New York Knicks’ All-Star forward Carmelo Anthony said the next generation of National Basketball Association fans in his Brooklyn birthplace will root for the Nets.
“We all know from the Jackie Robinson days, that was the last time we actually had something to believe in,” Anthony said at the Bloomberg Sports Business Summit hosted by Bloomberg Link in New York. “Now, with the young kids that are coming up these days, that’s their team. They grow up under the Brooklyn Nets and that’s their team.”
The Nets, owned by Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, moved to New York’s most-populated borough last season from Newark, New Jersey. Major League Baseball’s Brooklyn Dodgers moved to Los Angeles in 1958, two years after Robinson retired, leaving a 55-year major professional sports team void in the borough.
Madison Square Garden, the Knicks’ home in Manhattan, is a six-mile drive from the Nets’ Barclays Center.
With the move, Brooklyn made roster additions that increased the team’s winning percentage to .542 last season, when it finished five games behind the Knicks for the Atlantic Division crown, from .333 in 2011-12.
In June, 10-time All-Star guard Jason Kidd retired after 19 seasons in the NBA, the final one with the Knicks, and was hired to coach the Nets. Brooklyn traded for veterans Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Jason Terry from the Boston Celtics and signed free-agent forward Andrei Kirilenko.
“I love it,” Anthony said about the Nets’ move and roster changes. “I think it’s great for sports, I think it’s great for New York and I think it’s great for us as a Knicks’ organization to have somebody that we can compete with on a consistent basis. That is going to be the best rivalry in basketball for a long, long time.”
Among New York boroughs, Brooklyn has a population of 2.5 million people, followed by Queens at 2.2 million, Manhattan at 1.6 million, the Bronx at 1.4 million and Staten Island at 469,000, according to Brooklyn.com, which cites 2010 census data.
The NBA rivalries will extend into households in his old neighborhood of Red Hook, as younger fans grow up, said Anthony, a 29-year-old who won the league scoring title last season at 28.7 points per game.
“It’s going to be a funny thing to see the kids growing up there, how they convert from Knicks’ fans to Nets’ fans,” he said. “The household might be Knicks’ fans and the kids might be Nets’ fans, so it’s a rivalry everywhere, in the households, on the basketball courts, in the streets, in the boroughs. It’s everywhere, and it makes it fun for the game.”
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