The Long Island Nets will honor Basketball Hall of Fame member Julius Erving and Hempstead mayor Don Ryan before Saturday night’s season opener against the Fort Wayne Mad Ants at Nassau Coliseum.
The Nets will retire Erving’s No. 32 jersey. Erving, best known as “Dr. J,” played three seasons with the New York Nets of the American Basketball Association from 1974-76, winning titles in 1974 and ‘76, and three ABA MVP awards. Erving’s No. 32 is retired by the Nets’ NBA franchise, but Saturday night will be the first time the number will be retired at the Coliseum.
After winning the 1975-76 ABA title, the Nets, along with the Denver Nuggets, Indiana Pacers and San Antonio Spurs, merged into the NBA. Erving was sold to the Philadelphia 76ers as part of the merger. The Nets played their first NBA season and their last at the Coliseum during the 1976-77 season, which was Erving’s first season with the 76ers.
Saturday night will bring Erving back to the Coliseum.
“It was brand-new, state of the art,’’ Erving said of his time playing in the Coliseum in an interview with Newsday last month. “It was such an enjoyable building.’’
Erving will present Ryan with the Long Island Nets’ first Lifetime Achievement Award. Ryan is being recognized for his community contributions as a local civic leader, coach, and teacher. Ryan coached and mentored Erving, who was 12 at the time, while volunteering as a basketball coach at the Salvation Army’s Hempstead headquarters. Erving grew up in East Meadow before starring at Roosevelt High School.
“I am humbled and honored to receive this award,” Ryan said in a statement. “To have it presented by the legendary Julius Erving, who I coached as a youngster in Hempstead Village, makes it that much more special.”