Divorcing the Cruel, Despotic James Dolan (and the Knicks)


Divorce. Despite the frequency with which it’s used, it is still a nasty business. The kids (if they exist) always get hurt. There’s endless acrimony about dividing money and property. Lucky to have been personally unaffected, from what I’ve heard from friends and seen in movies, divorce brings out the worst in people. Still, despite the pain, after it’s all over and done with, divorce can provide the promise for a new beginning, for something better.

For years in the United States, a divorce could only be accomplished if the party seeking dissolution found a legal fault with his/her incompatible counterpart. Now, though, with the advent of “no-fault” divorce, a marriage may be ended for such excellent vagaries as Irreconcilable Differences, Incompatibility, and my personal favorite, Irredeemable Breakdown of the Marriage. In 2010, New York became the last state to move from a legal scheme that allowed only fault divorces, to one that permits no-fault divorces as well.

Without wasting any more of my or your time, I’ll assert my privilege: Goodbye, New York Knicks.
Goodbye James Dolan. Because as much as I’d like to say the Knicks belong to anyone else, in a proprietary or metaphysical sense, I can’t. Some fans feel like they own their teams (and Packers fans actually do), but you’d be hard pressed to find a Knicks fan who can remember that feeling. When a team is constructed on the personal whims and desires of one strange-looking little man—not pursuant to any basketball logic—the team becomes him. I’d say, James, that your behavior certainly qualifies as cruelty, enough for a fault divorce. But knowing your overbearing litigiousness, I’m happy to settle for no-fault. The differences are irreconcilable and we are no longer compatible. We’ve suffered an irredeemable breakdown of the marriage.

I need not go over the reasons in detail. I’ve written about that before, and my colleague here has written about that just now. He comes to his W. comparison begrudgingly, but I can’t think of one more apt. You’ve shown not a shred of empathy or compassion for the plight of Knicks fans. In fact, some of the decisions you’ve made for your team have been insulting, if not downright malicious. You are a tyrant and a despot. And you show no signs of changing. Letting Lin go and talking to Zeke make that abundantly clear. I would have left earlier, but there was nowhere to go. You were—and you owned—the only game in town. But no longer.

I see my light come shining in the form of a giant rusty beacon. New York has another team; one that plays a 10 minute walk from my apartment, with a squad (however flawed) that seems put together toward the object of winning. The owner is invested (if not overly involved) in the team and its management. The Brooklyn fan base, starved for a top-level franchise for over half a century, couldn’t be more into it. In short, the Brooklyn Nets represent all of the things the New York Knicks of today and the recent past do not: sanity, encouragement and that coveted opportunity for a new beginning.

Despite all that, it’s much harder than I thought to take on the Nets; surprisingly, it’s harder than leaving the Knicks. I grew up in New Jersey, but in a Knicks house. I’ve stuck with the Knicks through the good and the bad. Even in that small window where the Nets looked like potential world-beaters (during which my Brooklyn-born, formerly Knicks fervid father jumped ship to the Nets—to paraphrase: “I’m too old to root for this shitty team.”), I kept the faith through Jermaine Jones, Howard Eisley and Maciej Lampe. I never wavered then, so why now? Needless to say, I feel somewhat conflicted about my opportunism.

I also have mixed feelings about the Brooklyn Nets’ place in this ongoing fetishization of Brooklyn. Between the domineering presence of Jay-Z over the team (personally and aesthetically), the local food concessions and the controversial use of eminent domain to get these perks, any notion of the Nets being a throwback franchise go out the window. This is a play, perhaps the ultimate play, to cash in on the ever-expanding Brooklyn brand. There’s nothing wrong with that, per se. Hell, I wouldn’t be living here if this tide of gentrification never swept. Still, given the highly contentious nature of the Nets’ move to Brooklyn, and everything it represents, it’s hard not to feel like a meddling interloper, rooting (loudly) for an unstoppable transformation that so many were against.

In the end, though, hell hath no fury like a spurned Knicks fan. There’s a new girl in town. Whatever cynical reservations my head has about how I met her, or how she got here, the heart wants to love. It’s been too long. So, here I come D-Will, Reggie and Gerald. Take care, STAT, Melo and Pablo.

And bye, James. We had something. I wouldn’t call it good. But it was something. You can take the couch. I’m keeping the TV.

Note: this is gleefully reposted, with permission, from NoRegard.Net, the home base of The Brooklyn Game contributor Andrew Gnerre. This post is written by law student and former Knicks fan Matt Engel.


  1. I’m not sure how controversial the use of eminent domain really was. It seems to have been just a very small, but very loud group of people who were against it. I haven’t come across a single person who is actually from Brooklyn who is upset that they built this arena. 99.9 percent of Brooklyn lifers are thrilled to have an arena like this even if they are still Knicks fans or don’t care about basketball at all.

    1. I wholeheartedly agree. I can’t put my finger on it exactly but it points to the Dolans. I’ve turned away from the Knicks and Rangers years ago and have wholeheartedly embraced the Nets. I’m even anti-Knicks now.

      Rob, I was part of the opposition to the arena. I loved the idea of the arena, but hated the accompanying towers. I’m staunchly opposed to Manhattanizing Brooklyn (bad enough it’s filling up with rich white kids). I love that Brooklyn is the anti-Manhattan. To quote Jay-Z “Born in Brooklyn, got a place in Manhattan. Moved back to Brooklyn to escape the madness.”

  2. Devin, I an new to this site and I cant be more impressive with this article and Eagle’s Podcast. It is refreshing to have die hard fans doing great stuff for net fans. You and Net Income from Netsdaily do a fantastic job bringing great Brooklyn Nets content. Keep up the great work

  3. Im a lifelong Heat fan. Born in Miami, but moved to BK in ’99. When news came out that Nets were coming I made the decision to get behind them.
    This season, I bought 1/2 season tix and could not have been more excited for the opener. I was offered $1000 for my 2 opener tickets and refused. I wanted so bad to be there for the first game ever.
    Now I won’t even have the chance to see them. They cancelled the game and broke my heart. They could have refunded the cost of the tickets (face on mine was $325!!!) and reissued them to local fans who would have been over-joyed to go.
    I would have walked from Chelsea if I had to (1-hr 36-min on google maps) just to be there. Now all I have is disappointment and a plastic ticket.

  4. The sentiment here is absolutely understandable. Dolan has really made the team into his own little device that he controls as he pleases. The eminent domain was of course controversial, and I do agree that the Nets’ authenticity will always balance against the fact that this was a real estate transaction as much as it is a Brooklyn rebirth.