RJ Barrett, Kyrie Irving
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

Round 1 of the NBA King of the 5 Boroughs goes to the Brooklyn Nets. Will the New York Knicks answer quickly or fade into the night? 

In recent years the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks have waged a battle for the NBA’s King of New York. On Friday night, the battle resumed with the Nets holding off a valiant Knicks comeback.

Kyrie Irving’s end-of-game statement put an exclamation point on Round 1.

Opening night didn’t work for either squad (save for Kyrie’s 50). The hapless Knicks traveled to the Alamo City, fought valiantly against the San Antonio Spurs; but like Davy Crockett, they succumbed to the opposition.

Meanwhile, on Flatbush, the Nets engaged in a memorable battle versus a young but talented Minnesota Timberwolves team who was victorious barely at the final whistle in overtime.

While the borough of Brooklyn took the first one, there’s still an entire season to be played.

Tale of the tape


To be crowned King of New York, the on-court talent must be taken into consideration.

The Nets, led by general manager Sean Marks has a robust on-court presence. During the offseason free-agency period, Brooklyn landed All NBA players Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Other notable additions included DeAndre Jordan, Taurean Prince and Wilson Chandler. Durant is recovering from his Achilles ailment while Chandler is serving a 25-game suspension for PED usage.

The Knicks tanked their season again. For their troubles, the drafted talented Canadian player and Duke star RJ Barrett. It’s worth noting that though the Knicks were pursuing a Duke star; Barrett was not their first choice (as was the case for the entire league).

Also noteworthy, the Knicks filled their roster with forwards. Taj Gibson, Julius Randle, Marcus Morris and Bobby Portis were their acquisitions. Not exactly All-Star caliber.

Obviously, New York will try to bully its way to victory this season. In fairness, they have to try something. After a paltry 17-win season last year, the Knicks are desperate to be relevant again.

The fans’ perspective

For some, especially those who root on the Nets, Knicks fans can be a little too much at times. A prime example is ESPN’s superstar contributor Stephen A, Smith. An unapologetic Knicks fan, Smith is never pleased or satisfied.

Everyone remembers the infamous rant following the Knicks drafting of Kristaps Porzingis. Smith eventually issued a mea culpa, but obviously, he did not learn his lesson.

On his show, First Take, Smith dished out his smoldering opinions on former GM Phil Jackson after the 2017 NBA Draft.

This next video is Smith expressing skepticism about the Knicks latest draftee, Barrett.

The embodiment of Knicks fandom, Smith, is now questioning Barrett’s ability to be a star.

Superstar fandom

Being called King of New York is much more than defeating the opponent. Style, flair and star entertainers also come into the equation. The Garden has its stalwarts. The biggest NBA fan in the world is a filmmaker and legendary Knicks fan Spike Lee. Tennis legend John McEnroe, film director Woody Allen, radio shock jock Howard Stern and actor Ben Stiller headline the Knicks courtside seats throughout the season.

At Barclays, Nets super fandom, though, still in its infancy, has their stalwart as well. When in New York, music icon and legend, Beyonce, is seen courtside. Former President Bill Clinton, Sir Paul McCartney and Rihanna are seen in Brooklyn from time to time. Same for English football legend David Beckham. Remember, Beckham named his first son Brooklyn.

Players’ perspective

Knicks forward Taj Gibson is a Brooklyn native. Gibson believes New York City belongs to the Knicks.

“It’s always going to be a Knicks town. That’s all we grew up on,” Gibson told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

Kevin Durant disagrees. In an interview on New York radio station Hot 97, Durant expressed his point of view.

“I think a lot of fans look at the Knicks as a brand and expect these younger players in their lifetime don’t remember the Knicks being good. I’ve seen the Knicks in the Finals, but kids coming up after me didn’t see that. So that whole brand of the Knicks is not as cool as let’s say the Golden State Warriors, or even the Lakers or the Nets now.”

Final thoughts

While the five boroughs remain Knicks fans largely, the Nets are quietly, quickly and methodically gaining ground. Through shrewd moves and some fortuitous results, Marks continues to position this organization in great stead. The Knicks have shown improvement and competence over the last two seasons.

Front office addition Scott Perry continues to bear fruit. The Knicks appear to have a plan leading to normalcy and respectability.

In Brooklyn, there are whispers about championship contention. After all, Brooklyn is part of New York; thus, the delusional thought process at times is contagious.

The NBA’s King of New York war wages on, and as of now, there is no end in sight. Season 2019-20, Round 1 goes to the Nets. Round 2 and onward will help New York sort out its basketball-loving world further.