As part of the "Punch List" year-end culture roundup in its December 2012 issue, GQ magazine asked hip-hop icon Jay-Z to identify the five coolest things about the Brooklyn Nets, the NBA franchise of which he owns a small part and which he helped revamp and reboot, leaving far behind its sub-chic New Jersey past in search of blacker, whiter and (at the gates and concessions) greener pastures. As you might expect, Jay — who turns 43 years old on Tuesday, so happy birthday, Hov — identified the jerseys and logos he helped design, the team's unique herringbone-patterned home court, the rust-roofed but beautiful Barclays Center in which the Nets play, the swaggering borough in which it's located and, naturally, himself ("Me? Ha, I am Brooklyn").
While it doesn't include the fact that the Nets themselves are pretty cool right now — their 11-5 record gives them the East's third-best mark, they rank ninth in the league in points scored per 100 possessions and 12th in the league in points-allowed-per-100 (last year's swan-song version of the New Jersey Nets finished 23rd and 29th, respectively), they're winning despite neither member of the much-ballyhooed Deron Williams/Joe Johnson backcourt looking consistently sharp, and they've already beaten the crosstown rival New York Knicks in their inaugural intra-city meeting — it is a pretty good list. If you really wanted to, though, you could also pick a handful of things about the Nets that, deep down, in the places you don't talk about at parties (probably because you are not invited to very many parties), you all know aren't very cool.
Well, I really wanted to. Here's mine; feel free to weigh in with yours in the comments.
Kris Humphries having Tony Siragusa make him a man cave.
There are those who would cite a number of other factors in detailing the Nets power forward's uncoolness — the perpetually annoying drama surrounding his courtship of, 72-day marriage to and subsequent separation from Kim Kardashian, perhaps, which earned him recognition as the NBA player most hated by the general public in a Nielsen poll, or his predilection toward doing stuff like send Kanye West a subpoena in a Nordstrom box or rock what appear to be leather briefs and a gun in a fashion shoot. But while an argument could be made that those things had cool elements (consorting with a lady many find quite fetching, zinging an ex and her current beau, being someone attractive enough to be asked to do a fashion shoot), turning to a former baby-back rib proprietor and asking him to pimp your swinging bachelor pad by installing metal wall panels and putting your initials all over everything seems a little less ambiguous. Sweet see-through TV/bedroom wall, though, brah.
The whole "Reggie Evans flopping and everyone accepting it like it's no big deal" thing.
Evans has been a legitimate game-changer off the Brooklyn bench. He leads the Nets in rebounds per game despite playing less than 20 minutes a night, grabs better than one-third of available opponents' misses and more than one-fourth of all total missed shots while on the court (both of which currently lead the NBA, according to Basketball-Reference.com) and gives Brooklyn a much-needed defensive boost when he enters the game — in his 313 minutes of playing time on the season, the Nets have allowed opponents to score an average of 93.5 points per 100 possessions (better than the NBA-leading defensive efficiency turned in by the Memphis Grizzlies), as opposed to 105.9-per-100 mark (which would rank 26th among 30 NBA teams) in the 460 minutes he's sat, according to NBA.com's stat tool.
He extends possessions, he bruises opposing bigs — he's a rugged, physical presence, a 6-foot-8, 250-pound tank ... who hits the deck whenever a mild breeze blows through the arena.
I am not a true son of the "eliminate flopping" cause — you can find that particular crusade elsewhere — and I understand that he's taking advantage of opportunities available to him within the existing structure of the game, which will then be reviewed and could leave him subject to penalties, like the landmark $5,000 fine he recently received. It's all in the game, and I get that. It's still pretty uncool to see a giant bulldozer, a pituitary Freeway, flailing interminably, though.
Andray Blatche, just in general.
Again, the play — a shade over 19 points, 11 boards, two assists, a block and a steal per 36 minutes off the pine — and the effort — significantly improved over his days with the Washington Wizards — have been great, and the way he's linked up with Evans to patrol the paint when Humphries and star center Brook Lopez have gone to the bench has been huge for coach Avery Johnson.
But again: Nooooooooooooope.
Brook Lopez, likewise.
I mean, duh. We've long since known that Lopez — who was playing great before suffering a recent right foot sprain that's cost him the last two games, and will keep him out of Tuesday night's matchup with the red-hot Oklahoma City Thunder — was the kind of comic book- and video game-loving nerd whom Internet-heavy basketball fans could love, but whom broader audiences would never confuse with someone cool.
I'd initially included Josh Childress' persistent, now-depressing Afro here — my thinking was that what used to be a cool conversation piece now serves as an uncool reminder of how quickly things can fall apart, as the 29-year-old swingman's career has gone astray these last few years — but BDL reader @dmelendi reminded me that I had somehow forgotten about the Brooklyn Nets' new mascot, the BrooklyKnight (as in "Brooklynite"), who makes a lot more sense as a fifth option here, seeing as how he seems sort of like the NFL Superpro of NBA mascots.
As my colleague Eric Freeman wrote after the BrooklyKnight's recent unveiling, the team's protector/vigilante/possible Mikhail Prokhorov alter-ego in a Bruce Wayne-is-Batman type of situation looks less like a cool and imposing character or a fun-for-the-whole-family in-game entertainment attraction than "The Gimp from 'Pulp Fiction' if he were into LARP," "a homemade Boba Fett costume spray-painted black" or "a Medieval Times employee who was fired for being a little too intense." Also, the high-tops/T-shirt cannon combo kind of undercuts the whole "forged from the blood, sweat and tears of Brooklyn" mythos that Marvel created for him. He seems like a guy working at Six Flags for the summer and cursing at the condensation that builds up inside that helmet. That's not very cool, on multiple levels.
Anyway, maybe you find something else about the Nets uncool, or maybe you think the five things I listed are bogus. Let's hear your impressions of Brooklyn's relative coolness or uncoolness in the comments below, on our Facebook page or on Twitter.