Two hard-fought matchups into the 2012-13 season, consider the rivalry officially on.
It is (a rivalry). I mean, after that first game, we might as well accept that. It is what it is. They're on our division, we see them four times a year. It is a rivalry. It's great for New York to have that in Brooklyn and in Manhattan. When we come here it's a battle. When they come there, it's going to be a battle. We expect that.
Even as far as two years ago, the then-New Jersey Nets fired warning shots at the Knicks by constructing a massive billboard near Madison Square Garden picturing team owners Jay-Z and Mikhail Prokhorov with the tagline "The blueprint for greatness."
The team not-so-coincidentally unveiled the billboard right before the high-profile 2010 free agency period was set to begin, which reportedly infuriated the Knicks, according to the New York Daily News.
Fast forward to the 2012-13 season and it's clear that the Knicks-Nets matchup—the so-called "Clash of the Boroughs"—possesses all of the elements for a great rivalry in the making.
You've got the electricity of the New York market and the history of Madison Square Garden pitted against the borough pride of Brooklyn and Jay-Z's highly stylized, all-black Barclays Center.
You've got the star power of Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire (once he returns from injury) and the defensive excellence of Tyson Chandler pitted against star point guard Deron Williams and his motley crew of Joe Johnson, Gerald Wallace and Brook Lopez.
And, most importantly, the games have been just as enjoyable to watch as the on-paper matchups would suggest.
Their first scheduled matchup of the season (on Nov. 1) was postponed due to Hurricane Sandy, so the Nets and Knicks squared off for the first time as cross-city rivals on Nov. 26 at the Barclays Center. Thanks to a poor shooting night from Knicks point guard Raymond Felton, the Nets emerged with a 96-89 win in overtime.
Two weeks later, the Nets and Knicks clashed again at Barclays, with the Knicks getting the better of the Nets this time around. Former Nets star Jason Kidd drained a go-ahead three-pointer with 24 seconds to allow the Knicks to escape with a 100-97 win, after trailing by 16 points in the first half.
You're telling me this matchup doesn't mean anything more to each team?
Anthony may be having an MVP-caliber season, but he doesn't pour in 35 points and 13 rebounds every night like he did in his first game against the Nets.
He only managed to outdo himself in the second game, scoring a season-high 45 points on 24 shots.
"[Anthony has] had some pretty good games under my tutelage but I just think tonight he wanted it so badly, man," Knicks coach Mike Woodson said after that Dec. 11 victory. "He made shot after shot."
Before the first Nets-Knicks game on Nov. 26, Nets coach Avery Johnson said that the team was "trying to come in and gain some territorial rights." He hesitated to put the budding rivalry on the level of Duke-North Carolina, but said, "Hopefully one day it'll get there."
It takes years to build a historic rivalry like Duke-UNC or Syracuse-Georgetown. No one's ready to put Nets-Knicks at that level, even after two incredibly hard-fought games.
The Nets and Knicks will have the time to build a rivalry like that in the coming years now that the Nets have made their long-awaited move into Brooklyn.
Last I checked, New York Yankees and New York Mets fans don't exactly see eye-to-eye very often.
The same goes for New York Giants and New York Jets fans.
When you've got two teams in one city, it's all but guaranteed to generate some bad blood between the two.
When one team starts running hot while the other stays ice cold, the downtrodden team can't avoid being reminded of the success of the other through headlines and TV coverage.
When both teams hit the ground running, as the Nets and Knicks did in 2012-13, it only adds to the intensity of each matchup.
As of the morning of Dec. 19, the Knicks stood first in the Eastern Conference with an 18-6 record, while Brooklyn sat in sixth in the East with a 13-11 record.
Through the first quarter of the season, both teams appear likely to be playoff bound in 2013.
Both teams can thus use their matchups against one another this season as a barometer to see how far they still have to go before emerging as a true championship contender.
More than that, though, the unofficial championship of New York is now on the line every time these two play.
If that's not the grounds for a rivalry, what is?