The Brooklyn Nets: Gentrification’s Team


Many of the basketball fans who grew up in Brooklyn cast their allegiance with the Knicks long ago. So the Nets had a smaller pool of potential supporters to begin with when the franchise moved from New Jersey to Brooklyn in 2012.

Earlier this week, the New York Times created a map showing the most popular NBA team in each zip code in America. It used Facebook likes as the metric for popularity.

Not surprisingly, the map showed that the Knicks remain the team of choice for all five boroughs (plus Long Island, Westchester County, and much of New Jersey). The Nets were the favored team in just eight of Brooklyn’s 46 zip codes. A look at those zip codes, however, reveals that the Nets are indeed developing a core fan base.

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One of those zip codes, Canarsie, had a virtual split between the Nets and Knicks: each team won 21 percent of the votes.

In each of the other seven zip codes, the Nets topped the Knicks by at least two percent. Those zip codes form a block containing the following neighborhoods: Park Slope, Fort Greene, Bed-Stuy, Prospect Heights, Clinton Hill, Crown Heights, Carroll Gardens, and Red Hook.

Those neighborhoods surround Barclays Center, so it makes sense that there is heightened support there. But the dynamic goes deeper than that.

Those neighborhoods are also the core of Gentrified Brooklyn, thanks in part to the Barclays Center, and they contain the borough’s highest rate of new residents from out of state.

WNYC’s “New New Yorkers” map, which used new resident census data from 2007 to 2011, illustrates this nicely:

As it happens, “people who didn’t grow up in New York City” are just the sort of non-Knicks fans the Nets are looking for.

In a sense, the franchise has helped engineer its own fan base: Barclays Center attracted more development, which attracted more out-of-town transplants to the area, which expanded the pool of potential Nets fans.