|Jay and Beyonce|
|Jay-Z, a new Knick killer? (MSNBC Photo)|
Ridiculing the Knicks has become a fashionable trend in pop culture as of late. Once limited to being the inside joke of the NBA, the stench of the Knicks slipped outside the league and onto the radar of media outside the sports world. Being a regular joke that find’s its way onto the daily weather forecast is a good measure for how pathetic the Knicks franchise has become if you stopped keeping track of the losses. With all the bad press, the embarrassing and apparent locker room dysfunction, the wacky roster moves, and all the countless losses; the fact of the matter is that the biggest blow to New York’s historic franchise is still on deck and due in 2010: The Brooklyn Nets, as in Jay-Z’s Nets.
You might recall a period when initial rumors of the Nets moving to Brooklyn made great internet and talk radio chatter. Oddly, once that move became a reality, the story faded away from the conciseness of most Basketball fans. Perhaps the Knicks regression used up too much ink for writers to dwell on New York City’s upcoming “alternative” team. While the current New Jersey Nets team is going through their own managerial pains, one thing for certain is that their part owner Jay-Z presents one of the most attractive owners for fans and NBA players will ever have the chance to embrace. He hasn’t logged in too many minutes, but he already may be one the most prized possessions of the franchise.
Jay-Z needs no introduction. (If by chance you are a prospective Brooklyn Net Fan unfamiliar with his work, you better Google him now, because the franchise will not wait for you to catch up) In music he started from nothing, building his own music label to release one of the most classic Hip Hop albums of the 20th Century (Reasonable Doubt) A decade after it’s release he took his label to the top of the Hip Hop food chain by leasing out his brand into other properties that included clothing, film, and so much more. Simply said, the man knows how to take a product into the marketplace. Maybe even more importantly than that, he’s also probably the childhood hero for many of the players in the league. Can you say that about your boss?
The jump from New Jersey to Brooklyn is huge enough as it, even without Hov in the mix. More relevant than that, a report last week confirms that the inaugural season is timed perfectly with the biggest NBA offseason of the new millennium. Take a gander at some of the names in that summer’s Free Agent class: Joe Johnson, Josh Howard, Dirk Nowitzki, Tracy McGrady, Rip Hamilton, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul, Steve Nash, Manu Ginobli, Andrew Bynum, Deron Williams, Ray Allen, Carlos Boozer, Amare Stoudamire, Kobe Bryant, and so many more. But do you know the biggest name of them all?
Here’s a hint from an interview he did a few years ago. MTV’s Sway got an interview with him chilling backstage at one of Jay-Z’s shows.
Sway: What brings you to the concert? ___________: Come on, man, you know what brings me to the concert, this man sitting right here next to me. You know I'm part of the Roc, so I'm here supporting realmy man. Sway: Now when you say you're a part of the Roc — are you signed to Roc-A-Fella or are you just a Roc fan? Jay-Z: That's extended family right there. ____________: And coming soon, you gon' see me in the Roc jersey at the Rucker too.
Fill in the blank. It’s only the most prolific player n the league, and the soon to be recipient of this year’s MVP.
That’s LeBron alrright; right before he played his first NBA game. See what I’m getting at? Those same few lines might very well be used again at a press conference in 2 years…but just switch “Roc-A-Fella” with Brooklyn Nets.
With Jay-Z opening up shop in his beloved borough, don’t think for a second that players will not be demanding their agents look into working with their favorite rapper, and in many cases, actual friend. There’s probably a great many of players that would come to Brooklyn just to be a groupie. Still he is only a part owner whose actual role with the Nets is not clearly defined to the public. The Net are the last one that get into details about his role, much because they still gleam over him.
“He's real chill. He's been at team dinners and jokes with everybody,” said Richard Jefferson himself when asked about Jay-Z in an archived interview. “He's a fan that got to be a part of an ownership group so he's the best type of owner.”
What makes Jay-Z different from other owners is his ability to make anything he is affiliated with relevant. He’ll certainly do the same with the Nets. Whether or not that has anything to do with wins remains to be seen. Still, if he can bring out the school boy crush players like LeBron have in him, just imagine what his affect on New York would be. Very casually the process of converting Knick fans is already under way. Last season, boisterous billboards for the Nets surrounded the perimeter of the Garden. Even before that, a cross marketing platform paired Net tickets with his “Kingdom Come” CD. And don’t take lightly how Jay’s appearance courtside at Net games can affect all the “dumb deaf and blind” kids who follow anything their favorite rapper endorses. (Remember when Cam’Ron had kids wearing pink and purple clothing? Or what about those ridiculous mega oversized snowman shirts? And what about when we saw grown dudes with a band aid under their eye like Nelly used to have?) How interesting is a wretched losing team like the Knicks compete with a franchise that will have a better record and more media coverage than Britney Spears? The Nets have a full scale agenda to blow the Knicks out of the minds of the everyday New Yorker; that much is obvious. Maybe that’s partially the reason why the Nets have, in recent history, played the Knicks with a furious degree of aggression comparable to that of a group of pit fighters anytime they meet their sworn enemies on the court.
Regardless of the marketing dream a team in Brooklyn will present, Jim Dolan may finally want to check in with his team. It’s obvious the Knicks bizarre owner chooses to ignore the disaster his product is. To him, it’s probably nothing more than an outdated myspace page he signs into every other month because he can’t figure out how to cancel the account. Soon, enraged Knick fans will have a new team to adopt until Dolan fixes the team. With attendance at the Garden and ratings slipping now, expect those numbers to crash even further once the city of New York gets a new team to build a love affair with. After all, it’s proven that not every fan feels compelled to root for their “home” team. In fact, over the past decade Knick fans are dropping their fandom all over the nation and not just in New York. When the Nets return to New York (Originally based in New York during the ABA years), they will without a doubt become an extremely attractive team for disgruntled Knick fans already on the ledge to bring them back into their living room; just with a different station on. There have even been rumblings that the Nets may even go by New York Nets, a move that will assuage a Knick fan’s conversion.
Of course that brings the argument of when it’s ever acceptable for a fan to disown their team. The Knicks have one the biggest fan bases in the league, but even the most dogmatic of fans has to ask themselves when enough is enough. For many of us, the once adoring Knicks have went Tara Reid on us and will probably not come back home. For those fans, the Nets are willing to seduce them into thinking they do in fact deserve better.
I’ve spoken with a few Brooklyn Net fans in waiting to get their thoughts on the subject. One of which is Quantrell Brisbane, Founder & CEO of videogame retailer War of the Worldz. (Soon to be re-launched online at waroftheworldz.com), and avid season ticket holder for the Nets. Once a Knick fan himself in a former life, he was kind enough to give me his thoughts on how Net fans are preparing for the move. In fact there is a major segment of Net fans that are self exiled former Knick fans.
Asked on what made him turn in his Knick jersey, “I first became disenchanted with the Knicks when the players’ heart came into question. Heart is what the Knicks heritage was founded on. The millennium Knicks have been the complete opposite.. Players who could care less about the legacy, the fans or the game for that matter,” said Brisbane.
Some of the fuel to jump ship is economical. “To top off placing a horrible product on the floor the MSG organization chooses to over price their product. Imagine paying $75 for peanut heaven at the Garden compared to paying the same price for floor seats at the Nets who have fielded a winning team with a leader whose heart has never come into question? The Nets organization care about the fans and that’s why I’m one of them.”
But how much of an affect does Jay-Z have on fans?
“He’s brought star power. Prior to him you would have never seen Missy, Cedric the entertainer, Ciara, Kanye West, Beyonce, Rhianna in the house. All on the same night! Due to the location as many stars have not come out to every game, but factor in the amount of artists whom are from and still reside in BK... Lights camera action!”
Location is another factor that comes into account for prospective fans. Last week during a visit to Brooklyn, at a local bar, I overheard a pretty woman bashing the Knicks as they were getting ready to drop a game to the lowly Kings. “Thank goodness the Nets are coming soon!” she sarcastically said aloud. After a drink, I asked Nancy for her opinions on the Nets. Even though she wasn’t a Net season ticket holder like Brisbane, she admitted that she was impatiently awaiting the Nets arrival and was a former Knick fan herself.
“Once the Nets represent my neighborhood, they would have gained a fan. All the energy I once put on the Knicks will be shifted to the Nets. It will make basketball interesting again. Coming from Brooklyn where my family and the majority of my friends live, it would give us something to talk about. It gives us hope and a team to look forward to cheer again. My dream is for the Nets to become the pride of New York,” said Nancy.
Asked what role, if any Jay-Z will play in her decision, “Jay-Z is a savvy business man, very smart. His presence can motivate his team and help gain new fans in basketball. It may not guarantee a championship, but it may be better than what we have now in New York,” she said.
New Yorkers seem fully ripe for a structural change in their fandom. Whether it’s a knowledgeable season ticket holder like Quantrell, or even the casual basketball fan like Nancy, it’s no coincidence that they were former Knick fans. The Nets know this, and Jay-Z does as well.
2010 is a scary thought for Knick fans. Imagine opening night at the Barclay’s Center loaded with New York’s most relevant celebrities with LeBron James, and a free agent signing like Stephon Marbury with maybe even a Jeff Van Gundy or Larry Brown at the helm while at a lifeless Garden, Herb Williams trots out a lineup that’s best player still is a role player on the bench named Lee. Which team will you be watching that night?
It’s going to be a hard Knick life indeed.
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