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The whole concept of a struggle for cultural superiority is not a requisite for a good sports rivalry. There has been plenty of hostility between professional franchises that had nothing to do with the areas they represented.
But the budding Knicks-Nets rivalry is one that cannot be definitively disentangled from the battle for borough supremacy going on between Brooklyn and Manhattan—and their respective arenas.
Madison Square Garden still reigns as the city's preeminent site for basketball, having earned its nickname as "The World's Most Famous Arena." Once deemed the "Mecca of Basketball" by Michael Jordan, the arena is still the bigger draw for courtside celebrities and nationally televised games.
MSG also remains a "career-defining concert hall," as noted by the New York Times' James C. McKinley Jr., and a staple of musical entertainment in New York City.
However, the Barclays Center, with its chic all-black interior indicative of its intentions to eclipse MSG, has already made a name for itself in its year-and-a-half of operation. It is the home of a team currently better than the Garden's Knicks, is the future home of the New York Islanders and routinely sells out for concerts by A-list artists.
It was even the site of Miley Cyrus' twerking fiasco at last year's MTV Video Music Awards, the most talked-about pop culture moment of the past year.
The Knicks and Nets are in a rare situation where their on-court competition mirrors a societal dynamic within their shared city.
As the Barclays Center's reputation continues to expand out of the shadow of MSG—an established giant of entertainment—the rivalry between New York's two basketball teams will grow in both magnitude and complexity.
Modern Example: Chicago Cubs (North Side) vs. Chicago White Sox (South Side)