Most sports team names have some flair to them. Some, like the Lions, Tigers, or Raiders, call to mind fierce animals or intimidating people. Others, like the Steelers or Maple Leafs, are tied to local history. Then, there are teams like the Brooklyn Nets.
Independent of their on-court performance, there’s nothing exciting about a team named after a few pieces of nylon. So how did the Nets really get their unusual name?
The various incarnations of the Nets organization
The Nets organization has changed a great deal since the 1960s. Not only did the team begin life in a different league, but they played under a completely different name.
In 1967, the American Basketball Association (the ABA) tipped off for the first time. The league, however, wasn’t able to establish a team in the Big Apple; while the New York Americans intended to play in Manhattan, pressure from the New York Knicks left them without an arena. Desperate for a place to call home, the team crossed the Hudson River and became the New Jersey Americans.
After one season in New Jersey, however, the team moved to New York, became the Nets, and started playing their games in Commack Arena; while there were some infamous issues on Long Island, the New York Nets eventually moved into the Nassau Coliseum, acquired Dr. J, and established themselves as a legitimate club.
After joining the NBA, however, the team struggled. Ownership decided to move again, returning to New Jersey in the process. They would keep the same red, white, and blue color scheme until the late 1990s, though; at that point, the team introduced a new logo, and changed their colors to a darker blue and blue, along with grey and silver. In 2012, things changed again as the club moved to Brooklyn and rebranded as the Brooklyn Nets.
Why are the Brooklyn Nets called the Nets?
As mentioned above, the Nets got their name when they moved from New Jersey to Long Island in 1968. Understandably, their name changed as part of a new identity.
Originally, the Nets were supposed to play in Manhattan’s 69th Regiment Armory; when they land in New Jersey, they played in the Teaneck Armory. Those arenas proved to be a natural fit for a team clad in red, white, and blue called the Americans.
When the team headed east, however, they were no longer playing in armories, but in standard arenas. They rebranded themselves as the Nets, which not only called to mind the sport of basketball but connected them to the area; their nearest neighbors, who both played in Queens, were the New York Mets and the New York Jets.
One, more drastic rebrand never happened
Throughout its lifespan, the Nets organization has rebranded several times. The most dramatic change, however, never made it off the drawing board.
During their more recent spell in New Jersey, the team played in the Meadowlands Sports Complex; despite the name, the surrounding area is more of a wetland than anything else. That reality, combined with the success of cartoon mascots like Hugo the Charlotte Hornet, almost prompted a major shift.
In the 1990s, the New Jersey Nets almost became the New Jersey Swamp Dragons, complete with a cartoon dragon logo. While the concept made it as far as the NBA’s board of governors, it eventually fell through.
The Nets might not be the most exciting name but, at this point, it’s stuck for over 50 years. Love it or hate it, it’s simply part of the NBA landscape.