Nets Honor a Legend

andrew lief

I’ll never forget the morning of June 18, 2001.

I woke to get ready for school and turned on “Sportscenter,” where I was instantly informed the New Jersey Nets, my favorite team, had traded Stephon Marbury, Johnny Newman and Soumaila Samake for Jason Kidd and Chris Dudley.

The first thing I did when I heard the news was run into my room and go through my basketball cards until I found my Kidd card.  I was so ecstatic that morning, but I had no idea how much happiness he would bring me over the next six and a half years.

Kidd transformed the Nets from the joke of the NBA into a dominant force.  During his Nets career, he was a six-time all-star, three-time All-NBA First Team member, three-time NBA assistant leader and three-time NBA All-Defensive First team member.

He is the Nets all-time leader in three-pointers (813), assists (4,620), steals (950) and triple doubles (61).

While all of his individual achievements are impressive, Kidd’s greatest achievement as a Net was leading the team to their first two NBA finals appearances in franchise history.  Prior to this, the Nets had only reached the ABA finals in 1974 and 1976 when they won the Championship and they were known as the New York Nets.

Kidd had an outstanding career with the Nets and it was a sad day when they traded him to the Dallas Mavericks, the team that drafted him.  Kidd was a key component of the 2011 Mavericks team that upset the Miami Heat in the NBA finals.  I was happy he was finally able to win a championship, but a large part of me was upset it wasn’t with the Nets.

Kidd retired from playing basketball on June 3. Less than two weeks later, on June 12, Kidd was hired as the head coach of the Nets without any coaching experience.

I was so happy that my favorite player was hired to coach my favorite team, I didn’t care that he’s never coached before.  It was too cool.

ESPN New York’s Robin Lundberg tweeted it best to silence people who doubt Kidd as a coach: “The questions about Jason Kidd as coach are valid. But ask yourself this: If you were playing ball, would you listen to Kidd?…Yep.”

On Sept. 9 the Nets announced they were going to retire Kidd’s jersey prior to their Oct. 17 preseason game against the Miami Heat.  I bought tickets immediately when I found out the news.

Despite being just a meaningless preseason game, this was a game I wanted to attend more than any regular season game.  This was a chance to see my favorite player — and the greatest player — in franchise history become immortalized.

The game lived up to all of my expectations.

It was an awesome pregame ceremony led by the Nets radio play-by-play guy Chris Carrino.  The Nets’ current organization and former Nets greats came together to honor the best player in franchise history.

During the game there were video presentations where Kidd’s running mates during his Nets career -— Kenyon Martin, Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson — talked about how happy they were for Kidd.  These are the guys Kidd set up  more than anyone.

It was really cool hearing what these three had to say about Kidd, but it was especially nice hearing what Jefferson and Martin had to say.  Carter was already an established all-star prior to teaming up with Kidd, but Martin and Jefferson played the best ball of their career when they were with Kidd.  I was just able to tell by the tone of their voice how much playing with Kidd meant to them.

In typical Kidd fashion, he was unselfish even during his own jersey retirement ceremony.  He wanted a quick presentation because he didn’t want to be a distraction to his team before their game.

That’s what I’ll always remember about Kidd. Regardless of the situation, he made sure his team got what they needed before he got his.