"We're officially an NBA city now,'' Booker said Friday at the announcement that the New Jersey Nets will move to the Prudential Center beginning next season. "I don't care about Brooklyn or the Meadowlands. The Nets are Newark's team and we're taking full ownership of the Nets. Hopefully, we can prove a point that this city was made for basketball.''
The Nets, New Jersey Devils hockey team and the city of Newark reached an agreement that will allow the Nets to play in Newark for the next two seasons -- or as long as it takes for the franchise to build the proposed Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
Booker is hopeful that Newark can do well with its temporary trial run, much like Oklahoma City did several years ago after Hurricane Katrina forced the New Orleans Hornets to a temporary home. It led to Oklahoma City securing the old Seattle Supersonics franchise, which became the Oklahoma City Thunder.
"Even as the Nets make their way to Brooklyn, we're hopeful that the NBA will think hard about Newark being a city that should have basketball in perpetuity,'' Booker said.
"Basketball is not just a game. Basketball means giving a city tangible hope and energy. Once you see what basketball means to Newark and you see the NBA playing here, you'll see that it belongs here. In fact, NBA stands for 'Newark Basketball Is Awesome.'''
Booker even embraced the fact that the Nets currently have the worst record in the NBA at 6-54.
"Newark is America's No. 1 comeback city, and its people never stopped believing in themselves,'' said Booker. "We believe in the Nets and believe that they're going to have a comeback season in Newark next year.''
The Nets remain committed to moving to Brooklyn for the 2012-2013 season, but construction on the new facility has not begun.
For now, the Nets will vacate the Izod Center in East Rutherford, which has been their home since the 1981-82 season.
"The time was right for us to move to Newark before we made our final relocation,'' Nets chief executive officer Brett Yormark said. "This gives our fans the chance to enjoy a state-of-the-art facility and provides our players with a great atmosphere to play.''
Yormark said the move, even though temporary, offers a chance "to refresh the entire franchise.''
The Nets will promote themselves with a new advertising slogan, "It's All New,'' and a new Web site, www.netsallnew.com.
Yormark also announced that Newark residents will be given the opportunity to purchase season tickets next year for a discounted price of $299.
Jeff Vanderbeek, who owns the Devils and Prudential Center, said he had been trying to get the Nets to move to his building for quite some time.
"There wasn't a week that went by where we didn't talk about the Nets and bringing them to Newark,'' Vanderbeek said. "Through the last 10 months, we've had constant conversations and there is a lot of respect between the two franchises. It only bodes well for the future.''
Vanderbeek said he has been working to craft a compatible schedule for the teams as well as Seton Hall basketball, which also plays at the arena.
"We should have something in place to present to the NBA within the coming weeks,'' Vanderbeek said.