Twenty years ago today, the New Jersey Nets were riding high. The two previous seasons, they had gone to the NBA Finals, losing to two of history’s great basketball teams, the Los Angeles Lakers of the Kobe Bryant, Shaquille O’Neal vintage and the San Antonio Spurs with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili.
The Nets would blow out the Orlando Magic later that night by 21. It was a team led by Jason Kidd, currently on his third head coaching gig, and his two exciting sidekicks, Kenyon Martin and Richard Jefferson, the latter now an analyst on the fledgling TV network that carried their games. Lawrence Frank had been named interim head coach 10 days earlier.
The corner of Flatbush and Atlantic, where new owner Bruce Ratner wanted to move the team, looked like this...
There was no Twitter.
And on that day, NetsDaily debuted with coverage of that game, complete with links, of course. The brainchild of John Schuhmann, then a video game designer and now NBA.com’s deep stats guy, the site back then had bylines from guys named Dumpy and Ghoti and Shane. It was to be a comprehensive aggregation of all things Nets. A year later, an NBC News producer looking for a break from covering Al Qaeda and the CIA, joined them. The rest... you know ... history.
So, on our 20th anniversary, which coincides with a home game against a team featuring a kid who watched the Nets at Continental Airlines Arena back then, we wanted to say thanks, maybe toot our own horn a bit.
The list of people to thank includes John, the guy with the vision, Tom Lorenzo, the stalwart who for a decade kept us running smoothly, and of course Pooch, Anthony Puccio, who first wrote for us and now has succeeded Tom. Then, there’s our long list of writers, moderators, editors, cameramen, etc. that includes a number of people who went on to greater glory in sports journalism, people like Pooch of course, as well as Dexter Henry and Brian Fonseca, Reed Wallach, Chris Milhollen (the workhorse), Billy Reinhardt, Danny LoGuidice, the two high schoolers who started divergent careers with us, Shane Patel and Alec Sturm, the Glue Guys! and the only NetsDaily writer to win an NBA championship ring (so far,) Matt Brooks, now of the Denver Nuggets. Then, there’s our current group, as good as any we’ve ever had, including Lucas Kaplan, Collin Helwig and Jordan Greene. Matt and Lucas know the game so well, write so well. If we forgot anyone, it’s our fault, not yours.
A special thank you must go out to Brian Fleurantin, our first native Brooklyn writer who’s been with us for 10 years now, writing up our exhaustive game previews and pioneering our coverage of the Liberty and WNBA as well as social justice issues and the crossroads of basketball and music! He is our MVP.
Speaking of writers, a shoutout as well to those beats and others whose work we have cannibalized. Hope we did you well.
Then, there’s those who made our jobs so much easier from Nets PR types like Gary Sussman, Barry Baum, Mandy Gutmann, Aaron Harris, Eli Pearlstein, Megan Walsh and Patricia Douglas, etc. to Nets basketball executives who may or may not have been our sources over the years, Billy King, Bobby Marks and (no relation) Sean Marks plus others who cannot be named. Their secrets remain safe. Two of our great Russian friends, Dmitry Razumov, the Nets former chairman, and Irina Pavlova, former president of ONEXIM, will never be forgotten no matter what. Same goes for Brett Yormark, everyone’s “brother.”
Then, there’s the superfans we met along the way, in particular Dennis Lin with whom I’ve shared season tickets for nearly the whole length of my time at ND at IZOD, the Rock and the ‘clays. He still believes the refs have it in for us. (He may be right!)
There have been great moments along the way, that first game in Brooklyn (when Dmitry invited me to sit courtside for the second half,) the “Clean Sweep” tweet from Woj, and so many plays and games and streaks and feats of derring-do. Sat under the basket when Gerald Green unleashed the greatest in-game dunk ever. There were some less-than-great moments, like a strike, a lockout, a pandemic and so many, too many, losses as well as some brutal departures, from JKidd to KD. We’ve broken some big stories — like the Joe Johnson trade and Kevin Garnett’s memorable line about “Joe Jesus” which Dex captured exclusively. And oh yeah, we’ve tweeted a few hundred thousand times (308,400 to be precise) but the thrills that have sustained us have had little to do with stats or trades or arguments on social media (all of which we won.) This one, from last June, may have been the greatest...
We gave Matt Brooks his opportunity to pursue his craft and he wound up, champagne-soaked, in the Nuggets locker room holding the Larry O’Brien Trophy. So proud.
But there were other smaller ones, like realizing we had followers in CUBA as well as China, Australia, Iceland and that hotbed of Nets fandom, the Philippines.
But here’s the big one: Tonight, Dennis and I will sit with the Brooklyn Brigade which began on the pages of NetsDaily when Bobby Edemeka — in our estimation, THE Nets superfan — welcomed Nets fans to Brooklyn by offering them a block of tickets he had purchased with his own money. That block became The Block. If that was the only thing we accomplished in the past two decades, it was well worth it, helping to create a community of fans with enduring friendships. That’s fandom.
Not going to say, here’s to another 20. I mean personally, I am older than Trump — but younger than Biden. So let our toast be to the next game and the one after that and the one after that. As Irina more than once told me, fandom is irrational exuberance, meaning it is pure if crazy. You never know what’s going to happen! So, thanks for letting us encourage it!