Since their move from New Jersey in 2012, the Brooklyn Nets have not always succeeded in forming a meaningful bond with their hometown fans. Many of the franchise’s efforts to appeal to Brooklynites have felt forced or, in the case of their ex-mascot BrooklyKnight, woefully ill-considered and horrendously executed. It probably hasn’t helped that the Nets have either been disappointing or terrible for the duration of their time in Brooklyn, but the failures have gone beyond wins and losses.
Kudos to the Nets, then, for putting together a tribute this weekend that no one in New York could possibly dislike. During Saturday’s game against the New York Knicks, the Nets will host “Biggie Night,” a tribute to legendary rapper The Notorious B.I.G. on the 20th anniversary of his death (which is technically Thursday). Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com has the details:
Barclays Center plans to honor Christopher Wallace, Brooklyn’s most iconic rapper who was shot and killed on March 9, 1997, with Sean “Diddy” Combs and Wallace’s mother, Voletta Wallace, in attendance and paying tribute to Biggie with planned pregame and halftime ceremonies. Wallace’s children — T’Yanna and CJ Wallace, Mark Pitts and Wayne Barrow — also have been invited to attend.
Notorious B.I.G.’s music has been a fixture at Nets games since the franchise moved to Brooklyn in 2012. The rapper’s songs are played before games and at halftime, and many of the rapper’s beats are played as in-game music. Barclays also hosted the first-ever Bad Boy Reunion Tour last year when Puff Daddy headlined the sold-out event that started with a celebration of Wallace’s 44th birthday in Brooklyn. […]
[CEO of Brooklyn Sports and Entertainment Brett] Yormark said the night came together in a short amount of time after the idea was pitched to pay tribute to the rapper on the 20th anniversary of his death.
“It was an easy decision to turn this game into a moment to celebrate Biggie,” Yormark said. “Puff Daddy will obviously be involved. So it has turned into something pretty special for us.
“He’s from Brooklyn. We play his music. We consider ourselves the home of hip-hop — both Brooklyn and Barclays Center. It is very appropriate that this night takes place in Brooklyn.”
Yormark is certainly right that this event should take place in Brooklyn, the borough with which Biggie will always be identified. On the other hand, an executive referring to a much-criticized real estate failure as “the home of hip-hop” suggests the same desire to co-opt Brooklyn’s culture that has typified the Nets’ time at Barclays Center.
The uneasy truth of Biggie Night is that, for many long-time residents, the Nets and their arena represent the ongoing gentrification of the Brooklyn that birthed The Notorious B.I.G. and the classic music he created. Seeing the same people who built a massive arena via eminent domain seizures turn around and praise a particularly famous representative of the communities that have been and are still being pushed out of Brooklyn smacks of callousness. At worst, it’s a form of cultural vampirism.
That’s not to say Biggie Night can’t be a fun and meaningful tribute to a Brooklyn legend. However, the Nets should be careful not to get in the way. They’re clear outsiders in this situation, not the guardians of Biggie’s legacy and a borough’s soul.
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