Sunday, November 4, 2012
Last night the Brooklyn Nets took on the Toronto Raptors at the Barclay's Center. This was the first home game for this brand new team in Brooklyn. They won 107-100 but this is not so much about the game but how a long time Knicks fan has become a Brooklyn Nets fan.
About a year and a half ago, I read a book called Heaven is a Playground by Rick Telander. This is a true story about the time that the author spent in Brooklyn living the playground life of a basketball player. This all takes place in the summer of 1973 and 1974. He meets a bunch of playground basketball players and observes, questions, travels and plays with these players. What brings all of these subjects together is their passion for basketball.
The time period that Telander writes about is the time period that I spent playing basketball in my playground at P.S. 209. We had our cast of characters and each of us had our own story. The difference between us and the guys Telander wrote about was basically that we didn't have a journalist following us around but I am pretty sure we could of been our own book. Telander's book took me back to a time that I will always remember.
Awhile ago I wrote about how my father was broken hearted about the Brooklyn Dodgers leaving Brooklyn. This was something that I didn't find out until after his death in 1993. This has been something that has stuck with me since the news of his passion for a team and a city. I sometimes wonder how my father-son conversations would have been different if I had known this back in those same summers that Telander wrote about. Maybe if I knew that, I might of asked him to come shoot hoops with me at 209 but I thought that he just didn't like sports but boy was I wrong. I sometimes wonder if he wanted me to ask him to the playground, I sometimes wonder if he wanted me to ask him to have a catch but I mostly wonder what was going on inside of his head when I would leave the apartment with my stick ball bat or basketball and scream, "I'm going to the schoolyard with Cliff!!!" I'll never know.
Those days of basketball in P.S. 209 were filled with talk about Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, Bill Bradley, Dave DeBusschere and Phil Jackson. The Knicks were our team and Marv Albert was imitated on any sweet move or shot. "YES AND IT COUNTS!!!!, coming from anyone who was fouled and his shot made it through the hoop with no net. Talk was also getting around about this doctor that was playing out on Long Island with an ABA team called the New York Nets. We heard stories about this doctor that could basically fly through the air. He could jump from the foul line and soar through the air and dunk. Each and everyone of us fools tried that and succeeded in getting nowhere. This doctor was Doctor J, Julius Erving, and supposedly the Nets were going to come to the NBA. We thought that it would be cool to see this guy against our beloved Knicks and it eventually happened but the good doctor was wearing a 76ers uniform by then.
When I heard that the Nets were moving to Brooklyn I thought that it was a good idea. Brooklyn has always been known as a great basketball city and they would support that team like no other. I never gave much thought about the move because there always seemed to be problems with the Atlantic Yards Project.
When I finally realized that the Nets were going to make that move, I contemplated if I had to root for the real home team, the Brooklyn Nets. I went back and forth but a few weeks ago in Sports Illustrated there was a feature article by Rick Telander. The article was all about Brooklyn basketball and the memories of those days in P.S. 209 came rushing back. The memory of my father and his heartbreak also took center stage. I know that if my father was alive, he would be wearing the black and white of the Nets because he was from Brooklyn. I know it would of never replaced his beloved Dodgers but he would of had a team that he could call his own.
The Knicks of my youth will always be with me. but it feels right to put on the black and white of the Brooklyn Nets. I am thinking of getting a Brooklyn Nets jersey with a number 1 and the name Irving on the back. Not for the good doctor, Julius Erving, but for my father, Irving.