Brooklyn often gets overshadowed by its smaller neighbor Manhattan. For much of the past 60 years, this was also the case with pro sports. It certainly wasn’t the case 100 years ago, and is no longer true today. Manhattan hosts basketball’s New York Knicks and Rangers, but that’s about it. Brooklyn is home to the Brooklyn Nets and New York Islanders, and has hosted a handful of other professional sports teams over the last 100+ years. Let’s explore the history of pro sports in the borough.
Brooklyn at the Heart of Pro Baseball’s Inception
Brooklyn’s ties to baseball’s inception run deep. By 1845, six years after the first game was played in Cooperstown, organized baseball teams were matching up against one another in Brooklyn. By 1855, eight of 16 member teams of the National Association of Baseball Players (NABBP) were based in Brooklyn. Three teams—Atlantic, Excelsior, and Eckford—were considered the best in the league.
In 1871, the National Association of Professional Baseball Players (NA) was established as the first professional baseball league. Three major member clubs called Brooklyn home. The most famous baseball team in the borough’s history, The Brooklyn Dodgers, joined in 1883. The Dodgers had several names and built a poor reputation for themselves early on, but by the end of the century were doing pretty well. By the time the Dodgers relocated to Los Angeles in 1957, they had played in seven World Series.
The Other Brooklyn Dodgers
Brooklyn also hosted a professional football team called the Dodgers. The NFL’s Brooklyn Dodgers played at Ebbets Field from 1930 to 1944. Two other NFL teams, the Brooklyn Horsemen of the American League and the Brooklyn Lions of the National League, played in the borough independently in 1926 before merging as one team.
Brooklyn Americans and Islanders
Prior to 2015, no NHL team has ever called an ice rink in Brooklyn home. There was an NHL team called the Brooklyn Americans in the 1941-1942 season, but they played their home games at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan. After three decades playing on ice in Nassau County, Long Island, the NHL’s New York Islanders made the Barclays Center their home base in 2014. Now Brooklyn hockey fans have something to be excited about.
The other major pro sports team calling Brooklyn home today is the Nets, who relocated from New Jersey in 2012. The move was huge, as it marked the first time Brooklyn would be home to a major league sports team in more than 50 years.
Brooklyn is a natural sports mecca. Legends like Michael Jordan, Mike Tyson, Joe Torre, Larry Brown, and Vince Lombardi all grew up and honed their skills in Brooklyn. Now, after a long hiatus, sports fans living in or visiting Brooklyn can catch plenty of pro sports action without traveling far. Barclays Center, home to the Nets and Islanders, is just a five-minute cab ride from NU Hotel Brooklyn.