(Demoralizing moments start from the 1991-1992 season, when I first became a fan.)
If I was some foreigner who came off a rickety boat packed with hundreds of illegal immigrants from the Fujian province of China and landed in New York today, I’d think that there are two NBA teams of equal popularity. With Jay-Z closing out a show with Beyonce at the newly minted Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets are the biggest thing to hit Brooklyn since Lena Dunham started filming Girls there. Now that everyone’s been scooping up those retro black and white jerseys, I’m here to tell you that it hasn’t always been like this. It seems the Nets are trying to pretend their New Jersey residence didn’t even exist.
Well it did. And it wasn’t pretty.
8. Using John Calipari in Their Marketing
The 96-97 Nets featured Kerry Kittles, Kendall Gill, and a bunch of other people you never heard of. In fact, the marketing department was so desperate that they used the f___g coach in all of their marketing material. There was this enthusiastic photo of Coach Cal pointing and yelling plastered on a bus with some lame tagline like There’s a Whole New Attitude in Town. Don’t believe me? You’ll have to take my word for it. They must have hired some hacker to delete all evidence of this on Google.
7. Derrick Coleman
You ever watch Dirk Nowitzki? German big man who can run the floor like a guard and pull up for a three? That could’ve been DC. But this was the era before the capped rookie salaries and DC commanded a staggering eight year $65 million dollar contract in 1994.
In a very little-known ESPN interview right after the contract Mr. “Whoop-de-damn-do” told the interviewer (who I don’t remember and cannot find on Google,) when asked if he was worth the $65 million, responded, “It’s not what your worth. It’s what you can negotiate.”
According to Wikipedia, Sports Illustrated once remarked that “Coleman could have been the best power forward ever; instead he played just well enough to ensure his next paycheck.”
6. Ed O’Bannon
You’d think that drafting an All-American from UCLA with a 1995 Player of the Year award would be a no-brainer right? Well, after losing his confidence, the all-around nice-guy averaged 6.2 and 4.2 points in his two seasons with the Nets—and the NBA for that matter. After a stint with Dallas and toiling around Europe for a few seasons, he did not become a coach or a commentator—but a used car saleman. You read that right. I’ll that one sink in.
5. Beastie Boys Girls
I went to a game on Valentine’s Day and during timeouts, the PA system would play these love songs while a whole lot of kiss-cam was going on. Then of course they play the Beastie Boys Girls—maybe one of the most mysogonistic songs of all time. But I don’t think anyone noticed, so it I guess it was OK!
4. Yinka Dare
Picked 14th overall in the 1994 draft, the late Stinka Dare (as Jayson Williams called him—more on him later) is most famous for playing 58 games, turning the ball over 72 times, and having zero assists. During his four year career, he dished the ball a whopping four times.
Think about that for a second. I occasionally play pick-up. At 6’1″, I was the tallest of my friends and enjoyed being the “passing big-man”—posting up, looking for cutters, executing the occasional no-look pass. I just can’t conceive of a big man who had absolutely no desire to pass.
Like other Nets with ignominious reputations, he tragically died at 32 of a heart attack in his kitchen. Sorry to drop that bomb on you.
3. Jayson Williams
Williams was one of the leading rebounders in the league between the 96-98 season. He made the all-star team in 1998 and went all down him from there. That’s an understatement. He sustained a career-ending injury with teammate Stephon Marbury (more on that below) and was forced to retire in in 2000 at 32 after nine seasons.
Then the shit really hit the fan. Long story short, while showing off a shotgun in his insanely massive mansion in 2002, he accidently shot his limo driver, attempted to cover it up, got convicted of four counts of trying to cover up said incident, pleaded guilty to aggravated assault in 2010, sentenced to five years, moved to Riker’s Island in 2011 for a DUI, and was finally released this year. There is actually a redemption story in all of this, but this doesn’t take away from the fact that yet another promising player’s career got derailed because he tried to cover up a murder.
Does this happen to your favorite team? Yeah. Didn’t think so.
2. Stephon Marbury
Once upon a time, Stephon Marbury and Kevin Garnett made up one of the most promising point guard-power forward combos while playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves since John Stockton and Karl Malone. Eventually people wised up and figured out that Marbury was a Grade-A Absolute Nut-Case.
That didn’t prevent me from getting all excited when he got traded during the locked out 98-99 season. Marbury so alienated himself from the Nets, that he drew the words “All Alone #3” on his sneakers when he deemed that his teammates talents were so inferior to his.
The ironic thing is, with a low-character checkered-past enigma like Marbury, you’d think he’d be lying in a gutter somewhere with a few hypodermic needles permanently embedded in his jugular, but in fact he went over to China and won the whole damn thing. So, good for you Steph. I think.
1. Drazen Petrovic
Ever have a friend call you up and tell you the best player on your favorite team is dead? No? Well I have. And it sucks! Petro was one of the trailblazing European players to break into the league. He had a 45% three-point field goal percentage in the 91-92 and 92-93 and brought the Nets to the playoffs both of those seasons. His life was cut short because his girlfriend was probably doing a 100 into a truck on the autobahn. He was 28.
I know the Celtics had some notable deaths themselves (Reggie Lewis, Len Bias) but Boston is one of the most storied franchises in all of sports. Not to minimize their demises, but the Nets were on the verge of having a really nice foundation along with Derrick Coleman and Kenny Anderson.
So if you want to root for the Nets this year, great. They need the respect, revenue and have a very decent offensive team. Just know the aches and pains that New Jersey Nets fans went through, and show me some respect when you see my rocking my Kenny Anderson jersey while I’m sitting in the nosebleeds at the Barclays Center.
UPDATE: New York Times Nets beat writer Howard Beck re-tweeted this post. Here’s what he had to say.