The Big Apple. The Capital of the World. The Center of the Universe. Or simply put: New York City. It doesn’t matter where you are from, where you live, or even if you’re connected to the internet. New York goes beyond borders and escapes limits. In a pop culture references rank, it’d be No. 1. In a sports-related city one, it wouldn’t be much lower—if at all. It is normal, considering it features the likes of the Yankees, the Rangers, the Giants or let’s face it, the New York Knicks.
I know what you are thinking. I know what I’m thinking, too. I have yet to go deep into this column but I’ve already made an image of it in my brain that tells me it’s going to end up focusing more than it should on the blue-and-orange franchise, considering where we’re at—a Brooklyn Nets website, of all places. The thing is, we all consume popular culture in one way or another—no matter if we care about sports, politics, or any other topic. Films deal with different things; music, too. References to New York City pop up everywhere whether you want it or not, and you can do nothing to fix it, or change those for others linked to Pawnee, IN.
One of the earliest memories I have that contains a reference to New York is the 1998 film Godzilla directed by Roland Emmerich. If I’m honest, it’s been years since I’ve watched the movie for the last time, and I don’t recall everything that happened in it. But I indeed remember one thing: Madison Square Garden appeared on it, and it was sort of a big deal. Not the Meadowlands Arena, nope. The MSG, pertaining to the New York Knicks and not the New Jersey Nets. Being from the very own New York, you may find that as logical, given that the Garden is in Manhattan, and it’s definitely a good fit in any film setup. The problem is that kids like me—who watched the film in a comfy living room across the pond knowing literally nothing about America or the United States—started to get this whole “Knicks-New York Connection” activated in our minds.
Moving fully into sports, the Knicks have always dominated the mainstream coverage of the NBA around the world. It was not often that you found Nets’ caps or tees around your local markets around Europe. It was all Yankees and Knickerbocker gear, and to this point, it still is.
Around this whole idea of the Knicks being present in our everyday life—not to that extent, but you know what I mean—I had my eyes locked into the matchup between both New York teams this past January 25. I had never thought of the rivalry as something historically great—like the Celtics versus the Lakers, for example. From the outside, there was never a picture of a hard-fought battle when the Nets and Knicks faced each other in the NBA. They were just two more teams from the L playing for the win, and that was about it. And of course, you expected the Knicks to come out as winners. I mean, they were the Knicks! The team of the world!
Turns out, they were (and are) not.
Just out of curiosity, I went to check the Knicks-Nets historical record since both teams were part of the NBA (since 1976 when the Nets got in from the ABA in the merger of both leagues). To date, there have been a total of 196 meetings. I would have never expected to find out that the series is dead-even at 98 wins apiece. You can’t write a better story.
It is obvious that looking at historical records and franchise achievements, the Knicks come out on top, and the Nets more or less flop. Wait. Is that really the case, or just the image we’ve been made to believe thanks to all of that bombing of references to the New York Knicks over time? The latter is true. Both the Knicks and the Nets have two championships pre-merger and none after it. So, yes, the New York Knicks have two NBA chips but if we’re honest, we can equate those to the ones won by the Nets while playing in the ABA.
Fast forward to contemporary times, and oh boy have things changed in perception. The advent of the internet, social media, international television, streaming and I-don’t-know-how-much-more technology-driven stuff have flipped the coin. In the era of the meme and the years or decade prior to it, the Knicks have been a mess to say the least, while the Nets have contended and been in the picture on a yearly basis. The early aughts saw the Nets fall short of the championship two times, losing to the unfairly-good Lakers and Spurs teams of 2003 and 2004. A squad led by Jason Kidd, which also featured youngins like Richard Jefferson and Kenyon Martin, was about as good as you could think of for a team back then. Sadly, they couldn’t get their hands on the gold.
Keep going through the timeline up to current dates, and things keep coming the Nets’ way. We have to be honest, both Knicks and Nets fans. While the team from New Jersey struggled, moved to Brooklyn and destroyed its immediate future with a much-maligned trade, the one from Manhattan didn’t do much better when trading for Carmelo Anthony to try to foster a winning spell that never truly came to town and also crumpled the future of the franchise. We must admit that the move to Brooklyn and the Barclays Center brought new vibes to the Nets and created a culture aligned with our times, while the Knicks have remained stuck in the middle of nowhere for the past few years.
Kids like Jarrett Allen were drafted straight by the Nets and loved to be part of a renewed team with high hopes. Other players, like Spencer Dinwiddie or D’Angelo Russell, were brought to the franchise via trade or free agency after being ousted by other teams, and they embraced the challenge of making Brooklyn a new, cool and competitive squad. Heck, even an undrafted Theo Pinson looks promising and is thriving in black-and-white threads nowadays.
Times have changed, and we’re not limited to bits of information spread here and there anymore. The concept of a Knicks-ruled world is over, for good. It’s a pity we’ll not have the chance to see another matchup between Brooklyn and New York this season (sorry, but the Knicks won’t make the playoffs), and we’ll have to wait until next winter to catch one. In that occasion, now with the series tied, the balance will once again fall to one side or the other. A lucky break could award Manhattan’s team the W and give it the edge over Brooklyn, but the trend says otherwise.
Embrace the Nets and forget about the alleged Knicks’ dominance. It belongs to other, long-gone times.