NEW YORK — After moving the Nets across two rivers and one state line, team management had to figure out how to improve a lackluster fan base.
The answer wasn’t so much brand recognition as it was location affirmation.
The Bulls were caught up in the first NBA playoff game in Brooklyn history Saturday night, and the game atmosphere was little more than repeating the name of the borough as often as possible.
Brooklyn this, Brooklyn that, it’s a Brooklyn blackout and so on. The halftime entertainment was a local artist singing a song all about Brooklyn.
The Nets’ marketing department must have realized that Hollywood has long thought anything from Brooklyn was cool. Remember how Ed Burns’ character in “Saving Private Ryan” had “Brooklyn” scrawled across the back of his jacket. You don’t see movie characters from Sioux City doing that.
There wasn’t really much glamour or hoopla about the first playoff game in the Nets’ new home. Just endless Brooklyn chants and references.
Judging by Saturday’s crowd, the black Brooklyn jerseys are flying off the shelves here. They’re everywhere, even though there is no such thing as a vintage Brooklyn shirt.
No one can wear Kerry Kittles or Albert King to a game in Brooklyn the way Knicks fans still celebrate John Starks or David Lee.
This day was considered a renaissance for basketball in New York City. The Knicks played host to Boston in the afternoon and took their first playoff series lead since 2001.
The Nets are a 20-minute subway ride from Madison Square Garden, but the atmosphere is decidedly different. The Knicks are surrounded by a vertical urban landscape, so much so that their arena sits several stories in the air above Penn Station.
The Barclays Center is in a neighborhood, which might be described as something in between “The Cosby Show” and “Do The Right Thing.” The only skyscraper in the immediate vicinity is the Williamsburgh Savings Bank Tower.
In reality, the Barclays Center has more in common with Indiana’s Conseco Fieldhouse (or whatever it’s called now) than most other NBA arenas. The seating layout is similar, and the concourses trumpet a local flavor.
Barclays isn’t decorated with hand-painted barn signs like in Indiana. But you can order Nathan’s Hot Dogs, Junior Cheesecake or a Café Habana Cuban sandwich for $12.50.
By rolling over and refusing to play much defense, the Bulls played a large part in making Brooklyn’s playoff debut a rousing success Saturday. But it does seem like the NBA is going to catch on here.Copyright © 2014 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.