I can still hear the PA announcer at the Continental Airlines Arena introducing the starting lineup for the New Jersey Nets. It was like a suspenseful book the way he called out the names, building up drama for what’s soon to break as the climax: " The captain… number five… JASON KIDD!"
Or when play would stop and the announcer would call out, "Jason Kidd to the line, two shots." Suddenly, a loud barrage of fans would roar with "MVP" chants as Kidd stepped to the line. As the "MVP" chants continued to reign from the entire arena, Kidd would perform his kiss to the crowd before every free throw. I would watch that and model it in every one of my pee-wee basketball games as a kid. Just like so many others did too.
How much fun those days were.
They’re still great memories. Jason Kidd running the fast break was like watching a Steven Spielberg classic for the first time. It was awe-inspiring. It was especially great when it ended with an alley-oop to Kenyon Martin. Martin would cap off a brilliant lob pass from Kidd with a two-handed flush, land, then look out into the crowd and start pounding his chest with pride. Even though it wasn’t always sold out, East Rutherford was still our home. And for the first time in my young life, I had something that captivated my full attention and excitement other than a cone of ice cream. All thanks to Jason Kidd.
Kidd had a bad reputation off the court, but judging him on the court, he was as good as it gets. He displayed his full repertoire of moves and passes, his leadership and unselfishness. He wasn’t out there to be flashy or a scoring machine, he was out there making the average role player look like a superstar. Most were shocked to see the Nets become an elite team in such a short span of time, but nobody was shocked that it was Kidd who turned the franchise around.
We’re talking about a team that was 26-56 the season before Kidd was traded to New Jersey. Even with Kidd coming to Jersey, the Nets weren’t nearly expected to have the success they achieved in the 2001-2002 season. In the preseason, most pundits didn't even think they'd make the playoffs. They finished as the first seed in the Eastern Conference at 52-30, and even though they lost to the Los Angeles Lakers in the Finals, it was special, exhilirating. A 26-win team transformed into an Eastern Conference Champion all in the span of one year, and in the hands of one new player.
We saw how fast things can change due to Kidd’s presence, sorta like how we saw things change last week when he and the Nets decided to part ways, only uglier. Obviously Jason Kidd the coach and Jason Kidd the basketball player are two totally different stories.
Kidd’s legacy as a player in New Jersey was one to remember. He led the Nets to six consecutive playoff appearances, including two straight trips to the NBA Finals. He averaged 14 points, nine assists, and seven rebounds per game in his seven-year career with the Nets. The Nets roster was never stacked with All-Star’s, but Kidd always found ways to make them contenders.
This is why it’s tough to take in the drama that has recently occurred with Jason Kidd (the coach) and the Brooklyn Nets organization. He was the past, present, and the future of the Nets. Watching them put up his number 5 banner in the Barclays Center’s rafters was like watching my life as a fan. Now? People are calling for it to be taken down.
While I doubt that happens, I’d rather it not be taken down. His accomplishments as a player shouldn’t be discredited due to his greedy and selfish actions as a coach.
Ten years ago, Jason Kidd and selfish didn’t belong in the same sentence.