The Name Game

Ever since Bruce Ratner decided to buy the Nets, it has been "all about Brooklyn". The most commonly told story about the origin of the "Brooklyn Nets" is that Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz called Ratner and practically begged him to buy the team and move it to a new arena at the same intersection the Dodgers had planned to move 50 years earlier (before abandoning the borough for Los Angeles).

The Nets quickly registered the trademark "Brooklyn Nets" for a variety of merchandise and a domain name, brooklynets.com (with one "n") back in March 2004 when Ratner bought the team.

Now, with Mikhail Prokhorov about to purchase 80% of the team and 45% of Barclays Center, the question is whether "Brooklyn Nets" is still the plan. The team, it should be noted, also registered--and renewed--the trademark for "New York Nets" although it did abandon "NY Nets". And of course, the team did register the Cyrillic spelling of "Brooklyn Nets" just before announcing the sale to Prokhorov.

But is "Brooklyn Nets" a done deal? Apparently not. A number of people last week received a curious email. One of them forwarded it to us. It read:

"I am consulting for the (prospective) new owners of the Nets basketball team... and am doing a quick survey.

"EVERYONE'S perspective is helpful (basketball fan, non-basketball fan, NY'er, non-NY'er...)

"After the team's move to Brooklyn, which NAME would you choose?

A) Brooklyn Nets
B) NY Nets
C) Brooklyn "other"
D) NY "other'

"Please add if you feel strongly about your choice.
"Please add if you consider yourself an "avid" basketball fan.
"Any other color on your answer would be appreciated...

"Thanks!"

The author, whose identity we're not revealing, is well known in the New York basketball community so the email has some credibilty. We've attempted to reach him. We even told him our choice, which we're also not revealing.

Beyond "Brooklyn" vs. "New York", what names other than "Nets" might the team take?

We don't know, but here's some history and a hint: Barry Baum, the team's spokesman, said back in November 2007 that Ratner might consider a name change. He assured the Brooklyn Eagle the team would definitely be branded "Brooklyn". "Brooklyn is the name for sure," Baum told the Eagle. "It hasn’t been determined if it will be the Nets yet. The working title now is Brooklyn Nets."

In fact, two weeks before Baum's comment, the Nets did register a trademark for "Brooklyn Hoops" and control a domain name, brooklynhoops.com, as well. None of the filings indicate if "Brooklyn Hoops" would have been the team's name or just a marketing tool for Brooklyn basketball. And again, Prokhorov would have that perk once the team is sold, not Ratner.

Is there anything to stop the Nets from reclaiming the "New York Nets" name they abandoned with their move to New Jersey in 1977? Nope. The team's owner would merely have to register the new name with the NBA, as the Oklahoma City Thunder did in 2008. The Knicks might want to object but they gave up their territorial rights to Brooklyn a long time ago. (In fact, the team considered renaming the team in 1998, not only registering the name, but a logo as well.)

And what of Brooklyn's most famous native son--and Nets minority investor, Jay-Z? How might he feel? Hard to imagine him objecting. After all, his new signature song is called "Empire State of Mind".

Finally, why is this happening? Assuming it's all true, Prokhorov may simply want to make a brand new start of it in old New York...to borrow a phrase from Old Blue Eyes, Mr. Sinatra. After the last few years who can blame him. He may want to assure everyone those little town blues are melting away...we can't stop. Maybe he wants the team to more associated with the city and the metro area than just a part of it, even if it's the borough where the team plays.

Or maybe, he'll like the patina of Brooklyn after all is said and done. It should be noted, however, that Russia's richest man didn't drop $19,000 on a celebratory lunch at a Brooklyn eatery. No, he dined in midtown Manhattan, aka New York.

Bottom line, Nets insiders say, Prokhorov's purchase of the Nets is about him wanting to enter the world stage and as they say about New York, if you can make it there, you make it anywhere.

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