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Nets dedicate opener to essential workers

Honor those on COVID-19 frontline throughout opener

December 22, 2020 John Torenli, Sports Editor Brooklyn Daily Eagle
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The Brooklyn Nets have waited more than a year and a half to get Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving on the court together at Downtown’s Barclays Center.

But on the day of the most anticipated season opener in franchise history and the first game at Barclays since March 8, the Nets decided to honor those who have been our real heroes during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis.

Brooklyn’s first major pro sports franchise since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles in 1957 announced Tuesday morning that they were dedicating their 2020-21 Opening Night game against Golden State to essential workers who have shown the world what it means to be “New York Tough.”

“The Brooklyn Nets are proud to launch the start of the 2020-21 NBA season with this very special event, Barclays Essential Together,” said John Abbamondi, CEO of Brooklyn Sports & Entertainment Global, hours before the Nets and Warriors tipped off on the corner of Atlantic and Flatbush.

“Barclays Essential Together reflects our collective gratitude for the selflessness displayed by all of New York’s essential workers this year, as well as our recognition of the fundamental human need to be together.”

Though fans will not be admitted via conventional means due to current state regulations regarding large gatherings, the Nets are making sure that local heroes such as Maimonides Medical Center clinical nurse Damalai Dalgety get their due on a national platform.

Dalgety, Environmental Services Department employee Kevin Herard, MTA Bus Operator Luis Jimenez, physical assistant Peterson Exil from the Hospital for Special Surgery and Mohammad Razvi and Steve Hernandez of the Council of Peoples Organization will be honored throughout the evenng.

“Tonight, our entire organization, with incredible partnership from Barclays, will honor these heroes who have embodied “New York Tough” by continuing to serve others in order to keep our City going,” added Abbamondi.

“Thank you to Governor Cuomo for his support of this special event and the return of professional basketball to Brooklyn.”

Acquired by Nets general manager Sean Marks in the summer of 2019, Durant and Irving have both missed time due to injury or the coronavirus. But both were healthy and ready to go for Tuesday night’s contest against the Warriors, whom Durant won two NBA titles with before signing in Brooklyn.

Though the focus of the TV audience watching the game on TNT will likely be on the Nets’ dynamic duo, both the network and the arena will highlight and thank local heroes who have helped New Yorkers throughout the pandemic and continue to work on the frontline.

Also, the Nets’ local broadcast partner, the YES Network, will feature profiles of a number of these essential workers during their pre-game show. Additional activations will occur during TNT’s national broadcast of the game itself, and will be amplified on the Nets’ and NBA’s social media channels as well as on NBA TV.

“New York’s essential workers are true heroes in our community’s fight against COVID-19,” said Paul Compton, Global Head of Banking and Co-President of Barclays Bank PLC.

“We are all very grateful for your dedication and service.”

The Nets and Barclays have already joined with other donors to raise more than $2 million for COVID-19 Relief Efforts through this initiative, an amount similar to what the team would have made in ticket sales had Tuesday’s game been played in front of a sold-out crowd.

Nets owner Joseph Tsai has paid Barclays Center employees throughout the pandemic despite the lack of activity or crowds at Brooklyn’s home for Nets basketball, pro boxing and other concerts and events.

All funds raised Tuesday night will be donated to Coalition for the Homeless, The Campaign Against Hunger, Good Shepherd Services, New York Cares and United Way’s COVID-19 Community Response and Recovery Fund.

The commitment from Barclays is part of the firm’s ongoing effort to provide immediate support to communities most impacted by COVID-19. Barclays announced a $125 million Community Aid Package in May and has since partnered with non-profits and charities across the U.S. to deliver relief.

At last!! Kevn Durant and the Nets will open the 2020-21 season at Barclays Center Tuesday night, but not before honoring our city’s essential workers. AP Photo by Mary Schwalm


Nothing But Net: Though he went to three straight NBA Finals and won two Finals MVPs as a member of the Warriors, Durant de-emphasized the importance of facing his former teammates in his first game since tearing his Achilles with Golden State against Toronto in the 2019 NBA Finals. “I feel like each game is important to me,” Durant said. “And it’s no more important to me because I am playing against my old teammates. I just feel like the game of basketball is going to have me on that level anyway and it’s going to be good to see some of my old teammates.” Durant scored 25 points and Irving finished with 17 last Friday in the Nets’ 113-89 rout of the Celtics in Boston in the preseason finale.

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