First in an occasional series about the Brooklyn Nets, of whom I am a season ticket holder. Written on Wednesday, before the “B” caps were restocked. Huzzah!
It’s the “B” they’re after. You can’t find the fitted Brooklyn Nets cap with the “B” logo in the center at the Modell’s across the street from the stadium or either of the two Modellses on Fulton Street, blocks away, neither at the Lidz store there. You can’t find them in sizes anywhere but the extremes edges of the bell curve, aka normal human sizes, at least. 6 7/8. 7 7/8. 8. Even the ones in window displays are outliers. I asked, but far faster brains than me tried that tack and came away empty-headed.
The fitted cap that has the “Nets” shield is readily available, but no one cares about the Nets, a brand as attractive as sour milk, and that shitty Raiders ripoff logo. It’s the “B” they want for the team in binary black-and-white currently measuring the proverbial drapes at the Barclay’s Center, where the final pieces of its oxidized roof are being moved into place as I write this, just down the street. Actually I just went out to look, and the crane is still, for now.
Joe Johnson’s on a billboard just outside the stadium, and Deron Williams is on a cellphone ad closer to downtown, but then again, he was even before he re-signed. Their T-shirts alone spill out the front of souvenir stores—poor unrepresented Gerald Wallace, a fine player in his own right, though “poor” might not be the right word. Many of the souvenirs, which I have spent a good deal of time admiring, play directly on Brooklyn’s “neighborhood” feel, and I put neighborhood in quotes because sports teams and neighborhoods tend to coexist as well as breakfast and, well, sour milk. The Nets are a cause and symptom of Brooklyn gentrification, so seeing T-shirts that show dangling shoes hanging from the borough’s name seems like a practice the NYPD will soon outlaw near the stadium for security reasons. Change will officially be on. The difference between Brooklyn before and after the Nets will be black and white as the second Tyson Chandler wins the Opening Night tip from Brook Lopez, and Tyson Chandler will win the Opening Night tip from Brook Lopez.
Until then, the Nets are less a team than a prefab nostalgia factory. The selling of “old” Brooklyn before it’s old may be disingenuous, but it feels good The Nets haven’t even released their official jerseys. They’re building suspense, delaying the reality as long as possible, not restocked the “B” hats in bulk. Their first game is against the New York Knicks. After that, they’re just a basketball team. It’s rare that a team gets to make a legitimate sales pitch, but the Nets have sold themselves in two different ways, and one has resonated, and it’s not the one where they’re a great professional basketball team. It’s the one where they’re the team from a Brooklyn they came to destroy.
As soon as the games start, that definition will go “poof.” They’ll be the team not of the olde borough but that of Williams and Johnson and Williams and Brook Lopez and Avery Johnson. They’ll be defined by their players, and how their players perform year after year. The neighborhood around the stadium will expand and contract according to the whims of the richest man in Russia and the fairly bland economics of pro sports. They’ll be in the middle of this neighborhood, but they’ll seem farther away than they ever have, because it won’t be a dream anymore, but dumb reality.
The summer, like a ball at the apex of its flight, is about to start its death drip. The Nets have uniforms soon, and they’ll be real, and they’ll be playing in Minnesota on a random Wednesday night, just like the Bulls and Warriors and rest of them. Enjoy this rare and magical time. Milk it.
(Hat courtesy adidas, Modell’s and $28)