BROOKLYN, NEW YORK
For seven years, Barclays Center has been where the Nets play basketball.
A beautiful structure, built for basketball, yet much like the Billy King Nets, something about the vibe inside the arena felt forced, even unnatural. Chants were forced onto fans, war cries didn’t stick. The feel in the arena resembled the team on the floor, inorganic and passionless.
From the moment Sean Marks took over, he built the organization organically, not skipping any steps, as he would say over and over. Without much draft capital, he found a way to draft under-valued talent (Caris LeVert, Jarrett Allen), develop the few pieces he could get his hands on (D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie, Joe Harris), and welcome every person, from the front office down, into the Nets family with open arms.
The family atmosphere within the organization has shown its way onto the court ... and, not inconsequentially, into the fanbase. For fans, it’s easy to see that players in the organization legitimately care for each other, giving their all every night for the brothers that they go to war with and the fans that support them. Fans have noticed the effort in which the team plays and have replicated that intensity with their cheers and engagement.
The opener had one of the most electric regular season crowds I could remember — another sellout.
Arguably the best regular season atmosphere I’ve ever seen at Barclays Center. @BrooklynBrigade did their job - they always do, but the entire crowd got into it tonight. Kudos also go out to the Nets deciding to drape each seat with white rally towels to add to the experience. https://t.co/QSYTjRDKov— Billy Reinhardt (@BillyReinhardt) October 24, 2019
The expectation is that Friday’s contest with the Knicks will be a capacity crowd as well. That would make nine straight sellouts for the Nets. So much for attendance.
Bottom line, as always: “If you build it, they will come.”
The Nets have built a potential powerhouse — from the ground up. Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, DeAndre Jordan; on top of what they already had, that’s enough (when healthy) to put the Nets in the title hunt.
Yes, KD’s expected to miss most if not all of this season, but that didn’t stop the Nets from introducing Durant to the Barclays Center faithful — only to add to the raucous atmosphere. (Was that a time machine?)
KD officially introduced in Brooklyn pic.twitter.com/YhJJvJKCRN— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) October 23, 2019
And Kyrie Irving...
Kyrie Irving gets a loud applause in his first game as a Net. pic.twitter.com/jiq9yEogvx— Anthony Puccio (@APOOCH) October 23, 2019
Prior to tip, Irving addressed Nets fans on behalf of his teammates, but had to stop himself. He was choked up.
Kyrie Irving got emotional before the game. It was the one-year anniversary of his grandfather’s death, the first game back home for the team he grew up loving; it all played a part. It was a magical night where he dropped 50-points. He explained to the media why he got choked up https://t.co/NN0ucvEWEf pic.twitter.com/AnPH2lVhNt— Billy Reinhardt (@BillyReinhardt) October 24, 2019
Of course, Irving went on to have an all-time great debut, dropping a 50-piece for the team he grew up loving.
Although it ended in a tough overtime loss, the result feels insignificant in the scheme of things. In many ways, Wednesday felt like a turning point. The crowd was rocking.
Irving was feeding off of it, with the fans feeding off of him. It felt like the beginning of something special; something Brooklyn could call their own.
“Kyrie’s Home” and “MVP” chants throughout the arena as Irving goes to the line for his 38th, 39th, and 40th points. What a debut.— Billy Reinhardt (@BillyReinhardt) October 24, 2019
Brooklyn’s Barclays Center is now officially a home — for the Nets.
For the first time since arriving in Brooklyn in 2012, the Nets feel organic. The vibe around the team and in the arena feels fresh, unique, and finally not forced.
It’s a new era for the Nets and the vibe finally feels... Brooklyn.