Name a bigger flop in NBA history than the Brooklyn Nets’ recent big three. The Nets once had an offensive powerhouse of playmaking and scoring in Kevin Durant, James Harden and Kyrie Irving. A few blockbuster trades later and Brooklyn’s only notable players include Ben Simmons, Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson.
The Nets only had one playoff series win through the three-year window of having their big three of Durant, Harden and Irving. Outside of their first-round series win over Boston, the Nets accomplished nothing. So how does a team with three future hall-of-famers not bring home an NBA championship?
The collapse of Brooklyn is a feat nobody could’ve predicted, but in the Nets’ defense, who could’ve predicted Irving would sit out half of the 2021-2022 season for not getting the COVID-19 vaccine? Irving’s antics during his Brooklyn tenure also included an antisemitic video posted online.
Harden’s request to leave Brooklyn in 2021 was the first major domino to fall. From there, the Nets acquired Ben Simmons and other small pieces in exchange for Harden. One year later, Irving requested a trade after not receiving a contract extension. Brooklyn then was forced to begin the rebuild process again, resulting in Durant being shipped to the Valley to play for the Suns.
But also just a few years ago, Brooklyn had one of the more exciting and young prominent rosters in the NBA. Rewind to the 2018-2019 season, before the star-studded roster, when the Nets were still a pure bolt of excitement and skill.
That 2018-2019 Nets roster had as much potential as any team in the NBA, with a dynamic backcourt of D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Caris LeVert. They also had one of the best young paint-defenders in the league in Jarrett Allen.
Not only that, but they were as entertaining as any squad in basketball. They were an internet sensation led by a troll of a character in Jared Dudley. This team was a joy to watch, and they were competitive. Remember when Dudley was antagonizing Ben Simmons in the 2019 playoffs after splashing a three pointer? That same team Nets roster battled against a dangerous Philadelphia 76ers trio of Joel Embid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler.
But that was then, and this is now. Nets general manager, Sean Marks, has since shipped all those young 2018-2019 pieces away for Durant, Irving and Harden. It was about championships and investing in the present, instead of the future.
Marks put all his chips into the big three, but he’s failed and the Nets are back to being one of the bottom feeders of the association. The current roster is a shell of what it once was.
There’s no arguing it’s a historic failure that Brooklyn didn’t win an NBA championship with that special trio. There aren’t enough fingers to go around when pointing the blame for why this team didn’t succeed. Rather, it’s just a representation of a historically impaired franchise, and this monumental failure is no exception.
Now, not all is lost with Brooklyn — it gained a flurry of draft capital via the trades of Harden, Irving, and Durant. Brooklyn now looks to build around Ben Simmons, Mikal Bridges and Nic Claxton.
The Brooklyn tale continues, only now with a fresh wave of youthful talent.