You Can Go Home Again

As a kid, I was a passionate Knick fan. Unfortunately for me, I started to have a clue about what was going on a little bit after Bernard King injured himself, and a little bit before Patrick Ewing arrived. For those of you who can remember back that far, I’m talking about the era of Pat Cummings, Eddie Lee Wilkins, and Ken “The Animal” Bannister. For those of you who can’t remember back that far, take my word for it… you didn’t miss much.

As bad as they were, though, those were my Knicks. I would watch. And cheer. And hope. And cry. (Hey, I was 8.)

In fact, one of my earliest memories involves me crying about the Knicks. See, my parents used to put me to sleep, and then go downstairs. The only TV upstairs was in their room. So, I used to sneak out of my room and into theirs, to watch the Knicks on mute. One night, the Knicks got pounded, by some mediocre team which had better players than Pat Cummings, Eddie Lee Wilkins, and Ken “The Animal” Bannister. I just couldn’t take it. I had reached my breaking point.

I don’t remember many of the specifics. I remember yelling at the TV, even though I knew I shouldn’t. If I yelled, my parents would hear me, and I would be in trouble for having snuck out of my room to watch. But I couldn’t stop. It was like the Knick-fan part of my brain had taken over the rational part of my brain. The next thing I remember was being in my bed, crying hysterically. My parents rushed upstairs to see what was wrong, and I just said something along the lines of “it’s not fair, that they are soooo bad!!!”

A few months later, the Knicks won the draft lottery and got Patrick Ewing. And everything changed. No, he never brought us a title. But he gave me a great ride as a Knicks fan from the day he arrived until the day that he was chased out of town, and I’m loyal to him because of it.

So loyal, in fact, that I stopped rooting for the Knicks when they chased him out of town. I wasn’t going to cheer for the goons who said they thought they’d be better off without Ewing “slowing them down.” (Is that what he was doing, Sprewell? Slowing you down? You, too, Houston?) And, even after those goons had left, I spent years not rooting for the Knicks. Basically, even though Ewing moved on with his life, I hadn’t.

But, as I blogged last year, the Knicks recently started to tug at my heartstrings again. First, I had the realization that I had done more than enough to show my loyalty to Patrick Ewing — after all, how many 33-year-old lawyers spend their free time singing Patrick Ewing’s praises on a blog?

Second, I noticed that a bunch of my friends who live in New York said they don’t watch the NBA anymore. I have to think this is partly because the hometown team has been terrible for approximately 10 years, and I think the game suffers if a market as important as New York is tuned out. So, for the sake of the game itself, I started to think that it would be good for the Knicks to become relevant again.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t get excited about the Knicks again because I found the whole courtship of LeBron to be so distasteful. (As I mentioned in this blog posting.) I mean, this is New York City, people — New York F’ing City. Are New Yorkers really groveling at the feet of a 25-year-old-who-never-won-anything- but-calls-himself-The-King-anyway? New Yorkers? I wanted no part of it.

Well, The King, of course, took his talents to South Beach. Shortly thereafter, I felt the tugging on the heartstrings begin again. The Knicks got Stoudemire and then Felton. The season started, and they showed some signs of life. There were guys on the team whom I liked: Stoudemire seems introspective and genuine, and is even starting to play some D. Gallo might have a stiff back and might go soft sometimes, but he can shoot the lights out of the arena and has a good feel for the game — basically, he’s what I would be if I grew 10 inches, and was slightly-less-unathletic. Raymond Felton was the starting PG on a national championship team in college — the kind of guy I like to root for. Landry Fields is a perimeter player who played 4 years at Stanford and led the Pac 10 in rebounding during his senior season, another guy I could root for. (Plus, he lives down the street from me — I’ve seen him at Buffalo Wild Wings.) All of a sudden, the Knicks had a bunch of guys whom I liked, and I was starting to pay attention to what they were doing.

And then Friday night came along. The Heat were in town for the first time this season, and I made a point of watching the Knicks for the first time in a very long time. When I saw LeBron get boo’ed during pregame introductions, and again each time he touched the ball, I knew that the people in the Garden crowd were my people. I’ll never see eye-to-eye with the ones who wanted to get rid of Patrick, or the ones who were kissing LeBron’s butt in hopes that he’d join the Knicks, about the way they handled those two situations. But those people boo’ing LeBron were my people, nonetheless.

Before I knew it, I was boo’ing at the tv screen whenever LeBron touched the ball. I’m a Knicks fan, and I wanted him to know that he ain’t welcome here.

And that’s when it hit me… I’m a Knicks fan. A KNICKS FAN!!

It has been a long and rocky relationship with lots of fits and starts, but the net result was that some young hotshot on the other team, with a tattoo on his back that says “Chosen One,” brought his immense talents to MSG, and, when the guys in white stood up to battle him, I was gonna cheer them on. In the 25 years since I found myself uncontrollably sobbing after sneaking into my parents’ room to watch the Knicks even though I knew it would get me in trouble, I had come full circle; I found myself uncontrollably shouting at my own tv even though I knew that I might wake up my 6-month-old daughter, and that my wife would think I was crazy.

What can I say? Lots has changed over those 25 years, but I’m still the same person who was willing to get in trouble just to vent about the Knicks. Yup – I’m a Knicks fan.

Of course, something else hasn’t changed since that evening 25 years ago… the Knicks got pounded on Friday night. Unlike the team of 25 years ago, though, this one has immediate reason to hope. They’re above .500, and they aren’t relying on Ken “The Animal” Bannister to give them significant production. Plus, they might get Carmelo, and then there will be legitimate reason to get excited. More on that shortly.


  • KGF

    First, I disagree with the overall premise. There are two ways to build a team; by being top heavy (in the way of stars) or an evenly distributed roster. Admittedly, most of my examples are “runners up”, but clearly these teams were championship caliber, but ran into a better team:

    Example 1 – Detroit Pistons (early 2000s). Chauncy, Sheed and RIP Hamilton were there top three players. This was no where near the top “threesome” in the league; however, they bought into a championship system and executed.

    Example 2 – Miami Heat (2006) – Top three; oft injured Shaq, young D.Wade and ……Gary Payton or Thunder Dan Marjle (kidding; I suppose PJ Brown). Not the best threesome, but they had championship leadership in Riley and bought into a winning system and took on Riley’s obsessive winning attitude.

    Examples 3 Knicks of the early to mid 90s. (Ewing, John Starks and Oakley/Charles Smith/Mason). This team has one all-star who was probably the fourth best center at the time (Hakeem the Dream, Robinson, Shaq and am probably missing someone), and a bunch of over-hyped NY players that wouldn’t receive an 80 rating in EA Sport’s NBA game let alone qualify for NBA Jams. However, they again had a legendary coach in Riles and bought into a system.

    The Knicks are not a Carmelo away from winning it this year; especially if they give up their roll players. Neither Melo nor Amare play ANY defense. For each game that Amare scores 30 plus, the guy he is covering scores 28 or more (whether its D. Lee, Lopez, the list goes on).

    The Knicks should be patient and let Carmelo come to them via free agency where he can join a team with a full compliment of role players. The Celtics will be a year older; At that time is when the Knicks will have a realistic shot to win (and it will cost them less). Just my two cents.

  • KGF

    …forgot to include the 2000 Sixers as a system team with no star studded top three; It was a one man show, a commitment to defense and belief in a system. Just another example of how I don’t think your top three needs to be upper echelon to win. The Knicks need to be patient and let the market come to them. They have a good thing going right now. Enjoy the ride.

  • Tweener

    KGF! Good stuff. Looks like you’re actually responding to the other posting, about trading Carmelo, but I’m glad you commented!

    A few responses:
    1. Good point re the Pistons. I’d argue though, that those guys are the exception to the rule. No other team has been able to follow that formula to a championship. So, I don’t think they disprove the premise.

    2. Disagree re the Heat. I checked the stats — during their ’06 championship run, Shaq played in 23 games averaged 18 ppg, 9.8 boards, and shot better than 60%. He and Wade were so good that the Heat essentially had the best top 3 in the game.

    3. The Knicks teams you’re talking about never got over the hump. (Trust me, I was watching.) I don’t know that they’re a model of success to follow.

    4. Re: the Sixers… fair point, but I think the East in 2001 was about as bad a conference as there has been in a while. Jordan was gone from the Bulls, Ewing was gone from the Knicks, and neither LeBron nor Wade had arrived yet. The #2 seed in the East was Ray Allen’s Milwaukee squad. This year’s Eastern Conference is much tougher.

    5. I’m not saying that getting Carmelo makes the Knicks the championship favorite. I’m saying they’re in a better spot if they have him, Amar’e and Raymond, and have to fill in the roster around those guys, than they are trying to figure out a better way to get the current group over the hump.

    Good stuff, though! Keep me on my toes.

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