As Hurricane Sandy tightened its grip on New York last Monday, two fans --and NetsDaily posters-- found themselves in a bad spot. Two actually. In comments on NetsDaily, they wrote about how their dream of making opening night was being swept aside, like so much else in New York, by the storm.
Jonny Black, from Northern Ireland, was already in New York for the Knicks game. He said he had come early to "soak up the atmosphere," an ironic turn of phase in light of what was happening. Matt Encarnacion, from Australia, was stuck in Hawaii (never a bad thing) with a dwindling cell phone battery and a choice to make: with New York airports shut, should he continue on to Philadelphia, he asked fellow fans, then book a bus and hope for the best? He made a last minute decision and boarded a plane with nothing more than hope and an umbrella.
NetsDaily alerted Irina Pavlova, president of Mikhail Prokhorov's ONEXIM Sports and Entertainment, who contacted the two and offered the Nets hospitality for the Knicks game. When that was cancelled, she and her executive assistant, Elaine Sedelnikova, went the extra mile, particularly with Black. His stay in New York couldn't be extended without him paying a four-figure fee. Pavlova talked to his airline, got the fee waived and even booked him directly back to Belfast!
It was an easy decision, Pavlova said. "These are the kind of fans we need!"
On Friday night, one of the team owners took Black out for drinks and on Saturday night, he, Encarnacion and their guests were given ticket upgrades (behind the Nets bench) and a tour of Barclays Center, getting first-hand views of "The Vault," the Calvin Klein Courtside Lounge, and the double suite atop mid-court where Mikhail Prokhorov holds court. Pavlova introduced them to Prokhorov who thanked them for their valiant effort in making the game, posed for pictures, talked a little basketball and autographed their "Brooklyn Fan Since Day One" t-shirts. As they exited the suite, the two met Jay-Z, Beyonce' and Adam Silver, who were on their way in! Just your typical day in the life as a Nets fan ... or as Black told us, "This is just beyond insane!"
It may be insane for other NBA teams, but not this one!
Here's Jonny's personal account...
From the moment the Knicks game was cancelled and I received an email from Irina to leaving the arena, I've never been made to feel more welcome than I was by the Nets organisation.
Just to try and get my point across here, I used to play professional soccer at Tottenham Hotspur and I would never see them giving the red carpet treatment to a random international fan and yet they are a 129-year-old institution.
It really is the little things that count and change what was a nightmare personally into a dream. Irina showed me places I'd only read about on NetsDaily and wouldn't never in my wildest dreams ever seen. I met Adam Silver, who is a amazingly nice and humble guy, Billy King, again a great guy and Mikhail Prokhorov who is an absolutely huge guy who was kind enough to sign my "Fan Since Day One" t shirt.
It all started at the VIP entrance were I first met Elaine Sedelnikova, who is Irina Pavlova's assistant. She met me with a huge smile and couldn't have been any nicer, she gave me my tickets and Calvin Klein court side club pass while getting two ushers to show me to my seat. While picking up the tickets Leo Ehrline introduced himself to me again and couldn't have been more polite and courteous.
From there I stood in awe at the court side seats and the view of the court, it was even better than the view the tv camera's have, they were that good.
I first met Irina Pavlova in the Calvin Klein club where I introduced myself because I recognized her instantly and let's be honest who wouldn't because she is absolutely stunning.
She took me on a behind the scenes tour that went from the players locker to the tunnel the players go out to the court to the Vault. Words can't describe how amazing it is to actually talk to people like Billy King, Adam Silver and Irina Pavlova.
Prokhorov is a huge imposing figure and his suite is out of this world but again I couldn't have been made more welcome. We ran into Jay Z and Beyonce when we were leaving the suite as well which again was surreal.
The beauty in this whole trip and treatment by the Nets was that they didn't have to do anything for me, I wasn't entitled to anything and I couldn't complain about a thing, but they made a huge effort for me and I can't thank everyone enough. Irina and Elaine are two of the nicest people I've ever met and they made me feel a million dollars just by being amazingly polite, warm and beautiful people. I felt so comfortable around them, it just felt great.
I'll remember last night for the rest of my life, I got a glimpse into the franchise behind the scenes and it was a beautiful thing. The standard of the arena, to the standard of people running the franchise is beyond first class and just opened my eyes to the Brooklyn Nets now being in the big market and one of the top franchises in the NBA. The crowd was packed and were looking for any opportunity to really get behind the team and it feel great, it's going to be a home court advantage for us for the first time in years.
To sum it all up, a classy organisation ran by class people who made a single foreign fan like me feel like a celebrity. I'm telling you words can't describe how welcome everyone made me feel. I felt like King for the day, it was out of this world.
Here's Matt's personal account...
The theme of ‘Hello Brooklyn’ can not better encapsulate my travels the way it did when my friends and I got VIP treatment last night.
Having been welcomed in Hawaii by a tsunami warning and then been told that our flights to NY were cancelled two days later, all my thoughts were about getting to Brooklyn by Nov 1.
Another two flights were cancelled before I had to come to a decision. Hawaii Airlines were yet to inform us of a rescheduled flight but two people from our group managed to score flights that would get there on Nov 2.
Not wanting to take a chance, I looked to see what airports around NY were open and I managed to secure a schedule that went from a 10:50pm flight from Hawaii to LA on the 30th, a 11:20pm flight from LA to Detroit to Philly on the 31st, before a 12pm bus ride to NY on the 1st of November. All to get me to Barclays by the 7:30pm tip off against the Knicks.
I had two hours to confirm. It was my first time in the States and I was going to go on this ridiculous trek alone. Hawaii would only pay for my flight to LA, I had to pay for the next flight and bus on my own.
Sure enough, it was booked.
A three hour wait in a lonely diner at Hawaii airport was depressing, as was the long trip to LA. I booked a one day tour that took me through all the typical touristy spots but first stop in I got tricked into buying a CD in Venice, Santa Monica by a couple of intimidating guys. I was wondering whether this was going to be worth it.
Somewhere on Sunset Boulevard I found out the game was cancelled. It’s hard to fully detail my feelings at this point. I had just paid almost an extra $500 just to get to NY by Nov 1, and now the game was cancelled. I was on my own in a city and country I had never been in before. To top it off my phone was dead. I was alone and disconnected. Fair to say it was a real low point.
However it didn’t last long. With whatever small battery I had left I turned on my phone and saw that I got an email from Net Income and Irina inviting me to the home opener for me and my friends.
I couldn’t believe it. I basically grabbed the microphone from the Whoopi Goldberg goppelganger that was giving us that tour and shouted the good news. I couldn’t believe someone like Irina had contacted me!
From there it was a blur. I waited around in Santa Monica for the bus back to LAX and waited impatiently for the plane to take off to Philly. From there I had to anxiously find somewhere to get my bus ticket printed before waiting in a pretty intimidating bus terminal. I found a Czech tourist who was easily the tallest person in the building and sat behind his shadow.
The bus trip was long. The final mile alone took around 90 minutes. New York can be a very intimidating place to be. The wait for a taxi took around one hour. My friends very kindly put me up in a hotel in Brooklyn where I finally got to take a shower and went on a late night walk to Barclays Center on November 1. There was no game, but it was a surreal moment for me. I live in Sydney, Australia. I was now in Brooklyn, United States.
I met up with my friends again on the Friday and did a couple of touristy things. Times Square, NBA store, Rockefeller Centre… all great. But it wasn’t Barclays. I remember missing Irina’s call on the Thursday and returning her call just outside the temporary NBA store. I only bought a pair of Brooklyn socks because I wanted to shop at the official Nets store.
The actual night was, well, indescribable. I grew frustrated with my friends as they took their sweet time. We couldn’t find a bus from our apartment in the lower east. The bus we did take took us to Jay St. Again, their lacksadaiscal strolling got me upset so I went ahead in search of the tickets.
I’m not sure who it was that waited with me, but a couple of Nets staffers knew who I was, and having dropped Irina’s name, they found my tickets straightaway. We waited with my friends and took in the whole VIP experience, from the 40/40 club, to seeing Mikhail enter the building.
Our seats were amazing. We couldn’t believe how close we were. We were stunned. And then Elaine and Irina took my upstairs where I met Mikhail, who didn’t say much, but was very pleasant and courteous in signing my VIP pass. I was intimidated, but on the same way I was in Venice and Philly. He’s a big presence, and I half expected him to know the name of my entire family back home, but I shook his hand and posed for a quick photo. Beyonce and Jay Z walked in as we left and I said a quick hello to them before going on to watch a solid Nets win.
Again, I come from Sydney, Australia. Having gone through four cities in 48 hours, I was now in Brooklyn, United States. And it was definitely all worth it.