“I asked for two things out of my partners in ownership is that we rename the New Jersey Nets the Brooklyn Nets, and the second one is that I open it with a concert,” Shawn Carter said at a press conference in front of the under-construction Barclays Center yesterday, which made official the team’s name.
Really Jay? One of the best lyricists in hip-hop history, and the best you could come up with was the Brooklyn Nets?
Granted it is better than what had been rumored to be the team’s new name last Fall, the Brooklyn New Yorkers, an apparent bid to sucker everybody without calling the team the New York Nets or the New York Dodgers, or what have you.
The Transom had been pulling for the Brooklyn Brownstones or Brobos or, our favorite, Deckers. The reaction seemed equally mixed online—it was the No. 2 trending topic on Twitter yesterday!—with fans throwing out everything from the Brooklyn Knights (Get it!) to the Brooklyn Oligarchs, a nod to owner Mikhail Prokhorov. “Not getting rid of the name Nets is a major mistake,” Darren Rovell, host of CNBC’s Sports Biz show, tweeted. “Chance to rebrand themselves, get attention.”
Bruce Ratner, who engineered the team’s move to Brooklyn as part of his imminent and eminent Atlantic Yards development, told WNYC that Mr. Prokhorov was actually the man responsible for picking the teams name, and he was said to value the history of the team name.
The Transom thought we could do better, so we reached out to a cadre of branding consultants to help find a more apt handle for the team.
Michael Neuman, the managing partner at Scout Sports and Entertainment, said that as the third home of the team, with roots on Long Island, keeping the Nets name made sense, even if the glory years of Dr. Jay and even Jason Kidd are a distant memory. More importantly, by keeping the team name the same, it emphasizes the Brooklyn. “I think it’s the Brooklyn that will come before the Nets when people think of this team,” he said. Much as Brooklynites might chafe at the idea of a Jersey import, “It’s the first team in 50 years,” Mr. Neuman said. “That means a lot.”
Still, if he had to pick a new name, the exec, who has worked on projects ranging from Geico’s NHL sponsorship to Pfizer’s 2002 Olympics partnership, said he would go for something historic, if a little offbeat, like the Brooklyn Dutch or even the Brooklyn Brewskies. “Brooklyn was once the brewing capital of the country,” Mr. Neuman pointed out, and the cross-promotional possibilities are obvious.
“I’m actually impressed with their restraint,” said Sam Wilson, a partner at international branding concern Wolff Olins. “You could seem them doing something silly, you know, if Jay-Z had a bigger ego, they might be the Jigga Nets. They could have made a bad decision that would have made it about them instead of about the community.”
Ilan Beesen, a naming consultant at Interbrand who happens to live two blocks from the new arena, about which he said he has mixed feelings, agreed that there were inherent risks in renaming a team. “They do have to be careful when they name for a specific element in their location or their region, it could be offensive,” he said. “Like the Brooklyn Shooters.”
He noted that the Brooklyn Kings would be perfect, but since Sacremento beat us to it, perhaps the Brooklyn Monarchs. The Brooklyn Coasters would be good—Coney Island, East Coast, fast—but that could also be the kind of connotations that led many to call for a team name change: there has not been a winning season since 2005 (the year after Mr. Ratner bought the team) and, despite some illustrious history, it has only won 16 of 44 seasons.
And what does New York’s most famous basketball fan, and Brooklyn native, Spike Lee think?
“All I care about as far as basketball goes, professional basketball, is the orange and blue,” he told us. “The New York Knickerbockers.”
Speaking of catchy names.