It would be wrong to call it a “watch party.” It was too impromptu for that and was neither authorized nor even organized by the team or the arena.
But it sure was a moment!
On Saturday night, as Norman Oder revealed in his Atlantic Yards/Pacific Park Report, Nets fans who couldn’t get into Barclays Center were standing outside when this happened…
While 16,000 inside went wild creating a reverberating wave of sound as Kevin Durant tied Game 7 with seconds left, the smaller group that gathered outside did the same as video played on the big screen over the front entrance.
Oder, the longtime critic and chronicler of the arena and Barclays Center and the larger Atlantic Yards project, just happened to be on hand and had presence of mind to be recording at just the right moment.
Perhaps 150 people were watching, and hawkers of both t-shirts and nutcrackers were unmolested.
The Nets regularly play the game on the big screen but unlike FiServ Forum, there was no organized “watch party,” no designated area for fans to gather. It was just Brooklynites coming together once again on the plaza, the borough’s ad hoc — and very much unintended— town square as they have in the past year to rally, to protest, to vote, to accept food donations.
As we know, the moment was fleeting and as Oder wrote, both those inside the arena and those on the plaza left, “deflated and subdued” once Game 7 ended in an overtime loss.
Whether organized or organic, it was a first. Oder noted accurately that an original selling point for the arena was that passers-by would be able to see the scoreboard from the street. That view, as he noted, never materialized, buried behind “layers of advertising in front of it.” Now, with the new LED screens across the front of the building, there’s a reasonable facsimile, a view inside that’s projected outside.
The moment in fact even surprised arena management. There’s been no discussion, we’re told, of making this more than just a one-time thing. It’s too new a phenomenon. Nets fans have long been familiar with the organized “watch parties” that playoff rivals have set up outside packed arenas or when their teams were playing away from home.
The Bucks called theirs the “Deer District” and TNT cameras recorded crowd reactions. No one but Oder — and maybe some fans — were there Saturday night at Barclays.
It was just one element of change that this week of basketball has brought to the city. We’ve said it before and with each passing moment, the realization should have grown: Nets fandom is now a “thing” in New York.
Inside the arena Saturday, the scene was insane as the Post’s Ian O’Connor wrote Sunday.
If you were inside Barclays Center, you will never forget the sound the crowd made when it realized the season wasn’t over after all. Madison Square Garden was never louder.
In TV rooms and living rooms and garrets and bars and restaurants, on 85” big screens and on tiny phones, wherever you could watch, New Yorkers did.
And now that we have numbers for Game 7, the dominance has to be seen as extraordinary. While Games 5 and 6 attracted more than 4.4 million fans, Game 7 was seen by more than 5 million. All three were the most watched shows on TV those nights.
Even bigger and better, an average of more than a half-million New Yorkers watched each of the first two games and around three quarters of a million watched Game 7, peaking at 1.3 million! New York embraced the Nets’ ultimately unsuccessful run for the ring and understood what NBA fans know: the best basketball player in the world plays in Brooklyn, New York.
Put aside the marketing strategies, the numbers counting (other than those by the Brooklyn Brigade whenever Giannis Antetokounmpo stepped to the line Saturday.)
Over the last week, the Nets may have lost a chance for the championship but they won the heart of New York City! That may turn out to be just as big.