This week marked an end to an era here in New Jersey, our professional basketball team the New Jersey Nets played thier last home game the other night at the Prudential Center in Newark. The team will relocate back to New York and resume next year's NBA regular seaon hosting games at the still to-be-completed Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Will anyone miss them? Will anyone notice they left? Did anyone know they were here? Actually, this was the second tour of duty for the Nets here in New Jersey. They played at the armory in Teaneck in the late 60s. The team moved to Long Island, occupying the brand new home - the Coliseum - along with the New York Islanders.
Remembering that the Nets played in the American Basketball Association brings up some memories for me. I remember attending an ABA doubleheader at Madison Square Garden (Yup, the Garden, where fans were given a free replica ABA basketall in red, white, and blue). I watched as some patrons threw the balls towards the court, in some cases from the blue seats!
The Nets won championships in the ABA, but the franchise was never the same after it sold one of the greatest basketball players ever, Julius "Dr. J " Erving. It was around this time that some ABA teams were absorbed into the NBA and the Nets reclocated back to New Jersey in the late 70's. The team played in the Rutgers Athletic Center until the Bryne Meadowlands Arena was built.
I have many memories of Piscataway as we covered the Nets while I was at college. Upon moving to the Meadowlands, the Nets just never attracted consistent crowds. As ownership changed hands, they decided two years ago to cross the Hudson again...this time, to Brooklyn.
For us in New Jersey, to lose any sizeable business in these terrible economic times can't be a good thing. The fact of the matter is that the Nets probably had to move in an effort to survive financially. Thier current housemates, the Devils, are also in an unstable financial position. The battle for the entertainment dollar has never been more fierce and most people are adopting a wait-and-see attitude about everything - especially sports events - before deciding to make a purchase.
It will be interesting to see how the fortunes of the Nets change with thier move to Brooklyn. I wish them well.