Editor’s note: This interview was originally intended to be posted as part of our Back to Brooklyn series, coinciding with the Nets debut in the borough. But due to Superstorm Sandy, this piece could not run until now.
The Nets are taking New York by storm. And now the Nets are bringing big-time sports back to Brooklyn. Our special “Back to Brooklyn” series continues with the man who’ll be courtside for the majority of the games at the just unveiled Barclays Center. Ian Eagle is starting his 11th season as Nets play-by-play announcer on the YES Network. His association with Nets dates back 19 years. (The “Birdman” celebrates his 44th birthday Saturday)
And yet for the versatile sportscaster, it’s like starting anew.
“It feels almost like an expansion team in many ways, except usually with expansion teams you’re not very good.” Eagle says. “The Nets were able to clean the slate and put together a credible roster.”
Typically, when an NBA team packs up for another city, its fans are unable to make the move too. This, however, is a unique situation.
“It’s still the same media market. It’s the same outlet,” Eagle says. “So while you have longtime New Jersey fans that feel badly that the team did leave the Garden State, you still have a chance to be a part of this and root for the team.”
Older Nets fans will recall the franchise’s origins in the ABA with Julius “Dr. J. Erving at the Nassau Coliseum. Eagle says that the Nets will tap into that fan base.
“I think you have a small base that just stuck with the team, even amidst all of the changes through the years,” Eagle says. “It’s based on the romance of being a sports fan.”
While it’s a fresh start for New Jersey’s former NBA squad, those earliest fans, Eagle says, find this as the franchise’s natural progression.
“There’s still a New York fan base that is thrilled at the idea that the team has come home,” Eagle says.
Being attached to the Nets in Brooklyn is a homecoming of sorts, as well for Eagle, who’s father went to Erasmus Hall High School in Flatbush. The junior Eagle grew up in Queens, but spent plenty of time in the Brooklyn as a child.
“I just think there’s a whole new vibe with the organization,” Eagle admits. “And to be a part of this change is exciting, more than anything else.”
That excitment is papable, something that Eagle drives each night–like never before.
“There’s a legitmate buzz. I don’t know if I’ve ever experienced that in my 18 years affiliated with the franchise.”
Eagle points to some great Nets teams with NBA Finals appearances, but nothing felt like the anticipation for the 2012-13 tip.
“That is all based on the geography,” Eagle says. “The people of Brooklyn are really proud basketball fans and they want to get behind this team.”
In the 19th century, Brooklyn had its own city, before annexing by New York City in 1898. From its beginnings, sports played a huge role in Brooklyn, specifically baseball, with the earliest organized ball clubs. Obviously, the most famous was the Brooklyn Dodgers, which left Ebbets Field in 1957.
“There is still something special when you say Brooklyn,” Eagle says. “It brings to mind a certain kind of attitude.”
That mindset is on a national level as Eagle discovers traveling around the country for CBS Sports.
“I can’t tell you [for] how many people, the first topic of conversation is Brooklyn.”