The Brooklyn Nets made their much-anticipated move from the swamps of New Jersey to the intersection of Flatbush and Atlantic last fall, and an instant NYC basketball rivalry with the Knicks was born. Both teams were also playoff-bound and relevant at the same time in the NBA for the first time since… well, ever, which added a little credibility and gravitas to the fledgling inter-city rivalry.
And so, “Battle of the Boroughs” or “Borough Ball” or “This town isn’t big enough for all these ridiculous tattoos” was born.
Two classics in Brooklyn, including overtime in the first game and a controversial Jason Kidd three in the final thirty seconds in the other, christen the rivalry. The first game across the East River wasn’t as memorable, but the series rebounded in the season finale on MLK day for some late Big Shot Joe Johnson heroics. When the dust settled, both teams had two wins a piece. Was the first year a success? According to Johnson it was.
“You’ve got two teams in New York. They want to be the top dogs. We want to be the top dogs. It’s a battle. We split. We’ll see what happens next,” he said.
What happened next, after both teams were eliminated from the Eastern Conference playoffs, was the Nets upping the ante, first hiring recently retired Knick Jason Kidd as head coach and then bringing in aviator Paul Pierce and Honey Nut Cheerios fan Kevin Garnett from the Knicks’ historical bête noire, the Boston Celtics. The rivalry was poised to heat up both in basketball quality and personal animosity.
But instead, the Knicks and Nets have crapped the proverbial bed, entering into their first meeting of the season with a combined 8-26 record. Where we once had a fun alliterative moniker like “Battle of the Boroughs”, we now have third-rate headline and throwaway Nas lyric “Battle of the Rotten Apple.” To add injury to crappy basketball, we won’t even get to see Knicks killer Paul Pierce face off against the Manhattanites. Not to mention Deron Williams (doubtful), Andrei Kirilenko, or hell, even Jason Terry. Le Sigh.
In (dis)honor of rotten apple basketball, we recap the four games of Borough Ball 1.0, when it was a more auspicious time for the rivalry. Pierce isn’t playing, but we’ll recap the Truth and KG’s history with the Knicks, too. And just because we’re gluttons for punishment, why not a look back at the last time both of these teams were this bad, 2009-10?