They’re at Barclays Center every game, win or lose; snow, rain or shine. Doesn’t matter who’s on the court. Up in Section 114, the Brooklyn Brigade is cheering, holding up big heads and best of all, coming up with cheers and chants to encourage the home team and discourage the visitors.
Tamika Andrews of ESPN spent some time recently with the Nets crazies, one of a growing group of sponsored fan sections around the league. These guys are different, though. They’re acerbic New Yorkers with the wit and the will to turn a phrase and shout it at very high decibel levels.
Andrews recounts a few of the best.
Their list of credits reads like a trolling fan base’s dream. In October, the New York Knicks were serenaded: “We got KD and Kyrie! You got Dolan!” In November, Brandon Ingram and the New Orleans Pelicans were pelted: “You got traded! LeBron didn’t want you!”
They were responsible for starting “T-J WAR-REN” chants that echoed around the arena whenever Jimmy Butler went to the free throw line during one January game against the Miami Heat. Butler had just been fined $35,000 for fighting with Warren two days earlier.
A lot of them got picked up the media who, accident or not (most likely the former), are situated with easy ear shot of the arena’s media section. It’s a rare night when one of the chants doesn’t tweet out their best work.
She also recounts their history which is based in the Edemeka clan of Brooklyn USA: There’s Bobby, the founder, and his younger siblings, Didi, who can often be seen with a camera recording the night’s event and the triplets, David, Donald and Dennis.
As Andrews notes, it was Bobby, who holds a Harvard MBA and is a Goldman Sachs alumni, who came up with the idea and put his money —a lot of money— where his and his fellow fans’ mouths are.
The group was unofficially founded in 2012 by Ubong “Bobby” Edemeka. Edemeka, a portfolio manager, purchased a bundle of tickets for the Nets’ Nov. 23 game against the LA Clippers and asked on a Nets blog (editor’s note: that would be us) if readers wanted to join him free of charge. Even though Edemeka said there was skepticism, 20 people showed up and the group sat in Section 3.
”At first, I thought it was going to be a one-off, one game,” Edemeka said. “But we all had a great time, and I thought, ‘Well, let’s do it again.’”
Two games turned into three games, three games turned into four, four games turned into a season.
One game, they’d sit in the nosebleed section; another game, they’d sit close to the floor. Edemeka declined to tell ESPN the exact amount of money he spent on tickets for over the past five years, saying only it was well into the six-figure area. In exchange for the free tickets, fans had to pledge to toe the line of obnoxiousness with their cheering.
Irina Pavlova, then president of Mikhail Prokhorov’s ONEXIM Group, and Elisa Padilla, then Nets marketing director, encouraged CEO Brett Yormark to bring the group on permanently.
Brigade members took their responsibility seriously. New cheers, new material. And yes, there was some early resistance.
”It took a lot of work to get the arena to let us stand up at games,” said Shane Gayle, a founding member. “They used to tell us to sit down. Fans would complain to the ushers about us cheering too loud.”
Now, though, arena cameras regularly turn to them at crucial moments in the game, hoping their enthusiasm will become contagious or maybe get the players hyped up a bit more.
“The main thing I notice is the funny s--- they say,” Spencer Dinwiddie told Andrews. “They be talking about T.J. Warren. Personally, I love that. Some of the humor and overall rowdiness — I really enjoy it.”
The Nets also understand, disappointing season or not, that they’re in a competition with the Garden and the Knicks, who of course are above the idea of a separate section for the craziest of the crazy.
Edemeka understands it as well. Ya don’t get an MBA from Harvard without taking some marketing courses.
“There is a lot of talk about Nets fans taking over the city and changing Knicks fans,” Edemeka said. “The Knicks have had a 60-year head start in this city, so you’ve got generations of Knicks fans, and they’re a loyal bunch. To me, the battle isn’t to win over existing Knicks fans. The battle is to win the next generation of basketball fans in this city.”
As his fans would say, Let’s go Nets.
- The fight for New York’s next generation of fans starts in Barclays Center’s lower bowl - Malika Andrews - ESPN