KD and Kyrie Gentrified Old Hopes for New York Basketball
The NBA duo left the Brooklyn Nets in a newer condition than before but is that better?
When I was growing up in Canarsie, riding the hour-plus daily commute to school, I stopped for a hearty breakfast at the bagel shop. The bagel shop was next to Original Pizza. Original Pizza neighbored the Canarsie Triplex. I learned to love stories and writing when I was inside of a movie theater. It’s closed now, as are many of the shops on that stretch of Avenue L. I’ve learned to watch awnings change, diminish, empty, or disappear without mourning the loss.
These are businesses, not families, not memories. New York doesn’t let you keep many attachments, especially not to Mom-and-Pops or storefronts not listed on the Dow Jones. We aren’t a city of locals, though our blocks sometimes lull us into that lie.
As a kid, it was fated I’d love the Knicks. Its star was a Jamaican immigrant who bloomed into an all-world athlete around age 18. In a city of dreamers, workers, and accents, Patrick Ewing was the perfect avatar for my American story. He was also a worthy opponent to everyone including and up to Michael Jordan, the Black man cut from superhero onyx and indefatigable at winning. MJ was assigned to crush hope and he rejoiced in it. Ewing was the harbinger of hopes and then, with a missed layup, dreams deferred. That’s the first time I learned not to cling to New York, even when I desperately wanted to.
By my twenties, tired of the Knicks’ flailing attempts at winning, signing bloated players, evangelizing mismanagement, and disrespect for fans, I started to shift away from basketball as a metaphor for New York. Or maybe they were a metaphor, just for a different New York, a gentrified one. The Knicks stood for greed and gluttony, false pride and impulsiveness, and eventually, tragic spectacle.
Basketball is an interest driven by personalities and what they symbolize.
Dirk Nowitzki was an artful example of skills crossed with the plodding, deliberate sensibilities of gentle movement. Shaquille O’Neal was a fake bully, still very much hurt by comparisons made to legends who had forged bolder, brighter legacies than his. Kobe Bryant was a bookish lonesome…