Kings County residents better tread very carefully this week, now that the borough and their sports avatars, the Brooklyn Nets, have been featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated. The issue, which goes on sale today, dives into the history of Brooklyn sports, as seen through the eyes of a writer who covered the borough's basketball scene in the 1970s. It also explains why Brooklyn is a perfect landing place for the hard-luck Nets, and how the "fertile noggin of excitable, cheerleading Marty Markowitz" originally thought Donald Trump could be a potential buyer of the Nets.
You can see a video about the issue's eye-popping cover, starring Deron Williams, above—it has something to do with graffiti=Brooklyn. But more importantly, Williams is juxtaposed with a backdrop of Brooklyn legends, including Julius Erving, Jackie Robinson, Jay-Z and streetballer Fly Williams. After several lousy seasons, Williams is truly excited about the future: "It feels great...It feels like a new start, like we kept the Nets name but started over." He also think Brooklyn will become a destination spot for future free agents (not named Dwight Howard): "A lot of guys told me that if I signed, they wanted to come to Brooklyn. There's just a whole different buzz. It's great."
For basketball fans and Brooklyn sports aficionados, it's a must-read. Among the highlights is the exchange below with Spike Lee about where his allegiances will lie in the forthcoming season. Unsurprisingly, he vows to be there at opening night in his orange and blue:
But the $1 billion arena, replete with Jay-Z's Vault private luxury suites and, this being the newly hip Brooklyn, a menu of artisanal food choices including locally made pretzels with chipotle mayo, opened on time last month. Even filmmaker Spike Lee—who, like Albert King, was born in nearby Cumberland Hospital and grew up in Fort Greene—is thrilled with the new building and tenant in his hometown. And if anybody should be tormented by the arrival, it should be Lee, who has made six movies about the borough in his Chronicles of Brooklyn series but is such a Knicks fan (meaning Manhattan) that there is no turning back.
"This is great for Brooklyn," he says. "But I'm orange and blue. Guys of my generation grew up with the Knicks—Reed, DeBusschere, Bradley, Barnett, Frazier. If I were a 10-year-old kid, Brooklyn would be my team. Brooklyn should have a pro team."
But will the Spikeman be coming to Knicks-Nets games at Barclays Center? Like the season opener between the two on Nov. 1?
"My office is three blocks away!" he almost roars. So that's a yes. But in the orange-and-blue getup? "Why wouldn't I?" he asks, disbelieving. "Did you see Reggie Miller vs. the Knicks [an ESPN documentary]? Come on! What was I wearing to Market Square Arena? In Indianapolis! When I go to Barclays Center, I'm gonna be wearing orange and blue."
Okay, one more quote, this time from owner and metaphor-mangler Bruce Ratner:
"Basketball is to Brooklyn as motherhood is to apple pie," says Ratner, using images that can get confusing. But under his arena are subways that can take one anywhere, bring the world here.
"We prevailed," Ratner says proudly of his exotic team. "They did think I was crazy, putting an arena in an urban area. But this is a place where young people, everyone, can come to get away from business, from their troubles for a while. As Jay-Z said, 'We can be the new Dodgers.'"