I am a NETS fan. This has become the equivalent of saying I’m from Darfur. These days I feel like Jodie Foster from the Nell; alone, miserable, and unable to communicate with anyone because no one can understand this pain. The 2 attention seeking jackasses who wore brown bags over their heads definitely do not. At this point, I have become numb to the losses (or more accurately, downing half a bottle of scotch after each loss so I no longer feel any pain). What has become more irritating than the losses at this point are the countless columns and segments mainstream basketball pundits radiating about the NETS future with Prokhorov, a top 4 draft pick and 3 draft picks in top 31, over $20 million of cap space, and state-of-the-art arena in Brooklyn. Some even speculate that the NETS can overtake the Knicks which is the apex of idiotic hyperbole. I agree the NETS have reached their absolute nadir as a franchise so any change is good change, but what all the pundits fail to grasp is that the NETS are damaged both institutionally and socially since its inception into the NBA like a Middle Eastern country when they were forced to sell off their only marketable superstar Julius Erving for survival. Unless Prokhorov sends the Russian mob after LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, the NETS will spend their eternity as second fiddle to the Knicks in New York. Best case scenario, they become the Jets. Worst case scenario, the Clippers.
The key to the NETS success will be how well they cultivate their own fan base, especially males 18-35 because this generation will be responsible for passing it on to their children and . I solely blame the dearth of NETS fans in my highly important 18-35 male demographic on the idiotic idea to have all NETS and Devils games on the Sports Channel, a premium channel during my adolescent years in the early 90s. I am part of the Lost Generation of NETS fans forced to watch more Knicks, Bulls, and Lakers games as children because they were on MSG or NBC. Right now these children have grown up and are buying other teams tickets and merchandise and the NETS fan base consists of basketball tourists, fans who are there to see the opposing team. As a child who grew up in the Jersey suburbs a 15 minute car ride away from Brendan Byrne Arena /Continental Airlines Arena/IZOD Center/Basketball Auschwitz, I was 1 of 2 New Jersey NETS fans in my elementary school of 500 kids while everyone else rooted for the Knicks, Jordan’s Bulls, or the Lakers. The only reason we became NETS fans because we both lived next door to Bernard King, who spent his last year in the NBA riding on the NETS bench. The other kid moved away in 6th grade and I was left all alone to drown my sorrows in my Kendall Gill jersey. The highlight of my NETS experience as a youth was almost beating Jordan’s Bulls in Games 1 and 2 in Round 1 of the 1998 Playoffs. Now, going to the NETS game as a twentysomething feels like going to a James Taylor concert or Taylor Swift concert, just surrounded by young kids and their parents who shoot me weird looks and awkward glares when I make fun of Kiki’s outfits or Brook’s facial spasms.
I’m optimistic about the NETS future because there is no choice, but my expectations are simple. I just want the NETS to be competitive, not just in years where the Eastern Conference features as much talent as a CW sitcom. I want NETS fans that live and die with this team and will cause chaos when the NETS are playing a tight game in the 4th quarter, when Twill does an acrobatic dunk, Devin gets an And 1 after driving into 4 guys, or Brook when he blocks a layup. The days are gone when I thought Ed O’Bannon was a great pick, Rex Walters was a good pick over Nick Van Exel, Keith Van Horn would be the next Larry Bird, and Marcus Wiliams will be the PG of the future. Prokhorov will provide plenty of cash and gossip, but it will fall on Rod Thorn and Brett Yorkmark to set the future of the NETS. The Knicks will always be the marquee franchise in the New York area, but the NETS goal should be the more successful. I dream of a day where hipsters, the Hassids, and the Soviet blocs are lining the streets up and down Atlantic Avenue and the NETS are on floats with the Larry O’Brien Championship Trophy raised high.