January 26, 2014

The Greatest Knicks Ever

Breaking news: I'm a New York Knicks fan. And those who have followed my work over the years would probably know by now that I have a more than slight bias with all things orange and blue. The Knicks are one of the league's founding franchises, and are the only other team - along with the Boston Celtics - to be in the same city and form since the day the league began. Over the years, they've featured some great players, hosted some memorable moments at the legendary Madison Square Garden, and won two championships.

'Just' two championships - with the last one coming about 41 years ago.

So you can go ahead and get the laughs and scoffs out of your system. Yes, I know I support the perhaps the most underachieving NBA franchise of All Time, especially one that has been the laughingstock of the league for their awful play and worse management decisions for the majority of the incumbent last decade. Yes, I realize that the future looks as hazy as the past, and that being a Knicks fan is the modern form of self torture.

And despite everything, the Knicks are never short on those self-torturing fans. Nor are they short of history. 68 years of glorious and tormenting, wonderful and distressing, exciting and cruel, history.

Which is why what happened at the Garden on the night of January 24, 2013, was particularly astonishing. On this night, in a game against the Bobcats, Carmelo Anthony exploded for 62 points - 56 of them coming in just three quarters - before checking out of the game with over seven minutes still remaining in the final period. Apart from being a personal career high, Anthony's 62 was a franchise scoring record for the Knicks and a record for most points in the new MSG. Anthony grabbed 13 rebounds too for good measure, and shot a scintillating 65.7 percent from the field. No one in Knicks history has ever scored more points in a single game - and if the game had been closer, he could've ended up with 75 and 15.

This was only a random regular season game in January against the Bobcats and far from the greatest Knick performance ever (I give that honour to Walt Frazier's 36-19 in Game 7 of the 1970 NBA Finals with a one-legged Willis Reed), but where does Melo rank amongst the list of the greatest New York Knicks ever? In three years, Anthony has helped the Knicks become playoff regulars again and even carried them to the second round for the first time in over a decade. During his time in New York, he has been an All Star every year, led the league in scoring last season, and was in the All NBA Second Team. He is the single reason why the Knicks are not the Bucks right now (but they're close!).

Over the last year or so, I've been brushing up on my Knickerbocker history, watching classic games and learning about the greatest eras and players thanks to my NBA Dynasty DVDs. In the back of my work notebook, I even scribbled my favourite Knicks of All Time, with the intention of writing a feature on the All Time Knick Roster one day.

Thanks to Anthony's performance, that day is finally here. Melo evoked history with his masterpiece, and so, into Knicks history he goes.

Here is my All Time Knicks team. I've ranked the greatest players by judging them in the following order: the team success they brought the Knicks, their individual peak as a Knick, and finally, by personal preference.

Starting Five

Walt Frazier My favourite Knick of All Time. One of the greatest two-way point-guards of All Time, 'Clyde' is a no-brainer at this spot. He marshaled the Knicks to their only two championships in 1970 and 1973, and was of course brilliant in the memorable Game 7 win over the Lakers when they won their first ever trophy. Frazier spent 10 years in New York and post retirement was inducted into the Hall of Fame. He is an 4x member of the All NBA First Team, a 7x All Star, and 7x member of the All NBA Defensive team. He's still around the Knicks every day as a broadcaster and also happens to be the very definition of cool. He's still the Knicks All-Time leader in assists.

Earl Monroe Call him 'Pearl', call him 'Jesus', or call him a legendary Baltimore Bullet, but Monroe only translated his cult status to team success after he joined the Knicks to form the 'Rolls Royce Backcourt' with Frazier in 1971. The Pearl was already a playground legend and an unstoppable superstar by his Baltimore days, and after a slow start, he quickly meshed in with Frazier to form one of the best backcourt combos ever - so of course, the two make my All Time backcourt here, too. Monroe won his only championship with the Knicks in 1973 and was an All Star in 1975 and 1977.

Carmelo Anthony Yes, I went there. Apologies to the history buffs, but Carmelo Anthony is the greatest scorer in Knicks history, closely overtaking Bernard King (whose 60-point was the previous franchise record). I understand that this is only Anthony's third full season with the team and he has yet to take the team past the second round of the playoffs, but his talent is too much to deny. See, most of the Knicks success came via teams comprising of decent-but-not-spectacular players. But few individuals stand out to be counted amongst the greatest. And to me, Anthony is already a top five Knick ever - and my starting small forward

Wills Reed While he played most of his best years with the Knicks as a Center, the 6-9 Reed will have to fill the power-forward slot in my fantasy team to make way for another special big man. But speaking of special, Reed's resume in Knick colours - where he spent all of his 10 year playing career - is as great as they come. Reed is the Knicks only ever MVP (1970), only ever Finals MVP (1970, 1973), their first rookie of the year (1965), and was also named in an All NBA and All Defensive First Team. The captain of the Knicks as they won both their titles, Reed is perhaps best known for heroically stumbling on court despite a severe thigh injury (voted as the MSG's greatest ever moment) in the Game 7 of the 1970 Finals. Of course, Reed also found his name into the Basketball Hall of Fame.

Patrick Ewing Ewing was one game away from securing his legacy amongst the hall of champions, but a loss in Game 7 of the 1994 Finals kept him ringless. Regardless, Ewing - a former number one pick - basically owns the New York record book, as the Knicks All Time leader in points, rebounds, minutes, field goals, free throws, steals, and blocks. The Jamaican-American Center was a star on both ends of the floor. He played 15 years for the Knicks, becoming Rookie of the Year in 1986, making to the 1990 All NBA First team, and 11 All Star teams. In 1999, an underdog Knicks side became the first (and only) eighth-seed to make the NBA Finals, but Ewing got injured in the Conference Finals.


Dave DeBusschere DeBusschere was an icon with the Detroit Pistons in the mid 60s as their player-coach (the youngest ever). But it was when he traded to the Knicks in 1968, the bruising power-forward went from being a one-man wrecking crew to the final piece in the championship puzzle. DeBusschere played alongside Willis Reed in the frontcourt and helped the Knicks win their two titles. He was also an 8x All Star, 6x member of the All Defensive First Team, and a Hall of Famer.

Bernard King Think Carmelo Anthony, think Bernard King. One of the smoothest scorers of his time, King's career was cut short due to a devastating knee injury in 1985. But not before he etched his name amongst Knick greats. King played for the Knicks in 1982-87, led the league in scoring in 1985, and held the previous franchise scoring record by a Knick (60). He also made the All NBA First Team and All Star game twice each during his tenure in New York. Unfortunately - very much like Melo today - he could never take the Knicks deep into the Playoffs. King was recently added to the Basketball Hall of Fame.

John Starks No one has attempted or hit more three-pointers in a Knicks jersey than John Starks. And perhaps, no one has ever had more swag in a Knicks jersey than the undrafted guard, considered by many to be one of the game's great over-achievers. Starks was an ordinary player whose confidence led him to extraordinary things. He was part of the Knicks mean, defensive lineup in the 90s that peaked with an appearance in the 1994 Finals, where Starks was both hero and villain for New York. He played for the Knicks from 1990-98, was an All Star in 1994, and a 6th Man of the Year in 1997.

Charles Oakley 'Oak' is a throwback to the beautiful ugly days of NBA basketball, where meaner was better and defense was the best offense. A defensive specialist, the PF/Center played alongside Patrick Ewing to instill terror in every single opposing frontline. The team made it to the 1994 Finals, the same year Oakley was named to the All NBA Defensive First Team.

Allan Houston One of the silkiest shooting guards of his time, Houston was perhaps the Knicks de-facto best player as Ewing grew old and hurt when the squad made it to the 1999 Finals. Houston played for the Knicks from 1996-2005 and played for two All Star teams. But despite his talents, he his perhaps more notorious now for being handed one of the worst contracts in NBA history than for his skill-set!

Dick McGuire One of the first real superstar to sport a Knick jersey, McGuire played for the Knickerbockers from 1949-1957, leading them to the Finals three times (all losses) in the early 50s. McGuire led the league in assists in just his rookie season in 1950, and was one of the NBA's top playmakers the league's first decade. He was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1993.

Bill Bradley Before he was a Senator, Bill Bradley was a star forward for the Knicks, serving as the perfect glue to the Knicks selfless philosophy in the late 60s and early 70s that resulted in two championships and some entertaining team-first basketball. After starring in college and briefly playing in Italy, Bradley played for the Knicks from 1967-77, in a Hall of Fame career that spawned two titles and one All Star appearance.

Coach: Red Holzman Oh, but who else? Holzman was Knicks coach that masterminded the NBA's toughest defense and most selfless offense that won two championships in the early 70s. He stands as the longest-tenuring Knicks coach in history, was named amongst the top 10 coaches in NBA history, and is the only Knick coach to have his 'jersey retired'. Holzman was also elected to the Hall of Fame for his coaching work. If he could have an assistant, I'd choose Pat Riley.

Reserves: A special mention here to other Knick greats to not make the list above - Dick Barnett, Mark Jackson, Harry and Gallatin.

1 comment:

  1. Pacers are doing very well this time ...its yet to heat up but i see Pacers in the finals ..if they dont make it this year it will be terrible.. Heats,Spurs,Clippers and Raptors are the other serious challengers this time. Deandre Jordan and Griffin Blake are going well ..other day they went past the toronto raptors..Terrence Ross was on fire with 51 pionts but JJ reddick stole it in the last quater with some amazing behind the line jump shots.