Who is the King of New York?
The NBA 2012-13 season tips off next week and with it comes a rivalry that will be hard not to watch: the New York Knickerbockers and the Brooklyn Nets.
For the first time in 55 years, sports fans in Brooklyn have a team to call their own. The relocating New Jersey Nets return to the Big Apple for the first time in 35 years.
For many older fans, the departure of the Brooklyn Dodgers for the sunny climes of Los Angeles still leaves a bitter taste in the mouth. Whilst younger fans don’t remember Sandy Koufax, Charlie Neal, Don Zimmer and Co. shipping out of Bucktown, Brooklyn old-timers do and it’s made the past half-century almost unbearable. Now, they have a team support, if they can bring themselves to do so.
A Lesson in History
Until 1981, the Nets were very much a nomadic team. Founded in 1967 as the New Jersey Americans, the team would play in three different arenas in its first three seasons of play.
Upon arriving in the ABA in ’67, the team played at the Teaneck Armory (Teaneck, N.J.). After one season, the franchise upped sticks and headed for the Long Island Arena (Commack, N.Y.), an arena occupied by the Long Island Ducks of the Eastern Hockey League (EHL). In the process, the team became known as the New York Nets.
The following summer the team moved to Island Garden (West Hempstead, N.Y.), where it would stay for three seasons, including its first postseason appearances.
In 1972, the NHL welcomed the New York Islanders, an expansion franchise that would be based at the brand new Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale, N.Y. In need of a stable, regular home arena, the Nets jumped at the chance of sharing the then-state-of-the-art venue. It was here that the Nets would win two ABA championships (1974, 1976) and join the NBA, following the 1976 merger.
Despite the success the side experienced in Nassau County, the Nets would soon make a return to New Jersey. In 1977, the re-modeled New Jersey Nets would begin playing at Rutgers Athletic Center – known today as Louis Brown Athletic Center, the home of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights men’s basketball team – in Piscathaway, N.J.
Still not settled, the Nets would relocate again in 1981. The opening of the Brendan Byrne Arena – which would become known as Continental Airlines Arena (1996) and then the Izod Center (2007) – gave the Nets their first permanent home. The team would be joined by the NHL’s relocating Colorado Rockies (New Jersey Devils) in 1982, and both would happily coexist until the Nets headed to Newark and the Prudential Center in 2007.
The Nets would follow the Devils to the Prudential Center in 2010, a move that was seen somewhat as a trial, but ownership had no intention of remaining across the Hudson.
The completed construction of Barclays Center in Brooklyn this past summer heralded the franchise’s seventh move, eighth arena, and fourth team name. The $4.9 billion venue is the first arena purpose built for the nomadic franchise.
New York City Bragging Rights
Sure enough, the revamped and reimagined Brooklyn Nets open the 2012-13 season with a matchup against the New York Knicks on November 1, 2012.
The game will be the first time two New York City sides have played the NBA since the New York Knicks defeated the New York Nets 100-80 on February 20, 1977, a game that saw Bob McAdoo (22) and Walt Frazier (20) lead the Knicks in scoring. The Nets’ leading scorer that night? Mel Davis.
The Nets’ return means that the NBA now has a bona fide NYC rivalry akin to the other ‘Big Three’ sports leagues. Whilst this might not have the feel of a Yankees-Mets or Giants-Jets rivalry, this certainly has the potential to grow into one of the best rivalries, and is already 1,000 times more exciting than any Rangers-Islanders matchup.
After recording a 22-44 record in New Jersey last season, you might have expected the Nets to be lingering towards the bottom of oddsmakers’ lists this season. Perhaps surprisingly then, the team isn’t even close to the bottom.
Brooklyn currently has 10/1 odds of winning the Eastern Conference. Only Miami, Chicago and Boston have shorter odds of representing the East in the NBA Finals. The Knicks meanwhile are hot on their rival’s heals, at 14/1.
In terms of the NBA title itself, the Nets are 28/1 to take home the Larry O’Brien trophy, again ahead of the Knicks, who are considered 35/1 to achieve that particular feat.
Strangely however, despite preferring the Nets over the Knicks in the long run, oddsmakers have the Knicks at 9/4 to take the Atlantic Division and the Nets at 4/1. The longer odds make Brooklyn an appealing bet, particularly as the Boston Celtics – favorites to take the division – have 11/10 odds.
Regardless of the odds on offer, when these two sides do finally take to the court, be it at Barclays Center or Madison Square Garden, this is going to be a rivalry to keep even the most ardent of basketball fans interested. At least we hope it is.
To get a taster, tune in tonight (Wednesday) as the New York Knicks visit Barclays Center for a preseason matchup with the Brooklyn Nets (7 PM ET).
Nov 1: New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets (7:00 PM ET)
Dec 11: New York Knicks at Brooklyn Nets (7:00 PM ET)
Dec 19: Brooklyn Nets at New York Knicks (7:00 PM ET)
Jan 21: Brooklyn Nets at New York Knicks (3:30 PM ET)