Michael Scotto, SNYNets.com
In light of Thanksgiving, the Nets franchise has three things to be thankful for this holiday season. The Nets are thankful to have a new home in Brooklyn, have Deron Williams on board as the face of the franchise, and have an ownership group that has improved the team’s talent on the court and marketability off the court.
When the Nets moved to Brooklyn the dynamic of the franchise improved significantly for the better. Brooklyn has wanted a professional sports team since the Dodgers left the borough in 1957.
On April 30th, the Brooklyn Nets unveiled a new logo and identity as jubilant fans of all ages shopped for the newest Nets gear across stores in New York and from the Internet across the world.
As expected, the move to Brooklyn had a monumental effect on the Nets popularity. Merchandise sales were through the roof, ticket sales increased, and BrooklynNets.com traffic soared. NBA.com sent out a press release with a statistical breakdown of sales.
By May 2nd, Brooklyn Nets merchandise sales ranked highest among all 30 NBA teams at NBA.com and at the NBA Store on Fifth Avenue.
In addition, BrooklynNets.com merchandise sales more than doubled the team’s total sales from the 2010-11 season in New Jersey.
Modell’s also benefited mightily by selling more team merchandise during the first day of sales than all of the prior season.
The move to Brooklyn also enhanced the Nets’ ability to sign free agents on the market to improve the team’s performance on the court. It can’t be overlooked (and overstated), that a quality point guard like C.J. Watson took a veteran’s minimum deal to come play here. Mirza Teletovic, a highly regarded player from Europe, also took the mini mid-level exception instead of the full mid-level exception to play in Brooklyn.
General manager Billy King hoped to lure free agents to Brooklyn with the opportunity to be a part of something new and exciting. Interestingly enough, one of the main reasons Deron Williams re-signed with the Nets was because of his desire to be a part of the historical move to Brooklyn.
By re-signing as the face of the Nets franchise, Williams has seen an increase in endorsement deals (Red Bull and Metro PCS) while his popularity among fans has risen by playing in a larger market compared to previous years in Utah and New Jersey.
On the court, Williams is regarded as one of the best point guards in the NBA. The 28-year-old centerpiece is a three-time All-Star and two-time Team USA Olympic gold medalist. Williams is also one of the toughest players to guard for NBA defenders due to his size at 6-foot-3 and 210 pounds.
With Williams in place, the Nets have a star player to build around in Brooklyn’s effort to deliver the borough’s first title since the Dodgers won it all in 1955.
Keep in mind that none of the above would be remotely possible without the support of majority owner Mikhail Prokhorov and minority owner Jay-Z.
At 6-foot-8, Prokhorov is a larger than life presence in both his physical stature and reputation. The 47-year-old Russian billionaire has brought a sense of confidence and boldness to the Nets franchise.
Upon his purchase of the Nets in 2010, Prokhorov guaranteed a championship within five years (by 2015).
Prokhorov started a turf war with the New York Knicks in July of 2010 when purchased ad space that literally hung over Madison Square Garden. Prokhorov and Jay-Z stood side by side with the phrase “The Blueprint for Greatness,” written over their heads.
That was one of the many shots Prokhorov fired at Dolan and his Knicks.
Prokhorov also competed with the Knicks for top NBA talent. Prokhorov forced the Knicks to give up additional assets by being a major player in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes when the Denver Nuggets dangled Anthony as trade bait in the final year of his contract. Prokhorov ultimately forced New York to pay a hefty price to secure a player that wanted to be a Knicks all along.
Prokhorov has also taken direct verbal shots at Dolan, his crosstown rival. Prokhorov called Dolan a “little man” during an interview with New York Magazine.
However, despite all of Prokhorov’s words, his biggest asset is his unlimited fiscal supply.
Prokhorov is the 57th richest man in the world according to Forbes at an estimated $13.2 billion. Thus far, he hasn’t been shy about spending it on his team. Overall, Prokhorov has invested roughly $319 million in guaranteed player contracts through the 2015-16 season.
Despite all the attention Prokhorov has brought to the Nets franchise, Jay-Z has been the catalyst of the Brooklyn move and re-branding effort.
Jay-Z, a Brooklyn native, was the brains behind the new Brooklyn Nets logo design and opened Barclays Center with a concert where he unveiled the new team jersey with a personalized No. 4 on the front and “Carter” on the back.
Jay-Z, though not 6-foot-8, is a larger than life presence like Prokhorov. When the Nets visited Miami earlier this season, Dwyane Wade was asked what he took away from his meeting with the Nets this past summer. Wade replied simply by pointing out the absence of Jay-Z.
This generation’s NBA players know him and respect him. That respect is an asset for the Nets franchise.
The days of empty seats and losing records from the past five seasons in New Jersey are gone and have been replaced with enthusiastic fans from Brooklyn and around the world, with a renewed hope for a Brooklyn title within the next three years.
Prokhorov made the mandate, and the Nets are on the clock.
Michael Scotto is an Analyst for SNYNets.com. Follow him on Twitter for the latest news from Brooklyn and the NBA: @MikeAScotto