Issue 53: Fun Moments: Can Players Play on Both Teams in the Same NBA Game?

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Basketball’s been around for a while, so naturally, we’ve seen some pretty bizarre things. We’ve had players destroy backboards with vicious dunks, a woman in the stands get hit with an errant pass, and a player foul out in three minutes.

In fact, it was that final extreme that prompted Crisp Bounce Pass reader Adam K. to send me a fabulous story about one of the strangest moments from NBA lore: three players from the Philadelphia 76ers and (then) New Jersey Nets played in the same game — for both teams.

Now, I’ve seen this occur in Rock ‘n’ Jock Basketball, when Magic Johnson traded Vlade Divac mid-game for John Salley. But that was an entertainment show on MTV, not an actual NBA matchup. So how did this happen?

Well, let’s hop back to November 8, 1978. The NBA was still a young pup of a league, just two years removed from the ABA-NBA merger and including several cities fielding teams that are no longer in existence today. And an early-season matchup between the Sixers and Nets seemed pretty ordinary, aside from a young Dr. J sporting some short shorts and smooth moves.

Meanwhile, the Nets had a young Bernard King, who was their best player at the time. And he was TICKED OFF about a foul call, so he yelled at the official and got a technical foul. The biggest problem with that: he already had a technical foul, so he was now ejected.

King walked off the court quietly without further incident. Oh, I’m sorry, I misspoke. He kicked a chair on his way to the locker room, loudly screaming and gesticulating, setting off a wild chain of events, including both King and Nets coach Kevin Loughery receiving three total technicals apiece, which is not legal.

Once everything settled down, the game resumed. Phil Jackson (yes, the same one who later coached the Bulls and Lakers to many trophies) took over as coach, and guard Eric Money (which is a fantastic name) started dropping buckets.

Alas, the Nets lost 137-133 in double overtime. And like King earlier, they were TICKED OFF. They protested to the league that the excessive amount of technicals was…well, excessive, and the game should be replayed.

The league agreed, and it was settled. The two teams would resume the action from the 5:50 mark of the third quarter. But thanks to the wild schedule of the NBA, the teams couldn’t meet again until March 23, 1979. They’d finish this first game and then play their previously scheduled one on the same day. A basketball double-header!

But before that game happened, the NBA trade deadline came and went. One of the deals: the Sixers traded Harvey Catchings, Ralph Simpson, and cash to the Nets for Money and Al Skinner.

The NBA thought, “Well, this is kind of a weird situation. What should we do?” After some scratching of heads and stroking of chins, they decided to let the traded players play for their new teams.

Money, who dropped 37 in the original game, suited up for the Sixers. Catchings and Simpson played for the Nets. And Al Skinner continued to sit on the bench, recording a combined zero minutes of on-court action in the two games.

The Sixers won again, this time disposing of the Nets 123-117. The makeup game didn’t go to overtime, and Money only finished with 23 points. However, he was the only player to score for both teams—a very impressive feat.

As for the second game on March 23, the Sixers won that one, too. So the Nets lost three times for the price of two. That is similarly impressive.

If you’re curious, here’s a more in-depth look at this game. The NBA is wild, y’all!

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Other Reads and Watches

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LaMelo Ball with a putback slam (and the announcers go bananas)

Lights go off in the final seconds of game, a breakdown

Giannis discovers he’s getting old and weird

That’s all ’til next time. Thanks for reading!


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