Jason Kidd: The Rivalry Between the Knicks and the Nets in My Driveway

Jason Kidd
Jason Kidd. Credit: Mark Runyon

I don’t know if you’ve heard the news, but Jason Kidd has bought a house in the Hamptons. Jason Kidd is one of the best professional basketball players ever, I worship the ground he walks on and I will get to that. Before I do, though, I will tell you about the house.

It is 8,000 square feet on two acres South of the Highway in Water Mill, it has a pool and pool house, a tennis court, an outdoor shower, a bar, a fireplace, six bedrooms and six baths, a gatehouse with what upstairs could be a gym and a two-car garage. According to those people who track these things, he paid $6 million for it and, before he bought it, Jennifer Lopez, who was also looking for a house, considered it. [expand]

Now having gotten that out of the way, I will tell you why I worship the ground that this basketball player walks on.

Jason Kidd is not a great shooter. He is, at six feet tall, not at all a big guy. He is, however, probably the greatest guard to ever play the game. Guards are little guys whose main job is to set up plays, dribbling around and getting the ball to bigger guys who can shoot or to other guys running past who can dribble in and score and so forth and so on.

Around 2000, Jason Kidd, as a New Jersey Net, developed a skill never before seen on a basketball court. He developed the ability to visualize in his head where each of the 10 people on the court were at any given moment, where they were inclined to next go to and how fast they intended to do that. He’d process this information in an instant, and, if thrown the ball, would feint a move and then fire the ball, laser-like, in to one of his teammates who would either fire it off to somebody else who would shoot and score or shoot and score themselves.

I tell this in its long form, because it is the only way to describe what was Jason Kidd’s unique ability. Kidd was the equivalent of a chess grandmaster at playmaking. There it would happen again—Kidd gets the ball, whizzes it instantly to a teammate moving into a most unlikely spot and wham—and there it would be—another easy layup for a score. Nobody had ever seen this on this level before. People would stand up and pump their fists in the air when this happened.

Jason Kidd actually inspired me to invent a game about him. I played this game—it is outdoors and is a real game—and I did so without his knowledge or permission on the basketball court in our backyard in Springs around three mornings a week beginning in 2004. I continued on with this, year after year until several years later in January with the wind chill -16 degrees, I slipped on the ice and cracked my collarbone, which my wife decided was the end my career. But I loved that career, every minute of it.

Here’s how the game worked.

At 7 a.m., with the sun rising, I’d grab a basketball out of a wicker basket near our front door and head out with it, bouncing it as I went, to the basketball backboard and rim set up on the front of our garage at the end of our driveway behind the house. There would be no cars in the area where I would be playing this game. Further toward the road, though, sometimes a car would be parked in the driveway at a place where it could help in preventing a stray basketball from bouncing down into the street.

I would be the only person out there on the court. In the summer I’d wear shorts and a t-shirt, in winter, boots and a leather jacket and scarf. Sometimes if it were really cold, I’d wear gloves. The crowd would roar when I came out. I’d either be at Madison Square Garden or the Meadowlands. And the game, every one of them, would be between the New York Knicks and the New Jersey Nets. I’d be playing for all 10 players on both teams for the next three quarters of an hour.

The rules of the game were simple. First one team would have the ball and try to score, then, the other team would have the ball and try to score. I’d race in to start the game, for example, as a New York Knick, get near the basket and then, if I met imaginary resistance, do a fade away jump shot. If I made it, the Nets would get the ball and I’d dribble back out to an imaginary foul line, turn around, and try to get in again, this time as a Net knowing he was behind 2-0.

I might miss that second shot—I have, since I am only five eight, a hook shot that can clear tall defenders and swish through the basket—but not often enough to have ever made any team as a youth.

Now here, as a Net, I’d try the lazy hook shot and miss, and then, of course, it would be the Knicks who would come up with the ball and head back out to the top of the key for the next try at the basket.

I think you get the idea. I’d try whatever next came to mind. Perhaps I felt that I’d gotten free to try a three-pointer—my three point line was simply “far, far away.” If that missed, it would be back to the Nets. Or on some occasions, a rebound taken again by the Knicks might get an extra special try again.

I’d sometimes call a foul. I know this is impossible, it’s only me. I’d trot back to the foul line, bouncing the ball and try one and one, underhanded – I shoot fouls underhanded. After that, it would be back to the action, all of which was being narrated by the sports commentator Marv Albert, who had this wonderful way of saying “…and he SCORES!” or after a long three pointer “…yessssssss!” And I’d pump my fist in the air and continue on.

I suppose if you watched this from afar you would think I was just practicing shooting hoops. But I’d go on and on. And the game would be swaying back and forth between the two teams, first one team ahead and then the other, as the fans went wild.

On occasion, and I don’t know how to explain this, one of the two teams would run a streak. This is just like in a real game. Perhaps the streak was happening when I was a Net. The Net would shoot and score then a Knick would shoot and miss. Then it would happen again. Sometimes one side or the other could run a streak of 10 or 15 points with the other side just missing and missing. Marv Albert would declare that team “cold.” There’d be a time out in the hopes things would change. Sometimes it would.

It was here, very often, that Jason Kidd would pull out the stops. Honestly, I didn’t really know or care who the players were for either the Knicks or the Nets. Neither team was playing well during this era, although the Knicks were at least marginally better. But I sure knew Jason Kidd.

If the Nets went on a streak and were coming up to even with the Knicks, it would be Jason Kidd, now clearly identifiable by the announcer, who would lead the charge. He’d throw the ball in—I’d bounce it off the garage door—and someone would get it and swish, two points. Or he’d throw it in and he’d get it back himself and then wham, hit a three-pointer.

All I can say about this is that during these runs, particularly when it was a run being engineered by the Nets with Jason and his razzle-dazzle passes down through everybody, the crowd would be on its feet and I, as Kidd, would be making that happen. I was experiencing very high levels of adrenalin at these times.

I will say that in the early years of my Jason Kidd game, my shooting was not as sharp as it was to become later on. In 45 minutes, I’d play until one of the two teams reached 20. Later, I’d play until one of the two teams reached 40. Game over.

I didn’t keep track of which team won more than the other, but my sense of it was the Nets won more. And clearly it was the fantastic Jason Kidd who made that difference, sometimes at the end, sometimes just before the buzzer with a three-pointer fired from just in front of the grill of the car parked way down and blocking the ball from going down the driveway. What a shot!

After that, sweating and panting, I’d dribble the ball up to my front door, head inside, drop the ball into the wicker basket, take off all my clothes and run into the shower for five minutes, then dress and go down for breakfast. It would be 8 am.

It’s been several years now since I’ve been out there. From time to time, I take the ball out and try a shot. But my touch is gone. At least for now, anyway. You know how it is. Use it or lose it.

As for Jason, he still plays and you can tell he still sees the whole dynamic of the moment in his mind, but he’s in his mid-30s now, not his mid-20s, and he can’t execute quite the way he used to. Still, he finds flashes of great moments.

Also, he has left the Nets. The Nets, through bad luck or bad choices, never could get the dominant seven-foot center, who would have been the yang to Kidd’s yin and send them to a championship. He’s now with the Dallas Mavericks, a much better team which last year beat down the Miami Heat to win all the marbles.

That he has bought a home here while still playing in Texas is a testament to the reputation of the Hamptons and his fondness for his old home town.

Someday, I’d like to play a little one on one with him. He’d have to go really, really easy on me though.

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