When this season began, the potential blooming rivalry between the Nets and Knicks was one of the more frequently discussed storylines. I’ll admit, it was one I wasn’t even all that excited about, with the prospect of another inner-city conflict leaving me all, “Can’t we all just get along?” The welcome respite from crosstown hatreds that was basketball season had always been a looked forward to cooling of tensions, when Jet and Giant, Yankee and Met, could sit around at the table of brotherhood and root on the Knicks.
There was also the sense that this was largely a media creation. Despite spending years within only a few miles of each other, a Nets/Knicks rivalry had never blossomed before, with neither team ever clicking at the same time, nor really concerning themselves with the other all that much. So it was fair to wonder whether this alleged Brooklyn horde was really going to arise out of the ether.
But ultimately, fans and media don’t really create rivalries, players do. And for all the talk coming from both sides that this was just another game, their play spoke otherwise. It was decided on that court last night that this is a game that matters. Amongst themselves, two teams made clear that there are stakes in these proceedings, and that who wins the battle of New York is a thing we should care about.
It certainly meant something for Carmelo Anthony, who didn’t just want to win this game, he demanded it. Melo’s much ballyhooed Brooklyn roots has often felt a little forced, as a way to make us all feel like he’s really one of us. But for all the contrivance of his “Welcome Home” video blaring at MSG, Melo made clear it was authentic to him. He wanted to win in his hometown. He made certain we knew that it matters.
And so a rivalry is born, in the most organic way possible. Because no matter how much hype you throw around, or fake narrative we create, it only matters if it translates to that court. You can’t fake what happened last night.
So the Knicks won another regular season game, though I suppose Brooklyn won a little something too. For years, the Nets just wanted everyone to notice them, “Hey! Look over here! We have uniforms and everything,” a validation they may have finally earned.
We see you, Brooklyn. And now we must crush you. This should be fun.