Sure, maybe it was “just another basketball game” because the calender showed November 26 and the nation’s sports interests are clearly on professional and college football. But with a packed Barclays Arena, for the newest New York NBA team, last night’s victory for the pesky loudmouth little brother Brooklyn Nets over monolithic older New York Knicks, may mean great things for the future of hoops in America.
The first intra-city grudge match between the New York Knicks and the recently relocated, Jay Z owned, Brooklyn Nets, was supposed to have been played on Halloween. Hurricane Sandy swept through the Big Apple and the match-up was moved to November 26th, giving the media capital of the world a chance to hype the game as the battle for Gotham basketball legitimacy. Despite the outcome, Brooklyn rallied behind perfectly named forward Brook Lopez’s game high 22 points, to win over the more established, richer, Knicks 96-89, in overtime, the game took on greater meaning. For three decades the Nets have been the NBA’s swamp inhabited punchline to the Knicks downtown glamour franchise. The Nets made it to back to back league finals in the early 2000s but for the most of their time in New Jersey, they were second string, New York’s step-child, to the two-time champion Knicks.
Two years ago, sports version of a Bond villain, shady right wing, thick accented Russian industrialist Mikhail Prokhorov, bought the hapless, sorry, loser Nets and sought to solve his 99 Problems. He convinced full-time business man Shawn Carter, aka part-time rapper Jay Z, to cut a $5 million dollar check, making the modern day Blofeld and the the man who says bitches aren’t an issue to him since he married Beyonce, co-owners of a professional hoops team. Jay Z then went to work on his partner in dribble and the two fithy rich dudes moved the Nets to Brooklyn with spiffy black and white uniforms and some new players.
Business savvy, rich guy jerking aroundaside, the real importance is having two New York basketball teams playing well, at the same time. The Knicks and the new Nets don’t suck together for the first time, ever. Both are expected to make the playoffs. With hockey destroying itself, again, with a lockout and the football Jets’ season pretty much obliterated by poor play, the center of the basketball universe can return to it’s former cathedral, New York City.
For years, New York was the basketball’s hotspot. The Lakers have gotten old, really fast. The Celtics show their AARP cards instead of their basketball ones. While Miami has the glitz of The Heatles aka LeBron James, Dwyane Wade (yes, that’s how his mama spells it) and Chris Bosh, the Nets and the Knicks can counter with their obnoxious New Yawkness and great hoops of their own.
The Nets have some flaws, as do the Knicks. Neither are expected to win a championship. But if their rivalry, and last night game looked like a rivalry, can spark newer interest in the NBA as it loses older players, then the league can be healthy and represent the old traditions of the City being off the hook in roundball.