Meet Chris Hooker. 12-year-old obsessive Nets fan, and about four years too old to be still drawing pictures of basketball players.
Meet Jason Kidd. 12-year-old Chris Hooker’s hero. The face of the New Jersey era of Nets basketball. One of the best point guards of all-time, who spent his prime playing in East Rutherford. Meet Jason Kidd. Brooklyn Nets free agent target.
I’m pretty confident that every Nets fan who reads our website has had some memories with Jason Kidd. It could be an alley-oop to K-Mart or Vince, a ridiculous pass in traffic, his kiss routine at the free throw line. You might remember the way he’d race by lesser point guards, leaving their sad defensive attempts in the dust, or when he’d take a game-changing three-pointer that would have you screaming at your television, until it would swish through the net and prompt a collective sigh of relief.
You might remember when it got ugly. The moments of dread when it we knew his Nets tenure was a ticking clock, those stupid migraines, the back-to-back years sneaking into the playoffs. The trade to Dallas and the shellacking that Devin Harris laid on him in Kidd’s first night back to the Izod Center.
I debated hoops with my friends in junior high school, me being the Nets fan in my area. “The Nets suck!” they’d say, more so as an attempt to get a rise out of me. Only, I could never believe it. They didn’t see what I saw. The first real Big 3 and how Kidd commanded the floor, as if he were the head coach. How could a team suck when their point guard was one of the greatest to ever play the game?
I made the drive up to Toronto for my first NBA game and being the only one in my section who cheered when his name was announced during the monotone away team player intros. I watched him more than I watched the game; my eyes focused on his off-the-ball defense, the sips of Gatorade he took on the bench. I did this while wearing a youth small Kidd jersey and a white Nike sweatband on my right arm near my elbow, all because I wanted to be Kidd as much as I wanted to watch him.
In a seventh grade English class, we had to write a speech about a famous person we’d like to meet. I wore his jersey to class that day, a picture of his headshot hung up on the blackboard behind me. “Jason Kidd is the best point guard in the league,” my presentation started. “And he plays for my favorite basketball team, the New Jersey Nets.”
Because one thing is for sure: in today’s basketball age when every team wants one of the top-seven guys in the league, it’s easy to forget that just eight years ago, the Nets had one. All you had to do was turn on the TV and you couldn’t help but root for him.
For me, what made Jason Kidd such a hero was that he was relatable. He played an old-school game, he was a teammate, a “players” player. He looked and talked like a regular dude. He didn’t give off the aura of stardom.
When I played modified basketball, I used to keep track of my assists. It didn’t matter that I was five-foot-six and played center. I knew that Jason Kidd was a pass master, and if he was cool, passing was cool. I used to grab rebounds in the paint and pass them off to the thirteen-year-old shooting guards in the perimeter. I’d dish and dish and my coach would get mad at me for not being strong in the paint, and I wouldn’t understand what was wrong. Why was being selfless such a bad thing?
Of course, now, I can only imagine how annoying that must have been and I’m sure they're glad I switched to swimming in eighth grade. But that is what Kidd taught me about basketball: you win more games if you make everyone a star.
Since his Nets departure, even age has been kind to Kidd. While his stats aren’t what they used to be, it’s obvious that he is still an effective point guard, a Stockton-like breed who can play at an NBA level for what feels like forever.
And now, Jason Kidd is a free agent and his sights are set on Brooklyn.
Legacy is a funny thing. Jason Kidd will always go down in the eyes of Nets fans as a guy who joined a team that may not have been his first choice, but he made the best of the situation and embraced it. He joined an irrelevant team and made them relevant. And when he left, he took away the pride the NBA had in the Nets.
Believe it or not, there was a time when the Nets weren’t the league laughing-stock. They were a team to be feared, they were contenders and it all had to do with the play of Jason. He put New Jersey basketball on the map, in the media, into opponents minds. That feeling hasn’t been felt by Nets fans since he left.
Jason Kidd would not make the Nets relevant again. Brooklyn and Deron Williams can do that job splendidly. But what Jason Kidd would do is remind us of the days when he was tearing it up, acting as the face for the franchise.
In other words, pure nostalgia.
And that isn’t a bad thing at all. It’s about time us Nets fans had something to feel good about, and for most of us, that was Jason Kidd. Deron Williams and Dwight Howard would be unbelievable for the obvious reasons, But putting Jason Kidd back in a Nets uniform would be great for the fans. You know, the ones who buy the tickets.
Slotting Jason Kidd in a backup role for the Nets -- a role he appears to be fine with -- makes perfect basketball sense. He and D-Will have similar styles of play and would compliment each other perfectly. His age and leadership would help in mentoring Deron’s occasional lack of attention to that part of the game. There's no one better to show Deron Williams how to be a great Brooklyn Net than the greatest New Jersey Net of all-time.
At the final game in Jersey, Kidd appeared before the sold-out crowd in video form to bid farewell to this era of basketball. His parting words?
“I’ll see you soon.”
That message, along with publicly saying Brooklyn intrigues him to back-up Deron, makes it appear that Jason Kidd has legitimate interest in returning to the Nets. For that reason alone, he should be heavily considered. Add in his history and fan support, the move seems like a slam dunk.
And I’d really like to upgrade my Kidd jersey to a large.