In American pop culture, guys from Brooklyn have often been cast as villains, bad guys with bent noses, con men, dealers in all manner of vice (not to mention the gentrifying hipster!) So now, the Nets have joined them!
After news this weekend that LaMarcus Aldridge was signing with the Nets, Twitter came alive with vitriol. No more were the Brooklynites lovable losers as they had been most of their NBA lives. No longer the “little brother” as described by Knick fans, consigned forever to second-class status. Oh no, they were near criminal in their success at plucking every available star out of the firmament. We were surprised the front office hasn’t been nicknamed, “Alibaba and the 40 thieves!” (Get it, Alibaba? Joe Tsai?)
Stephen A. Smith took time off from his weekend to show off a corner of what appeared to be his kitchen and provide an harangue about how the Nets had made the league non-competitive.
“What’s going to be next if you’re the Brooklyn Nets? I mean this is almost like buying a championship for crying out loud,” ranted ESPN’s star attraction. “Blake Griffin comes. LaMarcus Aldridge has now decided to go, I mean, you want a championship, I got all of that. You should be the favorites. KD, James Harden, Kyrie, Lethal Weapon 3, but damn! I mean, what about competition?
“You’re just going to get everybody now? Everybody? I mean, I’m looking forward to the playoffs; I want competition. But if we’re just going to stockpile and get everybody and everybody running to Brooklyn to try to steal a championship, I mean, c’mon. KD, Kyrie, James Harden — that’s cool. I get all of that. Blake Griffin couldn’t get some place else? LaMarcus Aldridge, you of all people, after all the years you spent in Portland and San Antonio, that’s what we doing now?”
Stephen A. wasn’t shouting into a void. No, by Sunday, it had become an echo chamber. Everyone, it seemed, was upset at the Nets ability to gather stars and superstars —41 appearances in the All-Star Game, 31 selections to All-NBA teams, the first team in NBA history with six players who’ve already made multiple All-NBA teams, in case you were wondering.
The Twitter narrative, five years after the Nets were the laughingstock of the NBA, had suddenly become this: The Nets are the pillagers of the NBA! Thieves! Guard your women and children! No one’s treasure is safe! Our nobles will be forced to bow before them! Oh the parity!
We of course joined in...
But now as the smoke has cleared, and Stephen A. Smith has posted a studio rant to go along with the one from his kitchen, the Nets are starting to react, led by Blake Griffin who finds the whole thing “amusing” (but not the Joe Pesci/Tommy DeVito kind of “amusing,” we sincerely hope.)
What does Blake Griffin think about fans that are upset with the Nets having too much star power now?— Nets Videos (@SNYNets) March 29, 2021
"It's funny to me, because for the last couple years all I've heard is about how bad I am. And now people care for some reason" pic.twitter.com/tje5exRwaS
The reason, of course, is that the Brooklyn Nets have upended what many fans think is the natural order of things in the NBA: you know, the Knicks rule New York, the (fourth place, injury-riddled) Lakers rule the league, yada, yada.
Brooklyn isn’t supposed to be prime real estate in the NBA. Yeah, maybe they did things the right way and maybe they signed Kevin Durant (who was having his own unique fun on Twitter) and Kyrie Irving and maybe James Harden had forced his way out of Houston, who many may have forgotten declined a two-year, $103 million offer to stay with Rockets. But now, they were soiling the league by getting players like Griffin and Aldridge for free! Howard Beck even suggested there needs to changes in the CBA.
Steve Nash had some fun with the whole thing later Monday when asked about the new perception.
A good laugh to end pregame media availability: Steve Nash finishes his press conference by letting out a ~roar~ — his impression of the Nets being dubbed the “villains” of the NBA. pic.twitter.com/9L0GKmqgWb— Malika Andrews (@malika_andrews) March 29, 2021
“We traded for James Harden, we gave up some really good young players and draft picks, tons of them, we got two guys in the buyout market that are big names and had great careers and are still able to contribute,” Nash argued before his outburst.
“It’s not like we did anything illegal so I don’t know what we’re supposed to do, not try to add to our roster and just sit pat? The idea of this league is try to put together the best team you can put together. And that doesn’t guarantee you anything in life.”
Still, the bizarre criticism is likely to go on. Rather than demanding their front offices emulate Sean Marks who’s carried out maybe the single greatest turnaround in professional sports (okay, Man City probably), NBA fans around the league are lamenting a perceived inequity. NOT FAIR!
Nets players and coaches will tell you that they haven’t won anything yet and they haven’t, but they are perceived differently. They’re the villains of Vinegar Hill, the bullies of Bed-Stuy, the marauders of Millwood, the plunderers of Park Slope. You get the drift.
One of the first tweets this weekend that captured what’s happened came from Irina Pavlova, Mikhail Prokhorov’s representative in Brooklyn (and the woman who led the GM search back in 2016.)
“Somehow being hated,” Pavolva tweeted “feels so much better than being laughed at.”
- Blake Griffin can’t help but laugh at Nets’ Darth Vader status - Brian Lewis - New York Post
- Blake Griffin says joining Brooklyn Nets has changed how the public perceives him - Malika Andrews - ESPN
- Steve Nash On The Brooklyn Nets Adding LaMarcus Aldridge: ‘It’s Not Like We Did Anything Illegal’ - Adam Zagoria - Forbes Sports Money