The club was established in 1967 as a charter franchise of the NBA's rival league, the American Basketball Association (ABA). They played in New Jersey as the New Jersey Americans during their first season, before relocating to Long Island, New York, in 1968 and changing their name to the New York Nets. During this time, the Nets won two ABA championships (in 1974 and 1976). In 1976, the ABA merged with the NBA, and the Nets were absorbed into the NBA along with three other ABA teams (the San Antonio Spurs, Indiana Pacers, and Denver Nuggets), all of whom remain in the league to this day.
In 1977, the team returned to New Jersey and played as the New Jersey Nets from 1977 to 2012. Led by star point guard Jason Kidd, the Nets reached the finals of two consecutive NBA seasons (2001–02 and 2002–03), but failed to win either title. In the summer of 2012, the team moved to Barclays Center in Brooklyn, becoming the first major sports franchise in the borough since the departure of the Brooklyn Dodgers baseball team in 1957. Since moving to Brooklyn, the Nets have qualified for the playoffs on six occasions, including trips to the Conference Semifinals in 2014 and 2021.