- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 29, 2002

Jason Kidd refuses to let the New Jersey Nets lose.
If you had to describe the intensity with which Kidd plays, that would be the best way to explain it he plays as if he just won't allow the team to lose. He did it again Monday in the Nets' 94-92 win over the Boston Celtics to even the Eastern Conference finals at 2-2. Game 5 is tonight in New Jersey.
Of course, that doesn't mean that the Nets can't or won't lose. After blowing a huge lead in Game 3, it's clear that sometimes the will of Kidd isn't enough. But win or lose, one of the joys of watching this Nets-Celtics series is Kidd's intensity, like some force of nature.
In a way, Kidd's play is reminiscent of the intensity of another former Nets guard, from an era that the NBA and NBC barely acknowledge the team's glory days in the American Basketball Association.
It is as if that league never existed and those championship Nets teams have been dismissed as little more than ragtag, second-rate squads though either team that played in the last ABA championship game the Nets or the Denver Nuggets might have beaten that year's NBA champions, the Boston Celtics.
The Nuggets had such great players as Dan Issel, Bobby Jones and David Thompson. The Nets, of course, had Julius Erving and a guard who brought the same kind of intensity to the court that Kidd does "Super" John Williamson.
Williamson showed up at the Nets camp the same year as Erving in 1974. He came there after his junior year at New Mexico State. The story goes that when Erving first saw Williamson, he was carrying a leather bag over his shoulder with a big "S" embroidered on it.
"What's your name?" Erving asked.
"They call me Super John," Williamson replied, and that was the attitude that made him so feared on the court over seven seasons, averaging a little more than 14 points a game. He wasn't a Hall of Fame player, but he left a legacy with the Nets franchise that Kidd is now following.
That legacy was sealed in one particular game the sixth of the 1976 ABA championship series between the Nets and the Nuggets, the last ABA finals to be played before the league folded and the Nets and Nuggets joined the Indiana Pacers and the San Antonio Spurs in the NBA. That was the year the funk left the game.
The Nets, playing in Nassau Coliseum on Long Island, were up 3-2 going into Game 6 and wanted to finish it at home. But the Nuggets dominated the game and were leading by 22 points with about five minutes left in the third quarter.
Then Super John put on his cape and took over the game.
He was unstoppable, hitting jump shots and driving through defenders almost at will. "Super John took over the game I'll never forget," teammate Bill Melchionni wrote in an article for Encyclopedia Britannica. "John started making shots of every type from every conceivable place on the floor. Jumper? Swish! Layup? Yes! Dunk? Oh, yeah!"
Then coach Kevin Loughery called for a fullcourt press, and the Nets came back to win 112-106 and capture the final championship of the ABA. Erving was named the MVP of the finals, but he failed to score a single point in the fourth quarter. Williamson scored 16 during the comeback stretch, and, according to Melchionni, "there was no doubt that Super John was Superman that night."
Kim Hughes, now an assistant with the Nuggets, was one of Williamson's teammates and remembers the force with which Williamson took over the game. "They didn't really have an answer to John," Hughes said. "He just imposed his will on the game."
That was the high point of Super John's career. It didn't end well for him. Toward the end, he had some personal problems and finished his career with of course the Washington Bullets in 1980. He was dead nine years later, at the age of 44, from kidney disease.
His number, 23, hangs from the rafters of the Nets' homecourt, the Continental Airlines Arena, retired along with Erving and four other players. It is a tragic memorial because three of the players Williamson, Drazen Petrovic and Wendell Ladner died prematurely, Petrovic at the age of 29 in 1993 in a car crash and Ladner another colorful ABA Net at the age of 28 in a 1975 plane crash. Maybe they should have hung a cape along with Super John's number.
The NBA and the television network brass may have a short and selective memory, but they can't kill the spirit of the old ABA. A little bit of Super John Williamson lives on in Jason Kidd, who plays all the time as if it is the fourth quarter of the ABA championship finals and his team is down by 22 points.


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