It was bad enough that people were already flat out saying that the merger was more to the benefit of the NBA than the ABA.
It was bad enough that people were saying that many of the best players playing – one in particular – played in the ABA and that the NBA had indeed forced this merger to get him.
Julius Winfield Erving II, known popularly as “Dr.J” or just “The Doctor” was that one player.
But the refuting arguments had been too logical.
Sure, this “Dr. J.” Looked good, but he looked good against bozos and wackjobs, guys the NBA would never have because they either lacked the talent or they were psychotic. I mean really, could you imagine Marvin “Bad News” Barnes suiting up in the button down NBA?
But people can smell bullshit.
And it stunk to high hell that, despite granting the financially struggling ABA a four-team entrance into the NBA, those four teams; The New York Nets, the Denver Nuggets, the San Antonio Spurs and the Indiana Pacers, had to be broken up and their players distributed among the more charter NBA teams.
Why did this stink?
Well, the New York Nets, Dr. J’s team, had won 2 of the last three ABA titles. Would then-NBA Commissioner Larry O’Brien have been able to live down a team from this reject league coming right onto his own turf and walking away with The Chip?
O’Brien was a gangster, a political swindler, a dangerous man. Moreover, he knew how to do business. And for appearances sake, business would suffer in the long run if some renegades walked in and won. What would stop renegade leagues from popping up every other year?
So Dr. J was sold off to the middling Philadelphia 76ers, his former Nets, dismissed to the swamps of New Jersey.
For added measure and insult, the other former ABAer that joined Julius in Philly was former Pacers’ star George McGinnis, a man Doc couldn’t stand.
Despite all this, those 76ers not only made it to the NBA Finals that very same year, but took a two game lead in a best-of-7 against the Portland Trailblazers.
This was when the fix had to come in.
The Blazers won the next 4 games.
It wasn’t so hard to believe that the Trailblazers could beat the 76ers. After all, they had Bill Walton, former UCLA stud and the best white center since George Mikan. The also had Maurice Lucas, the Kevin Garnett of his day, at least attitude-wise.
Doc averaged 40 for the series.
Julius Erving would end up in the Finals another 3 times, actually winning the thing in 82-83′ after Moses Malone joined him in Philly.
Folks were expected to never doubt that the Trailblazers win in 76-77′ was anything but on the up-n-up.
And though I’m sure that, like with the Chicago Black Sox scandal of 1919, more than a few eyebrows were raised, in Doc’s case, nobody’s ever had the nerve to step forward and state would should have been obvious to even the most casual of observers.
That is, until now.