Maybe it was when the Nets packed up their bags, threw out their identity and moved across state lines to settle down in Brooklyn. Or maybe it was when the Knicks churned out a marketing campaign that took shots at the Nets’ ambition to be “New York’s Team.” Perhaps it was when both teams became legitimate contenders, bringing stars to the Big Apple to proudly don the blue and orange or black and white. No one is quite sure when this rivalry began, but it’s already being heralded as one of basketball’s premier matchups-and the two teams have only faced each other once.
Last Monday, when fans piled into the Barclays Center to see the Knicks and Nets take the court, they bore witness to one of the best games of the season thus far, one that felt more like a playoff meeting than a meaningless contest in November. The crowd was loud, lively, and more akin to one you’d see at Allen Fieldhouse or Cameron Indoor. Stars came out in bunches to bear witness to a spectacular back-and-forth affair that needed overtime to be decided. When it was all said and done, Brooklyn successfully defended their $1 billion arena and earned temporary bragging rights.
While players downplayed the rivalry, dubbed by many as “The Clash of the Boroughs,” fans and sportswriters alike are buying into this northeast war.
Junior Steve Aliano feels as though the teams will provide NBA fans with a great conflict for years to come.
“Any time a New York team collides with another New York team, it’s going to be a brutal battle,” Aliano said. “Now that the Nets are in Brooklyn, it’ll be a case of who the better New York basketball team is.”
Not everybody is so keen to call this a rivalry, though. Junior Ben Myers doesn’t think the new feud will last.
“I think it’s going to wear out,” Myers said. “It’s more like a proximity rivalry; I don’t think there’s any bad blood between the teams.”
It’s funny how much a change of scenery can dramatically shift landscapes. The Nets spent 44 years in New Jersey, 36 of them in the NBA squaring off against the Knickerbockers. Never was there a crowd as raucous as the one last Monday night. Never did a game between these two squads seem like anything but an easy commute for the away team. The Prudential Center is located just nine miles away from Madison Square Garden. The IZOD Center is even closer, just a quick six-mile trip between the two arenas. But the rivalry just never clicked, partly because the Nets had an inferiority complex, and partly because neither team was competitive at the same time.
Now it’s different. The Nets were reborn and rebranded. They’re the new kids in town, and the Knicks are that angry neighbor who doesn’t want anybody playing in their yard.
Basketball in New York is fun again. Long gone are the days when the Knicks were led out of the tunnel by Stephon Marbury and Tim Thomas. Long gone are the days where the Nets are focused more on the summer draft than the spring playoffs. Both teams are off to great starts, and there’s a realistic shot that these teams could face off at the year-end tournament, where “The Clash of the Boroughs” could reach new heights. Buckle up tri-state area, this is going to be good.