New Jersey Americans were a charter member of the American Basketball Association. They played as the Americans for one season, 1967-1968, before becoming the New York Nets. The team survives as the NBA New Jersey Nets.
The franchise was established in 1967 as a charter member of the American Basketball Association, with trucking magnate Arthur J. Brown as the owner. Brown had intended to call the team the New York Freighters, playing at the 69th Regiment Armory on Manhattan's east side, but pressure from the New York Knicks forced the Armory to back out three months before opening day. The team was forced to move to the Teaneck Armory in Teaneck, New Jersey, and changed its name to the New Jersey Americans. It would not be the first time that the Knicks would directly affect the future of the franchise.
In April 1967 the Americans signed LeRoy Ellis of the NBA's Baltimore Bullets and also Tony Jackson (who had been banned by the NBA), Dan Anderson, Art Heyman and Walt Simon. By September the Americans and the Bullets were in litigation over Ellis' status; a New York court ruled in favor of the Bullets in October.
The Americans entered their first season under head coach Max Zaslofsky. In December, 1967 the Americans traded Art Heyman to the Pittsburgh Pipers for Barry Liebowitz; in January 1968 Liebowitz was traded to the Oakland Oaks for Levern Tart. Tony Jackson played in the ABA All Star game.
The Americans did fairly well in their first season, averaging 2,054 fans per home game and finishing with 36 wins and 43 losses. The Americans tied with the Kentucky Colonels for fourth place in the Eastern Division, 18 games behind the Pittsburgh Pipers, 14 games behind the Minnesota Muskies and two games behind the Indiana Pacers. (The Americans would have claimed fourth place outright in the Western Division, which was weaker that season.) A one game playoff between the Americans and Colonels was scheduled, to be hosted by the Americans, to determine which of the two teams would advance to the playoffs in the Eastern Division semifinals. However, the Armory was booked, forcing the Americans to scramble for a last-minute replacement. They found one in the Long Island Arena in Commack, New York. When the Americans and Colonels arrived for the game, they found the playing floor full of missing boards and bolts. League commissioner George Mikan forfeited the game to the Colonels due to the conditions.
For the team's second season, the team opted to stay on Long Island, where it changed its name to the New York Nets. The team was renamed to "Nets" to rhyme with the two other professional sports team in New York that played on Long Island at the time; Major League Baseball's New York Mets, and the American Football League's New York Jets.
The team finished last in its first New York season and drew a paltry 1,108 a game - about half of what it had drawn in Jersey.
The Nets went on to play throughout the history of the ABA and when the ABA and NBA merged in 1976 the Nets continued in the NBA to the present day.