50 years ago, this math professor was called up to play for the Nets

A half century ago, a basketball underdog story reminiscent of the movie "Rudy" played out on Long Island.

In the midst of March Madness, it’s easy to forget that most of the players you watch will never get the opportunity to play professionally. That’s just the reality. George Bruns, who is 76 and lives in Floral Park, just wouldn’t let his hoop dreams die.

"I didn't play to get to the pros [but] it happened," Bruns said. "I loved to play, and I was good. How many people want to stop doing what they're really good at?"

George Bruns

Bruns played in high school and at Manhattan College, where he graduated in 1966. He started playing in the Eastern League. He worked as a mathematics instructor at Nassau Community College during the day, but at night and on weekends, he loved to play hoops.

"And I'm still getting better as a player," Bruns said. "I'm 23, 24. I'm still a kid."

During the 1972-73 season, the New York Nets of the American Basketball Association faced a rash of injuries and coach Lou Carnesecca needed help. So his scout went to watch Bruns, who was 6 feet tall and 160 pounds, play a game in Allentown. The scout liked what he saw and Bruns got the call to play for the Nets. 

He signed a $22,500-per-season contract.

The $22,500 per season contract.

"Knew the game," Carnesecca recalled. "Could see the court. Not necessarily looking to score, although he had a nice touch. He had that facility to make guys around him better."

He never saw that much money because the contract was pro-rated, and he only played 13 games. Still, he managed to average 6.6 points per game playing among legendary giants such as Julius Erving, better known as Dr. J.

Bruns averaged 6.6 points per game.

But even as he lived out his dreams, he still had his day job at Nassau Community College.

"I had to teach in the morning," Bruns continued. "They flew me, had to take a helicopter to Newark, and a plane down to Newport News because we were playing the Virginia Squires. And, I had a good game."

Today, Bruns coaches the boys at Manhasset High School and runs a basketball camp. 

Bruns currently coaches the boys at Manhasset High School and runs a basketball camp.

Sure, he wishes his career with the Nets lasted longer, but he is grateful for the time he had. 

He is proof that hoop dreams — no matter how seemingly improbable — come true.