There are entertainingly inept teams – take the Clippers, for example. Recent success notwithstanding, they’ve been hilariously putrid for over three decades, as Bill Simmons notably detailed in a fantastic column from three years ago. Or take their NFL equivalent, the New York Jets. Most of their history can be summed up with this YouTube clip.
There are teams that are heartbreakingly inept, always coming close to the top but never quite over it. You can ask Chicago Cubs or Minnesota Vikings fans about that. Or, there is off-the-mountaintop ineptitude – teams that once dominated their sports, but have now become pure laughingstocks. Oakland Raiders and New York Islanders, you’re the poster children for this category.
The dear, departed New Jersey Nets do not belong to any of those categories; their ineptitude has been so bland, so vanilla, that it hardly even warrants a classification (for a great, detailed romp through their history, check out this fantastic New York Times article. They’re the worst kind of bad – they’re irrelevant. For thirty years, they were little more than a quirky little pit stop on an east-coast swing through powerhouses like New York, Philadelphia and Boston, playing in a state whose allegiances and attention were firmly focused elsewhere. Even their two NBA championship appearances garnered little more than a yawn in the Garden State.
The question now becomes if the Nets can be a success after they head to Brooklyn, ditching “New Jersey” and picking up a new logo in the process (). They certainly have some star power behind the scenes, with Jay-Z as the face of the franchise and Russian gadzillionaire Mikhail Prokhorov (who appears to be continually auditioning to be the next Bond villain) providing the rubles to run it. On the court, though … they’re still the same old collection of cast-offs, draft blunders and expensive missteps that they’ve been since their inception, finishing 12th in the Eastern Conference this year. Their lone star, point guard Deron Williams, might depart for his hometown Mavericks after this season as a free agent; beyond him, the cupboard is bare. There are rumors of Dwight Howard, but who knows the direction that fickle superstar might move in.
Jay-Z and Comrade Prokhorov will have a little bit of a grace period – as all franchises do, with a new owner and a new location – but they need to show something big to the fans, and quick. It won’t take long for them to realize that all the musical talent or business acumen in the world won’t matter at all if the “W” column doesn’t get filled up.