Brooklyn's Story Goes Beyond Nets
There are times in sports where the score doesn't matter. The magnitude of the moment devours the reality of the situation and those in attendance find themselves plucking memories from anything and everything, regardless of size.
Opening night in Brooklyn was one of those nights.
I didn't quite understand the significance; if that’s something you can believe. I’m a New Yorker, a proud son of Harlem. Most of my childhood was spent trying to be like Michael Jordan. After Jordan retired, I came crawling back to the Knicks and I’ve been loyal ever since. Something I always missed, or neglected to realize, is that I had a choice. The Knicks are a team that represents all of New York; from Harlem to Brooklyn to Albany.
I never took time to understand this history of New York sports, particularly Brooklyn’s history. It didn’t hit me until I had a conversation with my grandfather, an 86-year-old Brooklyn native. He called me at 11:45 one night a few weeks back, excited about the Barclays Center. He hasn’t yet made the trip, as he’s living in Atlanta, but he raved about how it looked on TV, seeing it for the first time as he watched the boxing events going on that evening.
“A showpiece,” he said. “That building is a showpiece! An absolute thing of beauty”
His excitement could be felt through the phone; I quickly knew the look of the building, which is incredible, wasn’t the only thing that had my old grandfather so excited. It was the rejuvenation of his city. It was also a long-awaited resolution for the pain he felt when the Dodgers left Brooklyn for Los Angeles.
My grandfather, as a young man, would sneak into Ebbets Field. He would jump the center field off Bedford Avenue and go right into the bleachers; especially when the Dodgers played the Giants.
It hurt when the Dodgers left in 1957, but the feeling was that another team would eventually come. Ultimately, there was resentment from many people in Brooklyn, with a population bigger than every other city in the country other than Los Angeles and Chicago, that the borough wasn’t considered good enough for a major professional team.
People from Brooklyn are proud. There is a clear distinction when you ask a native where they’re from. Ask me where I’m from I say “New York.” Ask my grandfather, father, cousins and friends that hail from Kings County and they loudly say “Brooklyn.”
However, with no professional sports team to truly call their own, they followed the Knicks, many without question; it was just a way of life. Many of my friends from Brooklyn have told me they’ve never thought of the Dodgers leaving and how that played a role on their decision to cheer for the Knicks. Sure, the Dodgers have nothing to do with basketball, but there has always been a belief that if the Dodgers stayed, then New York would have a second NBA team, and why not? Baseball, football and hockey all have two teams, why not New York?
These things all have come to a head now that the Nets are in Brooklyn. Before playing a game they earned the hearts of many, if not most, of Brooklyn, even those that love the Knicks.
As told to me by a friend that was Brooklyn born and raised, “That team has brought so much pride to the city. I love the Knicks, but the Nets have my heart because that’s our team and our team only.”
The Nets’ arrival has galvanized a city. Not only that, but it’s opened the imagination of the residents. They’re not thinking about an NBA title, no, they’re thinking about an NFL team or MLB team. They basking in the attention their borough, not Manhattan is getting.
Knowing this and finally understanding it, as much as a guy from Harlem can, makes the score of the first few games meaningless. The bigger story is the arrival of the team and the recognition that Brooklyn is finally getting.
They’ve known they were a great city worthy of a major sport franchise for years; we were late to the party.