In an earlier post, I compared the Brooklyn Nets with the Miami Marlins of the MLB. Now, I will compare them with a different baseball team: the Los Angeles Angels. Even though the Angels haven’t had any major transformations to their franchise in the last few years like the Nets will have next year, they share an area with a more popular team in the Los Angeles Dodgers, similarly to how the Nets will share the New York area with the New York Knicks. The Brooklyn Nets should look at how the Angels attracted fans and built a successful franchise and use that as their “blueprint for greatness”.
First, let’s look at the histories of both the Nets and Angels. The Nets started off as the New Jersey Americans, but soon became the New York Nets, and they have kept their “Nets” nickname ever since. In 1977, the Nets moved to New Jersey to be called the New Jersey Nets, and next year they will become the Brooklyn Nets. The Angels have a very similar naming history. Like the Nets, they have always been in the same area and have always had the same nickname. Their franchise started off as the Los Angeles Angels, but when they moved to Anaheim in 1965, they renamed themselves the California Angels. This name stuck for a while, but in the ’90’s, they renamed themselves the Anaheim Angels to try to appeal more to the fans in Anaheim. After attracting a large fan base in Anaheim, the team again renamed itself in 2005 the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim because they wanted to attract Los Angeles fans as well.
I don’t think the Nets will ever rename themselves, “The New York Nets of Brooklyn”, but it is very interesting to see how the Angels used their location name to attract fans. In their first years as a franchise, they tried to compete with the Dodgers, who had already been in Los Angeles for a few years, and it wasn’t working. The team wasn’t very good or popular, and the owners wanted to rebrand the team. When the Angels moved to Anaheim in 1965, 4 years after their expansion, they renamed themselves the California Angels to try to attract fans from all across the state. This worked to some extent, and they did have fans. However, by the ’90’s, there were 4 other baseball teams in the state of California, and the Angels really wanted to narrow their focus to one area: Anaheim. This is similar to how the Nets want to focus on Brooklyn, at least in the beginning. During their time as the Anaheim Angels, the franchise finally became a consistent winner, and won their first world series in 2002. By 2005, the Angels wanted to try to get Los Angeles fans to come over and root for the team, and therefore renamed themselves the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The Nets are quite a long ways away from trying to convince all New York fans to root for the team. I believe they are at the stage equivalent to when the California Angels became the Anaheim Angels. In 1996, the year before the California to Anaheim name change, the Angels finished with a bad record yet again and hadn’t made the playoffs in 10 years. The Nets are in a very similar situation. They haven’t made the playoffs in 5 years. After the name change, the team finished above .500 3 of the next 4 years, and finally won a world series in 2002. Attendance also shot up for those teams and they replaced the Dodgers as the exciting team to watch in Los Angeles. The Nets need to have a similar transformation. I don’t think they need to win the NBA championship next season, but they do need to make the playoffs. In the NBA, more than half the teams make the playoffs, and the Nets are definitely due for a playoff birth. The Nets still have three years left on Mikhail Prokhorov’s guarantee that they will win a championship in the first five years of his ownership.
Even though the Angels did not move, they rebranded themselves when they decided to call themselves Anaheim, and one can say that Anaheim is to Los Angeles as Brooklyn is to New York City. Both are definitely their own places, but they are in the same area as another bigger city. The Angels did a great job at winning over Anaheim. In fact, they did such a good job that they thought they could own Los Angeles too, and that is why they changed their name. I don’t think that the Nets’ goal is to own New York City, at least not in the beginning. First, they want to have everybody in Brooklyn rooting for them. Once (if) that is accomplished, then they can work at getting the rest of the city away from the Knicks. Right now, it seems like the Knicks are all powerful and mighty, but that can definitely change. When the Dodgers were winning world series’s in the ’80’s, no Dodger fan would have ever believed that one day the Angels would be more popular. But then, when the Dodgers had a 7-year postseason drought between 1997 and 2003, the Angels became Los Angeles’s team. Even though it may look impossible right now, the Knicks fan base can crumble.
The Nets can have all the pretty colors, logos, and fans they want their first year in Brooklyn, but eventually, everything will come down to winning. If the Nets don’t win, Knicks fans are going to stay Knicks fans, even if the Knicks don’t win either. If, during the Dodger’s playoff drought I mentioned above, the Angels didn’t vastly improve and win a world series, the Angels would not have become a popular team. The Angels went out and got good players, coaches, and front office people, and this led them to a world championship. Even today, 10 years after their world series, they are able to get big name free agents, like Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson last offseason. The question for the Nets is, will Brooklyn become an attractive place for free agents to go? In the early ’90’s, no free agent would have wanted to go to Anaheim, but now it has become a popular destination. Can the Nets make a similar transformation and turn Brooklyn into a basketball hotspot?
Do you think the Nets will be able to make a similar transformation to the one that the Angels made? Post your thoughts in the comments section below.