Brooklyn Nets Have a Chance

30 09 2011

Skepticism reigns about the New Jersey Nets’ chances to succeed in New York City once they move to Brooklyn. That’ll happen next year, in September 2012, assuming the NBA lockout actually ends by then.

Until that time comes, the point has been brought up – on Twitter, sports TV/radio shows, by sports writers – if the Nets can compete with the Knicks for fans in New York City. The situation has been compared, at times, to what the Los Angeles Clippers endure by playing in the same city as the Lakers. There are significant differences.

When the Clippers moved from San Diego to L.A. for the 1984-85 season, they began playing in the Sports Arena. That outdated arena, opened in 1959, is located in downtown, next to the Coliseum and across the street from USC’s campus. It was not a good area to be at night in 1984. It wasn’t a good area to be at night when I was growing up in L.A. in the early-mid ’90s.

Plus, it was close enough to Inglewood – the Lakers’ home before moving into Staples Center in 1999 – that the Clippers couldn’t develop a distinctive identity. They were literally the Lakers’ neighbors. And let’s not forget the Clippers’ move to L.A. coincided with the Lakers’ Showtime Era, when they had already racked up a pair of titles in ’80 and ’82 and were about to win another in ’85.

When the Lakers moved to Staples, the Clippers joined them. There was speculation the Clips would go to Anaheim in Orange County (also known as NOT L.A.) to play at the Pond. That never came to fruition, as Clips owner Don Sterling was too enamored by the fiscal security of playing at Staples. So, the Clips never had a chance to develop an identity.

Obviously, the fact that the Clippers never had a must-see star player and didn’t even make the playoffs in L.A. until ’92 had something to do with their lack of success.

Counter all that information with what the Nets have going for them. Yes, they haven’t been a great NBA franchise but they’re still the team that had Dr. J when they were in the ABA in the mid-’70s. They’re still the same organization which made back-to-back Finals in 2002-03 with Jason Kidd as their Man. Now, they have Deron Williams, a certified top-ten NBA player who’s in the prime of his career. And they have a shiny new Barclays Center which will open with their move there.

What gives the Nets the greatest chance at success is how regionalized each of NYC’s boroughs are. Brooklynites have a sense of pride in their borough that isn’t necessarily shared by people who live in Manhattan or Queens or The Bronx. The residents of each of those boroughs also enjoy their locales for different reasons. But they don’t generally share love for each other and for the various areas in which they all live. Therefore, each borough has its own identity. The businesses in each of those areas can thrive because of that.

More than 2.5 million people live in BK; think they wouldn’t rather go to a centrally-located arena in their own borough rather than tredge all the way to Midtown West in Manhattan? The Nets can market themselves as Brooklyn’s team, the first major pro sports team BK will have since the Dodgers left for L.A. in ’57. That’s a difference-maker.

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