Hello, Brooklyn!

Sports meets culture meets fashion meets neighborhood rivalry meets celebrity support. It may not get juicier than the New York Knicks versus Brooklyn Nets competition, which will debut in the season opener on Nov. 1 at the Barclays Center. The battle was made for TV and the confrontational blogosphere. Let the games begin.

Goodbye New Jersey, hello Brooklyn

On Nov. 1, the borough of Dodgers’ fame will give Manhattan a run for its money – but then, hasn’t it always? – as the Brooklyn Nets make their debut against their cross-river rivals and another NBA season gets under way. Indeed, when Brook Lopez faces off against the New York Knicks’ Tyson Chandler in the tip-off, the teams will be vying for more than just athletic superiority. The subtext is rich and the stakes couldn’t be higher.

The Nets’ move from New Jersey to their new digs, the Barclays Center, means fresh excitement for fans and a possible game-changer for the Knicks. It’s a rocky rivalry that was made for the tube and the confrontational blogosphere. This is about more than just sports. Choosing to root for the Nets or the Knicks – like rooting for the Yanks or Mets, Giants or Jets – is also a decision of cultural and regional identity that requires some reflection.

Are you a longtime Knicks’ fan but live in Brooklyn? Do you live in Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island or the suburbs but identify more with the Brooklyn lifestyle? Did you lose hope when the Knicks’ James Dolan traded last year’s freshman star Jeremy Lin and don’t want to watch yet another losing season? Which team’s celebrity star players are more noteworthy – the Knicks’ Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire and Mike Bibby or the Nets’ Joe Johnson, Deron Williams and Kris Humphries (aka Kim Kardashian’s ex)? And which uniform colors do you prefer?

Nets vs. Knicks is about a fashion and personal branding, too. The simple, black-and-white Nets logo is already crowding the bold cobalt blue and bright orange Knicks merchandise on the shelves of Manhattan sports apparel and hip-hop stores. Riding the subway and walking through downtown, it’s easy to observe the growing popularity of Brooklyn T-shirts, hoodies and fitted hats worn by a stew of hip-hop, skater, athletic, fashionable and hipster men, women and their children.

The Nets have launched their branding strategy with careful precision, creating an apparel font that evokes an Old School feel. It says, “We’ve always been here.” And to that same effect, their Barclays Center court design offers a vintage vibe with a darker finish on a herringbone pattern.

At the same time, the Nets’ stark black-and-white palette is very edgy, very modern, very Williamsburg, very Dumbo (see related story), very noir. Very New York.  (Which is ironic, when you think that the Knicks sport the city’s official colors – orange, blue and white.)

Still,  the Nets’ crisp, understated merchandise is easier to wear if you’re not a big sports fan.  Hats that simply read “Brooklyn” are popping up in music videos, as well. Perhaps it’s only a matter of time before they start turning up in London, along with the Tiffany-designed  logo of the Yankees, the Nets’ Yes Network compadres. (See story on the Bronx Bombers.)

Having celebrities wearing the apparel is always a good selling point. The Nets can now count on minority owner (and Brooklyn-born rapper) Jay-Z to supply Brooklyn apparel to his wife Beyoncé, his league of famous friends and the artists on his record label. Jay-Z is also designing the Nets’ home game whites, which should stand out on that herringbone court. On the other hand, the Knicks have their own super-fan, filmmaker Spike Lee, sitting courtside in his chunky-framed glasses and flashy orange and blue attire.

It’s ironic that Lee was raised in Brooklyn, not far from the Nets’ new home. He made his mark in the film industry with six poignant, nuanced movies about life in Brooklyn. This past August, he released “Red Hook Summer,” which explores the hip-ified Brooklyn neighborhood. And yet, despite a childhood spent in Brooklyn and a love-hate relationship with the struggling Knicks, Spike Lee, like so many New Yorkers, will always bleed orange and blue.

In an August New York Times interview, Spike Lee said, “My son is going to be orange and blue, and his son after him. And they are going to bury me in these colors,” adding, “in Brooklyn.”

Let the games begin.

Shop at Brooklynnets.com.

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