First, a little background and some context: my name is Mihnea Gheorghiță, vaguely known here as @Nets.RO - seemingly Romania's only Nets fan. Before knowing who Vince Carter even was, I had been supporting another team in black and white - Juventus Football Club. It's been almost 20 years since I first watched a Juve match, and in none of those years did I ever think I would see them next to my beloved Nets. I mean, what were the odds?
Thus, while it may not be a big deal for most people here, it's a bit of a moral obligation for me to try to shed some light on the momentous occasion for those who - if nothing else - love their fun facts.
Currently, Juventus ranks as the world's #1 football club - thanks, in no small part, to the arrival of one Cristiano Ronaldo. That, of course, hasn't always been the case. The bianconeri have an amazing history, winning just about every domestic and European trophy there is, on more than one occasion. However, a decade after their last historic 1996 UEFA Champions League final win, they were part of calciopoli - one of Europe's worst football scandals to date. They were stripped of a league title, relegated to the second league and deducted major points there as well. Stars chose to leave, but most future club legends (the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, Alessandro Del Piero and recent Nets visitor David Trezeguet) would remain to claw their way back into contention.
That they did, in spectacular fashion.
After a nine year drought (I know, it's nothing compared to the Nets' woes), under new leadership and with a laser-sharp club legend as coach, Juventus would win the league title and finish second in the Coppa Italia. They did so with aging stars, unproven players and guys who simply weren't that good. As time passed, however, the built a reputation of snagging high value free agents for a fraction of the price - New York FC fans might lovingly remember Andrea Pirlo as being one of them.
The winning has not stopped since. A historic seven consecutive league titles and seven domestic cups, plus UEFA Champions League finals appearances later, Juventus is more than back on track. High value free agents mention them as a preferred destination and the sky seems to be the limit, as this year they're on track to win an elusive third Champions League with the help of Cristiano and a skilled cast. Oh, and they've also worked on the brand.
OK, SO WHY THE NETS?
It's the colors, come on now.
I kid, of course. The following is purely speculative information, as guessed by someone who has been following both teams closely. By all means don't take my word for it, despite my overwhelming confidence that I am correct.
Yes, it starts with the black and white. Historic colors for Juve, a more recent switch for the Nets. It's like when you spot a guy on the street wearing the same shirt as you, and maybe you give him that slight nod of approval for their fashion choice. That's as far as the chromatic connection goes. Neither team is the only one wearing the black and white in their respective leagues and sports, but history has Juventus as the most successful football team to do so.
Both teams are recently re-branded. Juventus have changed their iconic logo to something almost as relevant, but more contemporary. The reasoning behind it was that Juventus is no longer just a football club, it is a brand. And like all brands aspire to do, Juve got an identity that is universally recognisable and - more importantly - wearable. Their new logo is, indeed, more apparel-friendly than the vintage prancing bull one.
Brooklyn's change goes deeper, as we all know. New city, new threads, new logo, new culture, and a desire to be recognised. It'll come, with time.
Both teams' marketing teams have their head on a swivel, and it is a great thing to witness. I got to see my first - and only - Nets game in London back in 2010 thanks to an increasingly growing interest in globalisation. As Brooklyn, headed by European and Asian owners, aims to conquer whatever lies over the pond, so too Juventus have been enamoured with the USA and beyond. They're arguably China's second favourite football team already, after Manchester United. Both teams have taken an active - even aggressive - interest in growing the brand where it's not already established. This, in my opinion, is the chief reason for this whole meet-up. Juventus and the Nets have found a perfect match in each other's brand-growing ambitions.
Europeans are crazy about basketball and the NBA - and I'm not talking about regular Joe's like myself. Juventus centre back, bruising enforcer and current captain Giorgio Chiellini, for example, is a huge fan of Italy's national team. I mean, just look at Juve's official store - which other team has a basketball jersey for sale, despite not having a basketball team affiliated to the club? I'll wait.
Then, there's CR7. His (not so cheap) signing arguably came as more of a marketing move than a footballing one. He's a brand on his own, and now he's boosted Juventus to new places and possibilities. Don't worry, MLS fans, you'll probably get your chance in about three more years. Having him around will also be great for the Nets, I'm sure. If there's even one kid out there who sees his football idol next to a bunch of tall guys in black and white, the whole thing was worth it.
MATCHING JERSEYS WITH JERSEY
Sorry, I felt I had to put that one in here. The Nets have posted three photos of D-Lo, Rondae and Dudley receiving jerseys from Juventus. What you may not know is that those jerseys were not randomly sent. Each player is holding the jersey of their counterpart on Juve's first eleven. It's not a 100% match, but I am positive that it was intentional:
- D'Angelo and Dybala - just like D-Lo, Paulo Dybala is Juventus' bright star. He's wearing Del Piero's famed no. 10 and is quite the goalscoring sensation. Also just like D-Lo, he's had his recent struggles and dips in confidence, but has recently risen to the occasion once again. Sounds familiar?
- Rondae and Khedira - Sami Khedira is the anchor of Juventus' midfield. He's the guy who may score on occasion, and otherwise seems like he may not be doing much. However, check the stat sheet at the end of each match and be surprised - he does all the little things that make the game run smoother for his team, whenever he can't score.
- Jared and Giorgio - as mentioned, Chiellini is Juventus' current captain, following the departure of Gianluigi Buffon to PSG. Just like Dudley, he's a senior, major presence in the locker room and is the one most young players look up to for leadership. It could be argued that Carroll might have been a better fit. I, for one, would've seen Ed Davis with this one, seeing as they're both veteran defensive stalwarts with a bit of a temper.
The colors, the brand, the interest in associating with a championship culture, as well as adding to the globalisation effort - just a bunch of reasons for which I believe the Nets did a smart move inviting over the boys from Turin. I, for one, couldn't have pictured them doing this with any other team, and I'm beyond thrilled and grateful that it's happening.
With that, thank you for reading, I will definitely be around the comments section if those 10 guys who actually watch "soccer" feel like having a chat at length.