My wife and I took the kids to the Barclays Center in early 2013, during the Nets’ inaugural season in Brooklyn. There had been a lot of hype, not only about the Nets but also about the new arena. And there had been a lot of flack about both the Nets and the arena, respectively, as well. But after all the back and forth, over many years, both the stadium and the Nets were part of Brooklyn, and while we had been ambivalent observers during the whole imbroglio, we were anxious to check things out once matters were settled.
The arena impressed. Spacious corridors and lots of polished surfaces. Professional and courteous service. We roamed around each level, sampling food and drinks from some of Brooklyn’s finest eateries and breweries. And, of course, a stop at the gift shop was mandatory for the kids to purchase Nets gear which had become the unofficial uniform of Brooklyn’s youth. By the time we sat down in our seats, we were definitely on board with the whole Nets/Barclays thing. The pregame production turned out to be top notch, too: dancers, acrobats, a DJ named TJ, a knight-of-some-sort who shot t-shirts into the crowd, and a super-stylish MC definitely on point, ratcheting the crowd into a pseudo-frenzy (it was only a mid-season game against Atlanta after all). And when the lights dimmed, and the music loomed, it was on for real: through the loud speakers came a familiar voice, smooth and deep, informed by a trademark flow…
“Welcome to Brooklyn, y’all…”
Oh my good-ness! That’s Jay-Z!
“Birthplace of Michael Jordan.”
“Home of Biggie Smalls.”
There was more prerecorded intro from Brooklyn’s favorite maestro before the actual announcer kept things going as we met the players from Atlanta and then OUR BROOKLYN NETS complete with a light show and people jumping around, music pumping. And when the game began, and things got quiet for a moment, I sat down to consider something the Jigga Man just said that just didn’t sit right with me: Birthplace of Michael Jordan?
I mean, come on. Yeah, I know. The greatest basketball player who has ever lived was born in Brooklyn. True. But he moved to North Carolina, like, the next day or something, never to return. He’s Carolina through and through. That’s where he grew up and went to college and where he now co-owns and co-operates Charlotte’s NBA franchise. I smelled hype. And that smell of hype permeated my soggy fish tacos from Calexico and my too-hoppy Brooklyn craft beer. It had me questioning the half-a-grand we were in the process of dropping on a mid-winter’s night to watch a mediocre basketball team in the process of getting dropped by the freaking Atlanta Hawks.
Image via Lost Lettermen
Then it dawned on me: Brooklyn had jumped the shark!! That’s right. Let me be the first to make the call: Brooklyn had jumped the shark!! Brooklyn had jumped the shark!!
This borough has had it. The thrill…Gone. Too expensive. Too crowded. Too many boring gentrifiers like me. The Nets are lame; the Barclays Center overrated (or, at least, overpriced).
I wanted to know where the “New Brooklyn” was at?
But that was 18 months ago, and there is no “New Brooklyn.” There’s just Brooklyn. The borough that won’t stop. And there’s no end in sight. Not all recent developments – like the Barclays Center and the Nets and Brooklyn Bridge Park and Whole Foods and everything after – are good for everybody, and there is still plenty to complain about – like I often do – but you have to give credit to Brooklyn for keeping on keeping on with its amazing renaissance long after the cynics like me predicted its demise.
I guess we shouldn’t be all that surprised by this phenomenal performance by Brooklyn: It is the birthplace of Michael Jordan after all.
Andrew Cotto jumping the shark. Andrew Cotto is the author of The Domino Effect and Outerborough Blues: A Brooklyn Mystery. He has written for numerous publications, including The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Men’s Journal, Salon.com, the Good Men Project, and Teachers & Writers magazine. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from The New School. He lives in Brooklyn, New York. Follow him on Twitter @andrewcotto