Janet Babin, Host, WNYC News
Janet Babin is a host and reporter at WNYC.
The Big Apple’s basketball scene has long been dominated by the Knicks at Madison Square Garden. But this year they're getting competition for the hearts and dollars of New York City basketball fans from the city’s newest basketball team, the Brooklyn Nets. Team officials confirmed that 10,000 season tickets have already been sold for the Nets in the team's new $1 billion arena.
Almost half of the tickets sold — 45 percent — were purchased by Brooklyn natives.
Sports analysts said the numbers are good news for a team that struggled in the offseason.
“What the Nets have been able to do so successfully, very early on, is to really capture the heart of Brooklyn,” said NYU Sports Management Professor Wayne McDonnell.
He attributed the surge of season ticket sales to Brooklyn residents excited about the return of a professional sports team to the borough. The last professional sports team to make its home in Brooklyn was the Dodgers, which headed to L.A. in 1957.
Selling so many season tickets, which can cost over $5,000, is an impressive feat for a team that entered the offseason with a lot of question marks surrounding the lineup. The Nets star player Deron Williams was eligible for free agency and there were signs that he would leave the team after its weak season last year. But the team's Russian billionaire owner, Mikhail Prokhorov, was able to turn things around by recruiting new talent.
“He convinced Williams to stay by acquiring another all star guard, Joe Johnson from the Atlanta Hawks,” said Jacob Eisenberg, a sports columnist at TheFanManifesto.
The team also got some star power from Rap mogul Jay-Z, a part owner of the team who was instrumental in bring the Nets from New Jersey to Brooklyn. But fans and location also likely appealed to players.
“There is definitely an appeal for these players to go to the big market where they can get more money in endorsements and have a bigger fan base,” said Eisenberg.
It’s uncertain how many more season tickets will be made available. Season ticket holders usually get added perks, such as being offered playoff or championship tickets first.
“We haven’t decided how many there will be,” said Barry Baum, senior vice president for communications with the Nets. The arena seats 18,000 for basketball games.
The team will have its first preseason game at Barclays Arena on October 15 and play its first regular season game there on November 1.