During specific periods in the NBA, you had teams who dominated within those years. Most recently, the Golden State Warriors were a team that took the league by storm, and you had the Miami Heat who dominated with LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade. You can’t forget about Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls and the Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal Lakers.
Those teams were at the top of the NBA world and were able to call themselves champions. But there was a team that dominated the Eastern Conference but never claimed a title, and that was the New Jersey Nets.
2001-02 New Jersey Nets
From 2002-2004 the New Jersey Nets were a top team in the Eastern Conference. Looking at the team’s roster, they had a lot of talent. Jason Kidd, Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin, and Keith Van Horn to name a few.
The 2001-02 Nets’ team saw a complete turnaround from the year before. After a 26-56 finish, the Nets came into the season looking for a significant improvement. When the acquired Kidd from the Phoenix Suns, things were starting to turn in the right direction. Kidd would help turn the organization around as the Nets finished first in the east with a 52-30 record. That was the team’s best record since joining the NBA.
When the playoffs came, the Nets had no problem getting through the east. They found themselves in the NBA Finals for the first time in franchise history. In the finals, they matched up against a Los Angeles Lakers team looking to win their third straight title. The Nets had no answer for the Lakers as they would get swept 4-0. Though the Nets suffered defeat, the future looked bright, and they established themselves as a top team in the Eastern Conference.
2002-03 New Jersey Nets
After making it to the NBA finals for the first time, the Nets returned next season to get back to the finals. With just about the same team from the previous season, except for Van Horn, the Nets were a more experienced team.
After finishing second in the east with a 49-33 record, the quest to make to another championship begun. In the playoffs, the Nets would go on to defeat the Milwaukee Bucks, Boston Celtics, and Detroit Pistons. The Nets only lost two games en route to the finals.
In the finals for a second straight year, the Nets squared off against the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs were a stacked team with two of the best big men in the game in David Robinson and Tim Duncan. The Nets gave it their all but lost to the Spurs 4-2. An improvement from the previous season in which they did not get swept, but they still came out on the losing end.
2003-04 New Jersey Nets
After making it to two straight NBA Finals, the Nets were the top team in the Eastern Conference. Even though they came up short in both trips, they were still determined to get back to the finals and win. For a third straight year, the Nets won the division and finished at the top of the standing in the east.
The Nets found themselves in the playing the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. This series was more like a conference finals in how both teams were battling. The series went to seven games to decide a winner.
Unfortunately for the Nets, they would come out on the losing end, and that ended their hopes of making it to a third straight NBA Finals.
Three years of disappointment
In those three years, the Nets failed to bring home a title back to the east coast. During the regular season, they dominated, but when they reached the finals, they couldn’t match up with the Lakers or Spurs.
Now the Lakers and the Spurs had better teams than the Nets, and they were more experienced. The Nets couldn’t catch a break. But for those three years, people knew that the Nets would be a team to contend for a title coming out of the east.