Brooklyn is extract. It seeps out from every Brooklyn neighborhood and into every individual, every building and every entity that draws life from the borough’s streets. In turn, every individual, every building and every entity leaves their own mark on Brooklyn’s ever-evolving DNA. It was that way for the Dodgers, and it will be that way for the Nets.
Yes, the Nets are destined to play the Dodgers to the Knicks’ Yankees in the battle for New York’s basketball heart. Despite a decade of embarrassment and futility, the Knicks remain one of the NBA’s glamour franchises, next to the Celtics, Lakers and Bulls. They sell bright lights and Broadway to fans and superstars alike. They talk about the city’s rich basketball tradition as if the Knicks’ presence alone was directly responsible for the development of Earl “The Goat” Manigault, Connie Hawkins and Lew Alcindor.
It’s funny, then, that Knicks owner James Dolan suddenly cares about the Brooklyn market. Dolan has never seen Brooklyn until now, and it’s difficult to tell how serious he is about such an exposition into the wilderness. He markets his team to Wall Street, and enters into a renter’s agreement with ticket holders. Neither side is asked to make a commitment longer than one game or one season. Does that play to your soul, Brooklyn?
But Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov and minor owner Jay-Z speak the borough’s language: swagger. They are unapologetically and unrelentingly authentic in everything they do. The duo’s “Blueprint for Greatness” marketing campaign had less to do with puffery and more to do with stating intentions. The Nets are going to reach the same heights Prokhorov and Jay-Z have reached in building their respective empires. It’s not arrogance, it’s confidence. It’s Brooklyn.
In the end, the battle for Brooklyn’s basketball fandom isn’t likely to be determined on the court. Neither the Nets nor the Knicks are poised for substantial success in the immediate future. Your basketball allegiance will come down to which organization you feel most connected to. When the Nets move into the Barclays Center in 2012, their foundation will settle deep into Brooklyn’s soil, all the way down to the open wound left when the Dodgers were uprooted and moved to Los Angeles over 50 years ago.
Just like the Dodgers, the Nets will extract from Brooklyn, and in turn, they’ll imprint their brand of basketball into Brooklyn’s identity.
Jaime Oppenheim is the managing editor for the Nets blog, Whoop De Damn Do at www.whoopdedamndo.com.