Kirk: BrooklyKnight struggles with identity, hero status

Kirk argues that the BrooklyKnight is too silly to be taken seriously.

Matt Kirk

Matt KirkDue to public demand, Marvel and the Nets franchise have come together to give the people of Brooklyn a hero to call their own – protector of the Barclays Center, the champion of the Nets, the terrifying, the amazing – BrooklyKnight?

During the Brooklyn Nets’ first home game of the 2012-13 season, the world’s newest superhero, BrooklyKnight, descended from the rafters above center court amidst a display of fireworks and energized beats at the Barclays Center, pumping up the crowd and spurring the Nets to their first home-court win.

A comic book given to all fans in attendance helped to further explain the emergence of this new hero and his commitment to the Nets. In the first issue of BrooklyKnight – creatively titled “The Brooklyn Game” – BrooklyKnight spawns from the floorboards of the Barclays Center with a burst of energy, grabbing a ball, driving to the hoop and slamming the ball home. Proceeding to pump up the crowd at the game, he uses his superpowers to give the players more energy and skill with each play. It’s kind of like a Wi-Fi update for the outdated 1996 “Space Jam,” talent-transferring basketball.

A departure from the usually unimpressive and unimaginative mascots of the NBA, BrooklyKnight’s appearance is an interesting development for both the comic and basketball industry. A product of Marvel Comics, hired by the Nets organization to create the new team mascot, he is the first comic book hero ever created to defend a basketball court. I had no idea, but apparently super villains have been causing chaos between the hoops, potentially costing teams vital wins.

It is interesting to see Marvel expanding its reach from comics, cartoons and cinema to the sports world, and even more intriguing to see a large sports program invest and commit to creating such a unique team mascot. However, the venture to combine sports and comic book heroes has delivered a character that is comical at best. I understand the motivation to have Marvel produce a comic strip to go along with the team mascot from a business standpoint, but from a creative standpoint, I have no idea what they were thinking.

First off, while I understand that some NBA mascots are not directly related to the team name, theme or history – the 76ers having a dunking rabbit ,for one example – the BrooklyKnight doesn’t seem to have any connection to Brooklyn other than his oddly spelled name, which I find confusing and hard to pronounce.

Second, his appearance is hard to translate from the comic to courtside. While the artwork and design of BrooklyKnight is solid in the comic strip, featuring chiseled abs, a presumably multifunctional cape and a skull-like mask, in the pregame video his costume makes him look more like a knockoff of the Black Power Ranger with a shield.

Side note: The original Black Power Ranger is, and will always be, my favorite Power Ranger.

Third, I don’t really see anything for BrooklyKnight to do. Who could possibly be set in front of the BrooklyKnight as a villain? What mysteries could he solve? Optimistically, his courtside presence may channel some level of the Philly Phanatic’s antics with the opposing team and or referees, all in the name of defending Brooklyn. I’d love to see him take a cheap shot at LeBron James to slow down his game when he comes to town. Truly, this would make him a successful mascot, but not much of a superhero.

Marvel, nonetheless, is still confident in its newest creation. In fact, Axel Alonso, editor-in-chief of Marvel Entertainment, was quoted by ComicBookResources.com as saying, “We have created a team superhero that is unlike anything the NBA has ever seen; a timeless character who can stand shoulder to shoulder with icons like Spider-Man, Captain America, Wolverine and Thor.”

I’m glad Marvel is attempting projects like this and, as a mascot BrooklyKnight has everything it takes to be great but going shoulder to shoulder with Spider-Man? That is like saying  Baauer’s “Harlem Shake” is an equal to the works of Jay-Z, Nas or Biggie Smalls.

The Nets should be proud of its new courtside hype man, because BrooklyKnight is quite special as far as NBA mascots go. Make no mistake though, Marvel created a mascot, not the next great superhero.

Matt Kirk can be reached at matthew.kirk@temple.edu. 

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