Moke Hamilton, SNYNets.com
NEW YORK — It came about 48 hours later than it was supposed to, but the Brooklyn Nets finally played their first ever regular season NBA game.
And the last thing anyone would have to ask on this night was “Where Brooklyn At?”
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, New York City is still struggling. On Saturday, subway service across a few lines was fully restored and the Long Island and Metro North railroads began running more frequent service.
Still, as the city struggles with a scary gas shortage and the cancellation of Sunday’s New York Marathon, many New Yorkers rather stay home.
But inside of Barclays Center, on Nov. 3, you couldn’t tell.
Since about April of this year, the Nets have proudly identified with Brooklyn and have done all they can to align themselves with the city, its people, and its culture.
Despite most of its players maintaining residences in Northern New Jersey and Manhattan, the Nets have held practices at Barclays Center. Brook Lopez let children from the Navy Yard Boys and Girls Club cut his hair, players have visited and shopped in stores at Atlantic Terminal and interacted with fans, and most recently, the entire team visited sick children at Brooklyn’s Maimonides Medical Center.
No doubt, the Nets have represented Brooklyn. And on this night, on an important first in the franchise’s new history. Its needed Brooklyn to represent for it.
On Saturday, the embrace was reciprocated.
Barclays Center was about 85 percent full and unlike any of the prior contests that took place in this building, there was just a tiny shred of support for the opposing team.
With about 2:45 remaining in the game, the Nets were clinging to a two point lead, 94-92. With the ball, most in Barclays took to their feet and gave their team a standing ovation. Chants of “Broooook-lyn” reigned down on the court.
It was a very special moment.
With the sold-out crowd of over 17,000 cheering on its team, C.J. Watson scored a running layup to push the Nets lead to four and a few players after, Lopez converted an “and-1″ off of a Gerald Wallace drive and dish.
The chants of “Broooook-lyn” got louder and Barclays shook with energy. The game was sealed as the Nets eventually secured a 107-100 victory.
This is the atmosphere that Avery Johnson has spoken of for the past few weeks. Finally, he experienced it in person. And of all nights, this was probably the most improbable.
Brooklyn disregarded the carnage left in Hurricane Sandy’s wake and put out for its team. The story of Stephen Robinson embodied the spirit that was felt in Barclays on Saturday night.
I spoke with Robinson at halftime. “I just had to be here tonight,” he told me. Neither Hurricane Sandy nor the three-hour commute from his home in Patchogue, Long Island could have stopped the lifelong Nets from experiencing the first ever game at Barclays Center.
Robinson purchased a half-season ticket plan that included the originally scheduled opener versus the Knicks, but his plan didn’t include Saturday’s game against the Raptors. After Sandy struck and the Knicks game was postponed, Robinson realized that he was going to miss the opener, and he wanted to be there, even if the Nets weren’t playing the Knicks.
Saturday night’s matchup became all the more important.
So, Robinson went out and purchased tickets to Saturday’s game against the Raptors, grabbed his wife Nicole, and together, they endured the aforementioned storm-lengthened three-hour trek to Brooklyn’s Atlantic Avenue.
It’s the story of one man—and his wife—but even coach Avery Johnson would agree that there were probably many others like Robinson in Barclays on Saturday night.
“You try to downplay the importance of this game but it meant a lot to many different people,” Johnson said. “Fortunately, we were able to get back on the court. The great thing about it is that somebody that’s probably without power was at the game tonight and hopefully, when they get home, who knows, hopefully it will be on and hopefully we put a smile on their faces.”
No, the Nets couldn’t help restore electricity to darkened neighborhoods across New York City.
But in one, they created it. And even if for only a few hours, thousands of fans chanted “Broooook-lyn” and were consumed by nothing but basketball.
Best of all, the Nets won the game and gave the home crowd something to smile about. Saturday’s victory in Barclays Center was the first ever and the Nets hope it was the first of many.
After witnessing the Brooklyn faithful—and one in particular from Long Island—show up in droves and passionately cheer on their team…
I’m finally beginning to think it just might be.