NEW YORK CITY – In a press conference Wednesday in downtown Manhattan, a long-discussed rumor was finally confirmed: The NBA will hold its 2015 All-Star Weekend in New York City, hosted by both the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Knicks. The real quandary to how the two teams will share hosting duties was also revealed: The Knicks will host the All-Star Game in Madison Square Garden on Sunday, while the Nets get All-Star Friday and Saturday nights (which include the Dunk Contest and Rookie Challenge, among other events) in the Barclays Center.
Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden and Brooklyn’s Barclays Center are just over five miles apart, connected by just a handful of subway stops. MSG has been in its current location in midtown Manhattan since 1968, while Barclays has only been open for business in Brooklyn for less than a year. Yet the two franchises are already seemingly becoming increasingly separated. Already this summer we’ve seen talk back and forth from Knicks and Nets players, fanning the flames of their nascent rivalry. In many ways the players seem to be reflecting their respective ownerships, as the two group’s arenas battle for the right to host various high-profile events and concerts. There was a recent report that things were becoming so heated between the groups that Commissioner David Stern had to gather Knicks owner James Dolan and Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov to broker something of a détente. Stern addressed and dismissed the seriousness of that meeting during Wednesday’s press conference; Dolan, when asked what he got out of the meeting, quipped, “A free lunch.”
In regard to the Knicks getting the headlining event of All-Star Weekend, the actual All-Star Game, and the Nets getting the rest of the weekend’s events, Stern said: “There’s no upper hand here.”
Dolan seemed to accept that a rivalry between the Knicks and Nets is, in many ways, inevitable. “New York is used to rivalries,” Dolan said. “We’ve seen quite a few of them in our day. Maybe the most famous is Brooklyn [Dodgers] versus the Yankees, in hockey we see it in the Rangers versus the Islanders and Devils. And they’re nothing but good. They’re nothing but fun for the fans, great for business. And I think they push the teams involved to even greater heights, athletically. So, it’s good thing. I expect that that will continue to go on. The All-Star game, we take a time-out from the rhetoric and promote basketball and a great game, and we’ll do a great job all together.”
And Dolan didn’t even mention other contemporary Gotham conflicts such as Yankees/Mets or Giants/Jets. Discussions of a rivalry are natural and understandable, and they make excellent talk radio and social media fodder, but the real truth is simple: New York loves winners. Considering how neither the Nets nor Knicks has won a title in recent memory, the Knicks seem to have a current popularity edge due mostly to squatter’s rights — they’ve been around Manhattan longer than the Brooklyn Nets have. Until either of these teams is able to sustain winning at the highest level, things like geographic proximity and relative uniform coolness will likely play deciding roles in fans choosing a favorite franchise.
But until one of these teams wins a ring and establishes a clear dominance, it sure is fun to talk about.