Tag Archives: New York Knicks

For reasons I didn’t understand, as time has moved closer to the Draft Lottery on May 14th, I’ve found myself caring deeply about the Knicks, regularly hoping they land Zion Williamson, and thinking about how I want them to approach the offseason. This invisible gravitational pull to the Knicks is unfamiliar, because, after spending many years of my life as a passionate Knicks fan, I’ve been disinterested for just about 20 years, with a brief interruption when Carmelo Anthony made them relevant for a short while. I’ve been too busy for too long to find time to watch a team that brings me no joy. And the Knicks, for a long time, have brought me no joy. Yet, as the Draft Lottery has gotten closer, I’ve found myself caring. And May 12th helped me understand why.

The appropriate place to start this story is in 1984. I was seven.  And the Knicks were terrible.  I mean terr-a-bull. But, I loved them.

One of the quirky features of the house I grew up in was that my closet connected to my parents’ closet.  So, if you opened my closet door, you could take two steps and be in their closet, and then take two steps more and be in their room.  This quirk allowed me to get from my room to theirs without walking across the top of the staircase. This meant that if they put me to bed and went downstairs, I could walk into their room and turn on the TV.

I had some kind of strange inclination to inflict pain upon myself, so I would take advantage of this opportunity to sneak into their room and watch the Knicks, during a time when the Knicks were terrible.

And, in case I wasn’t clear the first time, I mean they were terr-a-bull.  Have you heard of Pat Cummings? Rory Sparrow?  Ken “The Animal” Bannister?  You haven’t?  That’s my point.

Terrible.

This intentional infliction of pain upon myself was destined to end badly, and end badly it did.  One night when I was watching, the Knicks got beaten so convincingly that I couldn’t help but cry hysterically.  It’s my earliest memory.  Literally.  The first clear memory that I have of my childhood is of a night when I snuck into my parents’ room to watch the Knicks, and the Knicks lost so badly that I couldn’t help but blow my own cover crying so loudly that my parents heard me and learned what I had done. I remember watching.  And I remember crying.  And I remember thinking “If I keep crying, they’re gonna hear me.  And if they hear me, they’re gonna know I’ve been sneaking in to watch TV. But I don’t care. The Knicks are just so terrible, and it isn’t fair. They need to know that it just isn’t fair.”

The next thing I remember was a few months later.  I was in my living room, watching TV in the daylight, not getting myself into any trouble.  It was May 12, 1985, and I was nervously watching the NBA Draft Lottery.  I remember when the Knicks were revealed to be the winner, landing the rights to Patrick Ewing.  I remember tossing the couch pillows up to the ceiling.  Remember jumping up and down. Remember screaming and throwing my arms up in the air.  Remember slapping my father five in celebration.

Twelve years later, on May 12, 1997, my father passed away.

Given that I have so few vivid memories from before May 12, 1985 – literally, just that night of watching the Knicks after bedtime and getting myself into trouble, and maybe one or two others – those two days are the bookends of my memories with my dad.  May 12, 1985 and May 12, 1997.

Lots of those memories – I mean lots – involve basketball.  Playing basketball.  Talking about basketball.  Arguing about basketball.  Watching basketball.  Specifically, watching Patrick Ewing and the Knicks.

I remember watching on Christmas Day at my aunt and uncle’s house, when the Knicks were down by 25 points to the Celtics.  I remember my uncle saying “if the Knicks win this game, I’ll eat my hat.” And I remember Patrick Ewing leading them to a victory.  Physically unable to eat his hat, but wanting to be a man of his word, I remember that my uncle said he’d take us to a fun Knicks game.  I remember going with him and my dad (and maybe my brother? He was 6 at the time, and I’m not sure whether he joined us) the night they retired Earl Monroe’s jersey. I remember watching with my dad during the crazy night of the OJ car chase. (My dad was the only person I knew who, as the OJ trial was happening, was regularly talking about the holes in the prosecution’s case.  But I digress.)

For the rest of my life, I’ll have exactly twelve years of memories with my dad: May 12, 1985 – May 12, 1997 (putting aside that one memory of my night spent crying about the Knicks).  Patrick Ewing is right in the middle of many of those memories.  I’d like to think I’d have great memories with my dad even if that draft lottery had gone a different way.  But, thankfully, we’ll never know.  What we know is that one moment on May 12, 1985 changed my beloved Knicks from terrible to competitive, and gifted me twelve years of good times watching with my dad.

Now, as we move on from May 12, 2019, the Knicks are as terrible as they’ve ever been.  My kids are aware of their existence, but they’ve shown almost no interest in watching with me. Starting to develop a skill for manipulation, they’ve very recently figured out that they can avoid going to bed at bedtime by saying “but Daddy, I want to watch basketball with you! Can I stay up for just a few more minutes watching basketball?”  (I don’t know whether to be proud, or angry.) But, in terms of real interest in watching basketball, there have been hardly any genuine signs. And any interest in the Knicks specifically has been almost non-existent. Until a few days ago, that is… when there were highlights of Zion Williamson on TV… and I asked them to come watch… and I told them that he might be a Knick one day soon.

And they said “That would be cool! He looks like he’s good, and it would be cool for him to be on the Knicks!”

Yeah.  That would be cool.

So, I’ll put on my Patrick Ewing shirt for good luck.  And I’ll cheer for the Knicks to get Zion.  And I’ll actually be disappointed if they don’t.  But, either way, I’ll eagerly wait for July 1st, caring about what the Knicks do with their cap space in a way that I haven’t cared about what the Knicks do for a very long time. And I’ll be disappointed if they don’t land two quality players who are capable of making them competitive.

I’m quite sure that I’ll find plenty of things to enjoy doing with my kids over the years, regardless of whether the Knicks win the Draft Lottery, or sign a superstar.  I don’t want to be overdramatic about it. The future of my relationship with my kids does not depend on the Knicks catching a break at the Draft Lottery, or being able to use their cap space on two stud players.

But, a competitive Knicks team to watch with my kids as they grow up?  Yeah.  That would be cool.

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Everyone’s wrong but me.

Yup. It’s true. Everyone’s wrong but me.  That’s why the number of people who read this blog has increased from 3 people to 4 people.  Because I’m really crushing it over here.  Cru shing it.

As the kids say… HOLLA! (The kids still say that, right?)

Back to the matter at hand.

To be clear, it’s not that other people are wrong about everything and I’m right about everything. If that were the case, I’d probably have more than 4 readers, and maybe even an advertiser or 2.

It’s just that other people are wrong about one particular thing, and it’s an important thing.  So, congrats to all 4 of you – you’re about to learn something that nobody else knows!

Every time I hear people speculate about which free agents are going where, I hear some version of this argument: “Big markets don’t have an advantage over small markets. Superstars can play in Oklahoma City and still make the same money they’d make in bigger markets, like New York or L.A.”  The “thinking” behind this argument – to the extent that “thinking” is the proper way to describe it – is that with the explosion of social media, and the easy access to NBA games for fans across the country, there’s no difference between being in a tiny market and a huge market, when measuring the earning potential of star free agents.

Certainly, social media and the easy access to NBA games for fans across the country have reduced the advantage big markets have over small markets, in terms of advertising money a star player can make.  But, here’s the thing that only I – and now the 4 of you – seem to realize…

Since this fundamental change in the social media / cable television landscape, the extent to which superstars have been in small markets, as opposed to big markets, is a statistical fluke.  If this statistical fluke ever corrects itself, and superstars wind up in big markets at least as often as we’d expect them to if they were randomly assigned to teams, I think there’s a whole new level of popularity the game can reach.  It follows that there’s a whole new level of advertising dollars available to star players, if those star players begin gravitating to big markets rather than small markets.

To dig into that a bit, let’s look at data from the previous 5 seasons.  The classifications of “big market” teams and “small market” teams can be a bit fluid.  For purposes of this discussion, let’s focus on both the population of the city in which the team plays, and also the team’s historical pedigree.  So, even if Phoenix and Philadelphia have close to the same population, let’s say that the Sixers’ history over generations – with long-time fans of many ages, as well as more fans dispersed across the country –  makes them more of a “big market” team with an established fan base than the Suns. The Sixers had Wilt, and the Suns had Larry Nance.  With all due respect to Larry Nance, Wilt’s numbers were much more impressive. (I’m talking about his numbers ON the court. What were you thinking about?)

From there, it’s not so controversial to say we’ll look at these four teams as our big market teams: Knicks (largest city), Lakers (2nd largest city), Bulls (3rd largest city), and Sixers (6th largest city), and we’ll look at these five teams as our small market teams: Cavaliers (51st largest city), Thunder (27th, with only a few years in OKC), Blazers (26th largest city), and Grizzlies (25th largest city, with a pedigree of being an expansion team which was born during the 1990’s in Vancouver, and subsequently moved to Memphis).  This is not an exact classification of the 4 biggest market teams and the 4 smallest market teams, but it’s probably quite close, and it allows for a discussion that isn’t skewed by the overwhelming recent success of the Warriors and Spurs – neither of which is a clear “big market” or “small market” team. [Population statistics here, if you don’t believe me.]

How have those teams done during the previous 5 playoffs?

Knicks: won 0 playoff series

Sixers: won 1 playoff series, in ‘18.

Bulls: won 1 playoff series, in ‘15

Lakers: won 0 playoff series

Cavaliers: won 3 in ‘18, 3 in ‘17, 4 in ‘16, 3 in ’15 – total of 13

Thunder: won 2 in ‘16, and 2 in ’14 – total of 4

Blazers: won 1 in ‘16, and 1 in ’14 – total of 2

Grizzlies: won 1 in ‘15. [Last 5 playoff brackets available here, if you don’t believe me: ’18, ‘17, ‘16, ’15, ’14.]

That’s a total of 2 playoff wins in the past 5 seasons for the big-market teams and 20 playoff wins in the past 5 seasons for the small-market teams.  The Cavaliers skew the numbers, but even if we drop them and also the “winningest” big-market team from the discussion, that’s 1 win for the big guys and 7 for the little guys.

The point is simple: playoff wins recently have been heavily skewed towards small market teams. If talent was randomly assigned each year to the 30 teams, the big-market teams would have done much better over the previous 5 years than they actually did. So, when people tell you that “because of social media, a player can be as popular in OKC as in NY,” they don’t know what they’re talking about.  We can’t know that to be true until we see the Knicks and Lakers start winning as much as the Thunder and Cavs have been winning.  I humbly submit that if Russ and PG were on the Knicks instead of the Thunder, they’d be selling a whole lot more sneakers, and they’d be much more valuable to Nike than they have been so far. By being more valuable to Nike, they would get paid more by Nike, and, just like that, would be making more money in a big market than they were able to make in a small market.  Ya know – the thing everyone else says doesn’t happen.

So, in conclusion… Mr. Durant, sir… If you happen to be reading this blog post, please take notice!  There’s a whole new level to your popularity that hasn’t been tapped into yet.  If you come to New York, you can help your legacy, raise your profile, elevate the popularity of your league, and make a whole lot more money than you can make anywhere else.

I can’t quite guarantee it, but I assure that all 4 readers of this blog will be more than happy to buy themselves new KD sneakers if you come to NY. Just give us a chance to show you!

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