Philadelphia, PA – You can make a strong argument that Brooklyn hasn't been a relevant part of the sports world since 1957 when the Dodgers fled the borough for the left coast.
The Brooklyn Dodgers, of course, are best known for breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball when Jackie Robinson became the first African- American to play in the majors on April 15, 1947.
The borough and Ebbets Field wasn't just about baseball, however. The legendary ballpark also housed professional football, Manhattan College's football team and even the occasional boxing match before being demolished in 1960.
Memories obviously fade over 52 years but Brooklyn is about to become a major player again in America's sports and entertainment landscape again.
Nets minority owner Jay-Z plans to open the Barclays Center by performing in a series of concerts beginning on Sept. 28. The Atlantic 10 Conference's men's basketball tournament has left Atlantic City for the BK and World Wrestling Entertainment has already booked a pay-per-view attraction at the venue, December's "Tables, Ladders and Chairs."
Meanwhile, Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions will bring boxing back to Brooklyn in October when unbeaten Danny Garcia will defend his WBA, WBC & Ring Magazine super lightweight championships against Erik Morales in the first title tilt in Brooklyn since Aug. 5, 1931 when defending light heavyweight kingpin Maxie Rosenbloom outpointed Jimmy Slattery over 15 rounds at Ebbets Field.
The Nets, however, remain the bell cow of Brooklyn's sports renaissance and it looks as though the team is doing everything possible to live up to the hype coming out of the gate.
The signing of forwards Andray Blatche and Josh Childress earlier this week were anything but high-profile but they did signal a significant shift involving the Nets' reputation around the NBA
While neither Blatche or Childress are ascending players at this point, the fact that each chose to sign non-guaranteed contracts with the organization speaks volumes about what players now think about the Nets.
At one point the 26-year-old Blatche, a 6-foot-11, 260-pound athletic marvel, looked like a future superstar in the nation's capital. Some even compared his skill-set to the great Kevin Garnett.
Blatche certainly didn't have K.G.'s maturity or drive, however, showing up woefully out of shape after the lockout last season. Washington was so fed up with Blatche after the campaign, the Wizards paid him $23 million to walk away, amnestying the big man.
Childress, meanwhile, was once the sixth overall pick in the 2004 NBA Draft. The lengthy 6-foot-9 small forward has never been the same since leaving the NBA for Olympiacos in 2008 after the Euroleague club gave him a massive contract which paid him well over $10 million dollars as well as all his local taxes and agent fees along with a house, a car and a Greek Nike show contract.
Blatche spent part of his summer working with John Lucas, the former addict who has made his life's mission to help others with second chances.
"He's shown the commitment to get in much better shape and the humility that comes with being amnestied," Lucas told the Syracuse Post-Standard when talking about Blatche. "But nobody will take your word for it. You have to prove yourself."
Childress, on the other hand, could help fill a significant need behind Gerald Wallace at small forward for the Nets. The team hopes reuniting Childress, who was amnestied by Phoenix after a disappointing 2011-12 campaign, with his friend and teammate in Atlanta, All-Star Joe Johnson, will help him return to his past form.
At nearly $40 million, a pair of players like Blatche and Childress are albatrosses. At just over $2 million with nary a guarantee, signing them is the very definition of low-risk and high-reward.