Nets blogger Bob Windrem at Nets Daily talks about his personal experience with Brooklyn sports:

On August 27, 1955, I traveled by bus with Cub Scout Pack 10 from Cliffwood Beach, NJ, to Brooklyn to see the Dodgers play the Cincinnati Redlegs. It was good time to go: The season was drawing to a close, the Dodgers were comfortably in first (on their way to their last championship in Brooklyn) and it was a chance for manager Walt Alston to experiment. Seats were cheap.

As we traveled across the bridge over the Raritan River, it looked so big to us kids that there was general foreboding, alleviated only by the cubmaster leading us in song. We drove through Manhattan, this was a decade before the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge was complete, and through Brooklyn to Ebbetts Field, piling out of the bus, with our Brooklyn blue Dodgers caps, balls and gloves. I was a Dodger fan back then, so it was a big thrill for a little guy.

We settled in the left field bleachers. I marveled at how close I was to Sandy Amoros and how green the field was. I remember being very quiet, almost reverential.

Read More: NetsDaily -- A Personal Journey Back to Brooklyn

 

Sandy Koufax during his basketball days.

 

 

 

 

With all the Brooklyn Dodgers nostalgia, it’s tempting to think that basketball only recently became The Brooklyn Game.  I was struck then reading the wonderful Jane Leavy biography of Dodger icon/hero Sandy Koufax by this:

When he was growing up, baseball was neither Koufax’s dream nor his passion. His dream was to play for the New York Knicks…

Koufax didn’t play much basketball…until his family returned to Brooklyn, where every open space was a court, or a half court, and every fire escape ladder was a potential basket.  Others practiced shooting; Koufax practice the anonymous, contentious skill of rebounding….

He scoured the borough in search of The Big Game, which invariably took place at Brighton Beach, where playground legends, college stars, and pros gathered to hone their games, and the game basketball could become. Back then, no one knew from vertical leap.  Vertical was for skyscrapers.  But Koufax had wattage in his legs, hands large enough to palm the ball, and he didn’t shy away from contact. On the playground, players asked: You sure this boy is white? “He was just a skinny Jewish kid in a bandanna who challenged our small little prejudices,” [Jerry] Della Femina said.

Soon his name began to appear in the fine print of the Brooklyn Eagle sports pages, usually misspelled. Caufax. Kaufox. Kofax, Kauflex, Kouflex. “He was an incredibly smooth basketball player,” said Alan Dershowitz, another neighborhood kid who made good—as a legal authority and auth or I, Dershowitz Fame. “He would fake a jumper, drive the baseline, come under the boards and reverse the dunk. We weren’t used to that.”

His friends remember a dramatic moment in 1953, In an exhibition game with the Knicks, Koufax impressed the pros with his dunks and ended up playing basketball and baseball at the University of Cincinnati, where he was discovered by the Dodgers.

 

From all the hoopla surrounding the arrival of the Brooklyn Nets to the new Barclays Center, one would think that they are the first significant basketball team the borough has ever seen.

Not so. Brooklyn was home to a historic basketball first, way back in 1906, when the the Smart Set Athletic Club of Brooklyn, an African American social and sports organization, launched the first formally organized and independently run all-black basketball team.

The team, nicknamed the Grave Diggers because of their on-court dominance, played their first game in 1907 as part of a dynamic all-black Olympian Athletic League.

The Smart Set Brooklyn Basketball Team

The Smart Set Brooklyn Basketball Team


It was the beginning of the Black Fives Era, the period of prior to the racial integration of the National Basketball Association, during which dozens of all-black teams emerged and thrived in New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Washington, D.C. and elsewhere.

Smart Set basketball games included music and dancing until well past midnight. “Never in the history of Brooklyn, has such a galaxy of colored persons assembled under one roof,” exclaimed the New York Age, a leading African American newspaper, one such event.

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