Uproxx- Now that’s some raw, uncut ’90s garishness — it’s incredible. According to Zach Lowe’s wonderful oral history, Nets executive Jon Spoelstra (father of Heat head coach Erik) wanted to do something, anything to increase fan engagement, and he thought capitalizing on the trend that saw the Charlotte Hornets become a merchandise powerhouse and drove the designs for the expansion Toronto Raptors and Vancouver Grizzlies would be a good idea. And since the Meadowlands, where the Nets played, was a swamp, why not tie the new mascot to the club’s identity? It was perfect and beautiful and was literally one vote away from happening, even though Commissioner David Stern reportedly called it “the stupidest f*cking idea I’ve ever heard.”
We highly encourage you to go read the whole thing, but the main thrust is this: Even though most people around the league thought it was at least kind of dumb, and at most a disastrously childish idea, Spoelstra and his colleagues worked tirelessly to convince people it could work, and the NBA Board of Governors voted 26-1 to approve the name change. The only team to vote against it? The Nets themselves. Depending on who you believe, either one of the Nets’ seven owners got cold feet or they all did, and they decided to instead simply redesign their logo rather than overhaul their whole identity.
I think - even as a 5-6 year old - I would have been aware of the level of embarrassment that changing the New Jersey Nets to the New Jersey Swamp Dragons would have brought this state. As if New Jersey doesn't already have a bad enough (undeserved) reputation, a professional sports organization almost made the 1 mile x 1 mile area of swamp land in the entire state part of their fucking name sake. I was probably too young to draw up the papers myself, but if that had gone through and my parents didn't suggest a move on their own I would still judge them to this day. I'll say this, thank god then NBA Commissioner David Stern was a Rutgers graduate. Thank god he knows that New Jersey is more than a 20 mile strip of highway that smells like utter dogshit. If he didn't then there wouldn't have been a voice of reason to portray the feelings of every person that's ever lived in-state in true New Jersey fashion by calling the name change "the stupidest f*cking idea I’ve ever heard". That truly is the stupidest fucking idea I have ever heard. There is a team in Utah named the "Jazz", and calling a team that doesn't reside in the Everglades the "Swamp Dragons" would have been the biggest misnomer is professional sports history.
The fact that the Nets, themselves, voted against it when push came to shove leads me to believe that this was really just one of those ideas that you have with your friends that's so stupid that no one on the outside can understand it, but you keep going with it anyway because you find it hilarious. Basically it's like the time I signed a contract on a cocktail napkin to get an ass tattoo. Sure, we talked about it like it was a serious proposal all day, but I'm pretty sure no one was going to be the fist to suggest going to the tattoo parlor. All it would have taken was one person to be like "okay let's go do it" and no one did, just like all it would have taken was the Nets vote for the Nets to get "their way" and they couldn't pull the trigger. That's why I have no choice but to assume this was a drunken charade that was taken way too far.