Knicks to Brooklyn: We are your team

Knicks to Brooklyn: We are your team
Photo by Joseph Melilllo

The New York Knicks have decided that it’s not enough to battle the Nets on the court — the team is now taking the fight to the streets of Brooklyn in hopes of recruiting fans of the soon-to-be-Brooklyn Nets.

A huge billboard at Flatbush and Seventh avenues urges drivers on their way towards the Barclays Center site to defect to the Manhattan-based basketball team. It reads:

“You: The republic of Brooklyn.

Us: The original ball team of the Empire State

We: Are unstoppable together.

Now: Is the time to represent.”

The signs have a clear urgency — apparently, Brooklynites needs to pledge their allegiance right now to the Knicks before the Nets arrive in town.

Some local hoops fans noticed.

“Putting a billboard up like that so close to the Barclays Center, it’s like putting a mosque near Ground Zero,” said basketball fanatic Chris Tucker of Bedford-Stuyvesant. “I’m up in arms about this.”

And imagine the metaphor Tucker would’ve come up with if he had known about a second “You/Us/We/Now” billboard — the one with Knicks star Amar’e Stoudemire in DUMBO.

Of course, these massive ads are not the first volley in this war for the hearts and minds of Brooklyn sports fans.

The Nets hung a building-sized promotion featuring smiling pictures of Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and minority owner Jay-Z that covered the side of a building next to Madison Square Garden.

The sign, which was unveiled during the frantic scramble to recruit LeBron James, read “The Blueprint for greatness.” (Never mind that neither Prokhorov nor Z have played pro ball — this is hearts and minds time, people!)

In the end, of course, neither team landed James, and both are likely headed for mediocre seasons this year.

Still, some Brooklynites took offense at the Knickerbockers’ aggressive sales pitch.

“We’re insulted because the Knicks are coming in here while we’re trying to get a basketball team,” said Flatbush resident Chiloupe Washington.

Knicks’ brass says that the “You/Us/We/Now” campaign is meant to reconnect the city with its stories — and as of late, historically dysfunctional — basketball team. The team did not comment beyond that, but it’s clear that more is going on than a public awareness campaign.

The Knicks are gearing up for a new marketing push to counter the looming of arrival of the Nets to Brooklyn in the 2012-2013 season, as the team spent $230,300 on advertising in the first six months of 2010, as compared to $18,200 in the same period last year, according to The New York Times.

When the Nets finally come to town, expect the borough-based basketball rivalry to reach new heights.

“It will be heated just like the Yankees and the Mets,” says Jennifer Perry of Crown Heights. “There has always been a rivalry between boroughs even without sports.”

Nets CEO Brett Yormark is already reveling in the showdown.

“I’m glad to see [the Knicks] know where Brooklyn is,” Yormark said. “Clearly, they know what’s coming.”