During a season where bench productivity has been at a minimum and losses are at a high, the Brooklyn Nets are lucky to have a sixth man and woman with them everywhere they go.
And we're not talking about Bojan Bogdanovic or any bench player for that matter, but rather Dawn Risueno and Richard Johnson, aka "Johnson", the two Brooklyn Nets superfans from Canarsie. The couple, parents and grandparents, embarked on over an9,000-mile journey Saturday, following the Nets through their nine-game "Circus Road-Trip" in late February and early March.
The road trip is an annual affair. Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus come to Brooklyn for nearly three weeks, forcing the Nets away from their home. It's always proved to be a "make or break" point for the Nets, who in the past three year had eyes on the playoff prize when heading out on the long trip.
But this year is different and the Nets are making the trip for nine games with virtually no hope at the playoffs. Fans are hardly showing up to home games being that it's been extremely difficult to watch a team with 15 wins and 40 losses.
No matter, though, because Dawn and Johnson follow their Nets wherever they go, a tradition they started two seasons back. Dawn, a Nets fan since 1990, discovered her inner-explorer when she started traveling to watch the Yankees back in the 80's. That eventually led to her meeting players' families and sometimes babysitting their kids.
As she grew to love basketball and the Nets over the years, Dawn and Johnson started going on smaller road-trips with the team to places like Boston and Washington. One day during the 2013-2014 season, the two packed their bags and set out on the cross-country expedition in their family car for the "Circus Road-Trip".
"He [Johnson] does all the driving," Dawn said. "We've done a few smaller road trips following the team like Boston, Washington, Philadelphia, but I looked at the schedule one day and said, ‘I wanna do the circus trip.' And then he put his vacation time in and we just went."
The couple loves to travel, but the long trips are about their desire to watch the Nets, no matter what the circumstances may be, no matter how far it takes them.
"You have die-hard fans that are here coming from New Jersey or wherever, and then you have the fans that just wanna come to Barclays and hang out," Dawn said. "We're here with these guys no matter what happens. We can be the only ones here and we'll still get here no matter what. It doesn't matter what's going on we're gonna rep our guys. Last year we drove through an ice storm in Texas to follow these guys. Like I said, we'll always be there no matter what."
This season's "Circus Road-Trip" consists of drives from Canarsie, Brooklyn to Portland, then Phoenix, Utah, Los Angeles, Denver, Minnesota, Toronto, Philadelphia and back to Brooklyn. Whew! That's more 9,000 miles of driving for Johnson to eight different states and one Canadian province just to watch an underachieving Nets team play.
Their commitment and passion for the Nets doesn't go unrecognized. Dawn and Johnson's journey across America (and Canada) has begun to be appreciated by fans all over the country.
"When we get out there, the other fans that follow us on twitter always say, ‘We wanna do what you guys are doing!' We get so much respect it's really unbelievable," Johnson said. "When they find out that we drove from New York to places like Golden State, people say ‘you drove all the way up from New York? Man we gotta give you guys props.'"
But what makes it even better is the appreciation they get from the Nets players themselves.
"At the end of the trip last year, the equipment manager came up to me and said, ‘We wanna thank you for being such dedicated fans,'" Dawn said. "And they gave me Joe Johnson autographed sneakers. I just started crying like a baby. It was really nice. So after the game we waited for the players and I was saying ‘Thank you Joe, Thank you Joe' as I'm crying on his shoulder and he's laughing at me. But Joe even said ‘We appreciate you and thank you.'
"Every place we went and they saw us, the players would give me a hug and say hello. They would make sure everything was all right with us and that everything coming over on the trip was OK. They always made sure to come over and say hello to us and give us the respect for coming out on the trip to watch them play. They were always gentlemen."
Last season, Dawn and Johnson traveled 5,692.9 miles from Brooklyn to Denver, New Orleans, Houston, Dallas and back to Brooklyn. YES Network even did a special "WEAR BROOKLYN AT?" feature on them during the road trip. Rightfully so.
Through rain, snow, and even ice storms - nothing will stop the pair who "hopes" the weather holds up opposed to year's past, which still never stopped them. Or in the words of the U.S. Postal Service, "Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds."
Luckily, Johnson, the man behind the wheel, loves to drive, loves to travel and loves to watch the Brooklyn Nets; it's a wonderful trip the two look forward to each year, and another way to check things off their bucket list.
And of course the motive behind it all, the Brooklyn Nets, are lucky enough to have two huge fans rooting for them through it all. Whether it's in the quiet Barclays Center during a blowout loss, or a thrilling game on the opposite side of the country in Los Angeles, they have a sixth man and woman everywhere they go.
"It's getting longer and longer every year," Dawn said. "But we'll always be there for our guys."