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Shooting for the net, but it’s just to score a few laughs

John Hill and his mother Jane Hill are shareholders of SF’s Cyber Mesa Telecom and own the domain name “Nets.com,” which they offered to the Brooklyn basketball team for $5M. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

John Hill and his mother Jane Hill are shareholders of SF’s Cyber Mesa Telecom and own the domain name “Nets.com,” which they offered to the Brooklyn basketball team for $5M. (Eddie Moore/Albuquerque Journal)

Basketball, after all, is just a sport. Fun and games.

Unless, of course, it’s the National Basketball Association. And a small, local Internet service provider.

Then it’s big business. And, oh yes, fun and games.

At least it’s amusing for John Hill, who has put his creative juices to use good-naturedly ribbing the NBA’s Brooklyn, née New Jersey, Nets for some time.

“I’ve got something new in the works,” said Hill with a chuckle. “Check back later in the week or next week to see what it is.”

See, nearly two decades ago, Jane Hill, 69, and her 37-year-old son, John, had purchased Cyber Mesa Telecom, a small Santa Fe Internet provider, and the domain name “Nets.com” was part of the deal.

And, several years ago, when the Nets of the NBA decided to move to the New York City borough from its previous home in New Jersey, the Hills thought it was the perfect time to offer the domain name to the basketball franchise for use in its rebranding campaign.

For a cool $5 million.

That at first may seem like a pile of cash for a .com, but consider that, according to Forbes magazine, names such as Insurance.com went for $35.6 million, VacationRentals.com for $35 million and Internet.com for $18 million, it seems like a bargain, the Hills said.

And when you further consider that the average NBA salary is $4.2 million, $5 million for Nets.com doesn’t seem that far-fetched, they said.

“I think they resent the idea that somebody in Santa Fe would have the gall to ask them for more than $30,000,” Jane Hill said.

But the Nets not only said no, they refused to negotiate in any form or fashion, the Hills said.

And that kind of surprised Jane Hill.

“In terms of the Nets, what’s interesting to me, they have done a wonderful job of branding themselves in a hip-hop kind of way,” she said. “If they had Nets.com, I would think they would get more fans and it would be a great way to accommodate their fans, make it easy to get their website.”

The Nets, however, didn’t quite see it that way.

“Our website is BrooklynNets.com and our fans know this is our site,” team spokesman Barry Baum told The New York Times, which wrote about the issue last week. “Brooklyn Nets is our brand and we have no interest in Nets.com, despite the shameful efforts of the registrant to attempt to sell us this domain name for seven figures.”

Contacted this week, Baum said, “We’re not going to comment any further.”

None of this has deterred John Hill from having a good laugh – and encouraging others to do as well – at the Nets’ expense.

Folks who have gone to Nets.com seem to get a surprise every time.

The first gag showed high-profile Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban sticking out his tongue along with: “Looking for the New Jersey Nets? Looking for the Brooklyn Nets? They’re not here … but they SHOULD be!”

“The original website with Mark Cuban sticking out his tongue was my mother’s idea,” John Hill said. “I knew we couldn’t just leave it like that. It would get stagnant and that would be the end of it.”

So when the Brooklyn Nets made a much ballyhooed trade with Boston to acquire several of the Celtics’ aging players, Nets.com visitors were redirected to the Celtics’ website

“That was an easy idea for a redirect,” he said. “That’s what got the whole thing started. That in and of itself got a little reaction and it was fun at that point.”

Thereafter, Jane Hill said she gave her son free rein with the website.

“I give him a lot of credit,” she said. “He’s certainly had fun with it. We’re not trying to be adversarial in any way.”

The intention was never meant to be mean-spirited, John Hill said, and, if it drew a little notoriety, so be it.

“The intention was to have fun and to see the various reactions,” he said. “Most people got a big laugh out of it every time we did something.”

And the bottom line, John Hill said, is “it’s all for entertainment purposes.”

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