As someone who began his life in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, and is also a die-hard NBA fan, I've been dreaming about the Brooklyn Nets' home opener since 2005. In the seven years that I have been waiting for this day, I've taken photos at 15 different NBA arenas and became a bit of an arena connoisseur. Join me on a photo tour as my passion and profession collide in Downtown Brooklyn.
The last professional sports game played in Brooklyn was on September 29th, 1957. My father was almost 14, living in Bed Stuy, Brooklyn, when his beloved Dodgers went all Hollywood.
Since then, all had been quiet on the Brooklyn sports front until Jay-Z, Bruce Ratner and giant Russian Mikhail Prokhorov landed this rusted spaceship of a stadium on Atlantic and Flatbush Ave.
The stadium opener was scheduled for two days prior. It was supposed to be a knock-down, drag-out fight with the crosstown Knicks for the heart of New York.
Unfortunately, Hurricane Sandy and Mike Bloomberg (the NBA told me to blame him) had other ideas and the game was postponed. This meant the opener then became a game against an underrated Raptors team that was scheduled two days later.
If you look closely, you can see the arena's scoreboard from the street. I don't know any other stadium with that. This is the kind of innovative stuff they have going on at this state-of-the-art arena.
Inside it was a beautifully spacious stadium. Everything was a form of matte black, but it was balanced out by a ton of lights to avoid any dark, dingy feeling.
David Stern showed up to deliver a speech before the game. The crowd booed him, but I don't think they really meant it. Amid the boos, Deron came over and put his arm around David and got a laugh and cheer from the crowd. See, we were just kidding, David, we're just glad Roger Goodell isn't the NBA commissioner.
Stern just announced his retirement last week. He will go down as the longest-tenured commissioner in all of sports, with a little over 30 years at the helm. A true legend.
The Raptors' general manager Bryan Colangelo was in attendance. While his tenure in Toronto got off to a rough start (Rafael Araujo anyone?), Colangelo has been making much better moves as of late, including stashing prized Euro prospect Jonas Valanciunas and stealing Kyle Lowry from the Rockets.
We were also introduced to the Nets' mascot, the BrooklyKnight. He looked like the love child of Iron Man and a medieval knight. He wasn't the coolest mascot I'd ever seen, but I've seen worse.
Brooklyn Borough President and big time Knicks basher Marty Markoweicz made a speech also. I'm pretty sure he has the most New York accent of all time.
We were really robbed of seeing him collide with the throngs of Knicks fans that undoubtedly would have been here if the original opener not been postponed.
Hearing a Raptors fan saying "Please don't be a jerk, aye" just didn't have the same ring.
In a passing of the torch ceremony, Deron and Brook go to half court and exchange jerseys with surviving members of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Jackie Robinson's wife was supposed to be in attendance at the Nets/Knicks opener, but that was just another thing ruined by Sandy.
Brooklyn's own Michael K. Williams (AKA Omar from "The Wire") gave a pregame speech against fan violence. It's kind of ironic because he spent five seasons on The Wire making violence look cool as hell.
Deron Williams struts down the herringbone court after scoring the first two points in Brooklyn basketball history on a long jumper.
Courtside wait service. Stadiums are getting more and more opulent.
Jonas Valanciunas is able to slip a dunk in. The Lithuanian big man had double-doubled in his first NBA game, but would find much tougher sledding this time around.
New Raptor Kyle Lowry wasted little time lighting the Nets up; he was able to orchestrate an early lead for the road team.
Raptors coach Dwayne Casey seems to have borrowed Nucky Thompson's carnation for his suit.
Nets coach Avery Johnson stood on the far side of the court, directly in front of one of his bosses, Jay-Z. It must be kind of annoying to have your boss setting three feet behind you while you're trying to work, even if you boss secretly only owns one-fifteenth of a percent of the company.
"The Brooklynettes" is one of the more clever team specific names for cheerleaders. I wasn't a fan of their outfits, though—they were trying way too hard to be urban and hip. It was kind of like when Poochie the Dog briefly joined the cast of "Itchy and Scratchy."
The Lowry onslaught continued.
Remember MarShon Brooks? He went from being a cornerstone of the teams future, to being Dwight Howard bait, to being Joe Johnson's backup, all in a year. It's been quite a whirlwind for this young man who's bent on emulating Kobe (even down to the early career hairdo). One thing we seemed to forget is that he's a very good two guard in a league with a dearth of talent at that position.
The Nets have the stigma of being a bad team, but they do have a history of success thanks to Jason Kidd. When is trading away Stephon Marbury not the right move?
At this point security came over to me and told me to put away my big camera.
"You can't use any cameras in here that have a screw on lens," they said.
I had never heard this before in a stadium. Is this their way of cracking down on uncredentialed photographers like myself? Are they worried that the HD video quality that many cameras now have could lead to unauthorized broadcasts of the game? Is it Jay-Z not wanting people to snap paparazzi shots of Beyonce?
I don't know what the answer was, but I figured it was time to get my Bourdain on and check out the food scene.
Ugh, twelve ounce Coronas for $9? That's a $54 six pack. Considering I was able to buy a 24 ounce Corona for $11 in Foxborough two weeks ago, this was a disappointment.
Lucky for me I had filled up on some unfiltered and unpasteurized Zweickle beer at a local German Biergarten before coming to the game.
The Bed Stuy Grill. Bed Stuy is a rough part of Brooklyn where Jay-Z (and my dad) grew up in the projects. Now, he's bringing that flavor to the masses.
The Avenue K Deli was closed on opening night? Stadium fail.
Wow, they have Habana here, a local Cuban food spot that I love (their Mexican corn is phenomenal)! Unfortunately they didn't have anything their menu promised aside from nachos. Again, not a great start, food-wise.
There's sushi, if you're into getting that kind of thing at sports games. I'm not, so I kept it moving. My embargo against seafood at sports games remains intact.
I was going to buy a Nets jersey (Hump? Brook?), but they didn't have any available at the team store. Did the concessions people even know they had a game tonight?
This part of Brooklyn was spared the wrath of Sandy, so I'm not sure what is up with the shortages. I know the Nets have a Russian owner, but do their concessions stands have to be as well stocked as a Soviet supermarket back in the day?
One of the most famous Brooklyn eateries is "Juniors," home to the best cheesecake in the world (and, no, that's not up for debate). As you can see, the line to fill up on a $8.75 slice of heaven resembles the gas station lines all across the Tri State area.
I bumped in to my old friend David Aldridge who I see at basically every NBA event I travel to.
I settled on the brisket sandwich from "Fatty Cue." It featured pulled (not sliced) BBQ brisket with a sriracha aioli, pickled carrots and cilantro for a distinctly Vietnamese feel.
It wasn't the best sandwich I have had at a sports game but I appreciated the creativity that went into it.
Nets fans were having their cake and eating it too, literally.
A Blatche'd couple. The past year or so, Andray Blatche had become a league wide joke and the former prep-to-pro had seemingly washed out of the league. Similar to Gerald Green last year, the Nets rolled the dice on the big man with an unguaranteed contract (virtually unheard of in the NBA).
I've been a Blatche fan since he came into the league and I'm happy to see him getting another chance.
The front runner for "Unofficial Nets Mascot" is this guy, Mr. Whammy. I'm not totally sure what his sign means, but he was very popular with fans and TV cameramen.
I had noticed while ticket shopping that you could get "all you can eat" tickets. Usually at a stadium that means that you are in a section where you are fed a bunch of really generic hot dogs and nachos. To my surprise, these tickets were good at any food stand in the stadium, you just order the food and they scan it.
I see a "Man vs Food" -ish showdown with the Barclays concession stands in my near future.
I hit up Fresco by Scotto for some chicken meatballs. Unlike many sports arenas, the Barclays Center featured a lot of local restaurants, not just generic stadium food from ARAMARK. Bravo Brooklyn.
These were the best meatballs I've had at a stadium (not a very high bar to clear).
There was a pre-taped bit with a costumed Reggie Evans, where he told people what Halloween snacks he preferred. Surprisingly the answer wasn't Chris Kaman's reproductive organs. It was Starbursts.
Back to the game, the Nets battled back in the second half to take a lead that was at times commanding.
Like many new stadiums, the Barclays Center featured WiFi. Like many new stadiums, the WiFi sucked.
Former Euroleague scorer Mirza Teletovic made it into this ad for B&H Photo, but not into the game. Perhaps he isn't up to speed with the NBA yet.
Leading the charge for the Nets offensively was Brook Lopez. I'm not only a member of the Brook Lopez fan club, I'm also the president, so seeing him overcoming a myriad of maladies (mono, calcium deposit in his elbow, broken foot) really warmed my heart.
Nice to see the Brooklyn hipster community coming out to support. I really wonder what this would have been like if it was Nets and Knicks fans clashing on the first night? We were all robbed of this experience by a hurricane, mixed with a northeastern, mixed with high tide.
Right behind Avery Johnson you see Ty Ty, childhood friend of Jay-Z, sitting courtside. It's really amazing that these guys who grew up in Marcy Projects were able to bring a team to their home borough like this.
I grew up blocks away from the stadium (I lived on 175 Lafayette Avenue until I was six) and I share in their delight that Brooklyn finally has a team again.
Native New Yorker Stephen A. Smith looks on as the game winds down.
The score grew tighter than Jim Jones' pants, but the Nets paraded to the foul line and made their shots. They secured a victory in their highly-anticipated Brooklyn homecoming. Brook Lopez paced the Nets with 27 points while Kyle Lowry finished with a ridiculous 28/8/8 line for the Raptors.
Nucky Casey leaves with a scowl on his face.
On the way out, I noticed a practice court that is visible from the Atlantic Avenue Starbucks. All in all, this stadium is pretty baller. What else would you expect from Jay-Z and an eccentric Russian billionaire?
Nets fans spill out of their rusted house of worship knowing they have just been witnesses to history. Brooklyn is back in a big way.
You could find flaws with the team (no cap flexibility anytime soon, paying Deron and Crash $140 mil instead of just drafting Lillard), but it's not the time for that.
This city is still in the grips of one of the most serious natural disasters in the country's history and life is not near returning to normal for most of these people. For a few hours they took a vacation from their power/gas/food/shelter-related struggles and were treated to an amazing stadium and a win for the team that now represents them.