Barclays Center, the new home of the Brooklyn Nets, has generated a tremendous amount of buzz in New York, particularly among Brooklyn natives who have been longing for a professional sports team since the Dodgers headed west over 50 years ago. But Barclays will never provide the type of home-court advantage that the Knicks enjoy at "The World's Most Famous Arena."
Barclays Center, located on Atlantic Avenue in downtown Brooklyn, has a sleek, modern look to it. The outside is covered with shiny red/brown steel and the roof dips down in the front, giving the arena a spaceship-like feel. Fans pass a 117-by-56 foot "oculus" in the plaza outside of the main entrance on their way into the building.
The inside of the arena also includes several unique touches. In a nod to the Boston Celtics' legendary parquet floor, the hardwood at Barclays features light and dark shading in a herringbone pattern.
The highlight of the Nets' new home may be "The Vault at Barclays Center," 11 high-end luxury suites on the event level intended to entertain New York's social elite. Nets minority owner Jay-Z was involved with every aspect of designing "the vault," from the decor to the type of alcohol that will be served.
The Nets and Barclays Center have been creative in capitalizing on the rapper and Brooklyn-native's marketability to generate excitement around the team and arena.
His image has been plastered across billboards in Manhattan and Brooklyn, along with the Nets' logo he helped design. Jay-Z, whose given name is Shawn Carter, also came up with the concept for the team's black and white jerseys. The Nets even sold special edition No. 4 "Carter" jerseys.
The rapper opened the arena with eight concerts beginning on September 28th. Barclays showcased another local legend weeks later when Barbara Streisand took the stage for two performances.
Jay-Z's association with the franchise, combined with the team's fresh color scheme, has made Nets' merchandise a hot item on the streets of New York. Brooklynites in particular are drawn to the big "B" in the Nets' logo.
While many of those Brooklyn natives will continue to support their new team once the novelty wears off, the vast majority of residents in New York's most-populated borough cannot afford to attend the games.
Like most new sports arenas and stadiums, particularly in New York, Barclays has priced out many of their fans. There are a few select tickets available for as low as $22 after taxes, but they will go fast. Realistically, fans will have to pay at least $55 for a halfway-decent seat.
The Nets will make their money off of season ticket sales to corporations—the type of companies that can afford to shell out $550,000 for a suite in Jay-Z's "vault." The majority of Brooklyn residents who attend games will be those living in the wealthier areas such as Brooklyn Heights and Park Slope, most of whom do not have roots in the community.
Of course, the Knicks and Madison Square Garden appeal to the same wealthy crowd. The difference between the two teams lies in the tradition of the Knicks and their arena.
Regardless of their financial status or how they obtained their tickets, most fans in attendance at Knicks games have some history with the team and are inspired by the glamor of Madison Square Garden. The big-wigs at Barclays will not be as vociferous in support of a team they have no affinity for.
What the Garden lacks in style, it more than makes up for in cachet. MSG is in the heart of Manhattan, a short walk from Times Square and the Empire State Building.
"The World's Most Famous Arena" hosted two of the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier fights, concerts by everybody from Michael Jackson to Frank Sinatra and countless memorable hockey and basketball moments. Marilyn Monroe even sang her sultry version of "Happy Birthday" to President Kennedy there in 1962.
Some trendy neighborhoods have sprouted up in the vicinity of Barclays Center in recent years, but Brooklyn will always live in Manhattan's shadow. Once the hoopla surrounding Barclays Center dies down, Madison Square Garden will regain its place as the most prestigious basketball venue in New York City.
Then there are the teams themselves to consider. The Nets have been a nomadic franchise since their first season in the American Basketball Association in 1967 and consequently have lacked a solid fanbase.
The Knicks, on the other hand, were one of the founding members in 1946 of the Basketball Association of America, which eventually became the NBA. Few teams have captured the imagination of New Yorkers or come to represent the city itself as much as the Knicks' championship teams of the early 1970s.
The fierce loyalty of Knicks fans was never more evident than during the leanest years of the disastrous Isiah Thomas era. Despite a series of horrendous personnel decisions and a roster comprised of overpaid underachievers, the team still drew close to 19,000 fans per game.
When the Knicks are rolling, MSG is one of the greatest home-court advantages in the NBA. The Garden literally shook when Willis Reed limped out of the tunnel before Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals and after Larry Johnson connected on a four-point play in the playoffs against the Indiana Pacers in 1999.
Team allegiance is passed down through generations and strengthened by tradition and familial bonds. There are at least two professional teams in the New York City area in each of the four professional sports, and in each case the oldest team is and always has been "New York's team." The Nets' relative youth and transient history suggest that their fans will never surpass Knicks fans in number or passion.
According to the Associated Press, Jay-Z stated that he dreamed of basketball glory as a kid. "You know the three-two-one, oh, he hits the winning shot," the rapper said. "But no one was ever on the court saying I was gonna own the Knicks. Yes, it's way beyond any of my wildest dreams."
Even the face of the Nets grew up dreaming about the Knicks.