered one of the greatest basketball players of all time. He started playing in the ABA and was immediately viewed as a star, making the All-ABA Second Team his rookie year playing for the Virginia Squires.
The Squires, struggling financially, could not afford to pay the rising star, so they traded Erving to the New York Nets, who gave him an eight-year deal for over $300,000 a year. The Nets would win their first-ever APA championship led by Dr. J.
The Nets, Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs joined the NBA before the 1976-77 season. To join the NBA, the Nets had to pay a fine, and the New York Knicks demanded that they also pay them $4.8 million because they were “invading” their territory.
Nets owner, Roy Boe, struggling to cover all the expenses, refused to pay Erving’s promised contract, which caused him to sit out of training camp until he got a new deal. The Nets front office offered Erving’s contract to the Knicks in hopes of covering the “fine,” but they declined.
After acquiring Erving, the New York Knicks found it difficult to pay for his high-priced contract. Consequently, they started looking for other teams willing to pay for his contract. Five teams expressed interest but eventually reached a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers, who purchased Erving’s contract for $3 million.
Erving made an impression immediately, leading the team to a fifty-win season and an NBA finals appearance, where they lost in six games to Bill Walton and the Portland Trail Blazers.
Over the next five years, Dr. J had memorable matchups with NBA legends such as Magic Johnson and Larry Bird in heated playoff matchups with both the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers. One of his most memorable plays occurred during the 1980 finals against the Lakers.
Erving drove baseline, jumped into the air and levitated there for what seemed like an eternity. Kareem Abul-Jabbar attempted to block his shot, but Erving palmed the ball, wrapped it behind the backboard, and made an incredible reverse layup. Despite his heroic effort, the Lakers won the series.
Dr. J led the 76ers to the postseason every year he was on the team, but he could never reach the top of the mountain and hoist the Larry O’Brien Trophy. Thanks to the addition of big man Moses Malone, Erving and the 76ers won their first NBA championship in 1983 over the defending champion Lakers.
Erving retired in 1987, and his jersey was retired by the New York Nets and the Philadelphia 76ers. Erving was an All-Star every season in the NBA and finished his career with over 30,000 points scored. Dr. J is widely considered one of the greatest players in NBA history, and this historic trade changed the trajectory of multiple franchises forever.