The New York Knicks are a NBA basketball team unlike any other in the entire NBA. This is due to a variety of factors including a famous home court, a major metropolitan city behind them, and their streaky success for over twenty years. However, the Knicks were not always on that side of the scoreboard. In the ’70s, former Head Coach Red Holzman led the team to two NBA Championship wins (’70 and ’73).
Through this decade and the decades surrounding, the Knicks made it to the playoffs or NBA Championship game without the victory, as well. In the ’90s, Patrick Ewing (center) led the team through playoff-filled seasons and intense rivalries that continued to bolster the team’s success. ’94 and ’99 saw the New York Knicks in the NBA Finals, though neither time resulted in another NBA Championship.
Since 2000, the level of success has never fully recovered.
In February 2017, Forbes estimated that the Knicks were the “most valuable team for a second straight year,” worth approximately
We breakdown the reasoning behind the Knicks’ continued value and fandom, as the NBA’s lovable losers prove that winning streaks don’t always matter. Ticket Liquidator overviews the step-by-step unfolding of the New York Knicks’ past two decades.
Unlucky turns, bad decisions, and continuous downturn begs the question: why do fans still love the Knicks?
The New York Knicks represent the founding era of the National Basketball Association. “Knicks” came from the term “Knickerbockers,” a pseudonym from the book A History of New York by Washington Irving. In 1946, the Knicks played the Toronto Maple Leaf Gardens that constituted as the first game in league history. What’s better: the Knicks won the game and began the long-term focus to play at Madison Square Garden. In the early years, the Garden’s busy schedule did not always allow for the Knicks’ games. This would change during future seasons as the franchise built credibility.
In addition, the Knicks were the first team to sign an African-American player for the 1950-1951 season. The Sweetwater Clifton era began a three-year run to the NBA Finals from 1951 to 1953.
“The World’s Most Famous Arena”
Madison Square Garden is an iconic venue space to musicians and athletes alike. Selling out MSG or “The Garden” is a stamp on one’s career path. The Knicks’ sports residency at MSG further promotes their relationship to New York and its steady fan base. The history of the venue assists with this, as it has hosted the biggest names in many celebrity industries.
Madison Square Garden is located between 31st and 33rd Streets and Seventh Avenue. It is actually the fourth reincarnation of The Garden, as former locations used that name earlier in the 1900s. It officially opened in 1968 and underwent extensive updates and enhancements in 2013. The World’s Most Famous Arena is the epicenter of Manhattan’s bustling event life. The biggest shows and games in New York take place at MSG.
Their On-and-Off Success
The Knicks are not failures, and anyone who thinks so hasn’t taken the time to really look at the longevity and season-by-season results of the team. They have won two NBA Championships in 1970 and 1973. In addition, eight conference titles and five division titles sit stacked in their history. The latest division title was only in 2013. This means that their success was not all decades ago but sporadically throughout the years.
In the ’90s, the Knicks’ two appearances in the NBA Finals, though failed attempts, still marked a fire and competitive spirit in the team.
Due to Madison Square Garden’s location in NYC, the Knicks games are a popular spot for celebrities to enjoy a casual night out courtside. Celebrities from Spike Lee to Katie Holmes are Knicks fans who have enjoyed games. That list extends to comedian Chris Rock, actor Tom Hanks, and many more. It’s fun to show up to a game and not know who you’re going to see shine on the court or courtside, either.
The Knicks came off of a surprising Finals run in 1999. They lost to the San Antonio Spurs 4-1. However, fans didn’t know the tough decades to follow. Going into the new season, the New York Knicks traded franchise icon Patrick Ewing to the Seattle SuperSonics for the Los Angeles Lakers’ Glen Rice, Lakers’ Travis Knight, and Phoenix Suns’ Luc Longley. Other players were involved, but this remains at the heart of the franchise-shattering deal. Ewing wanted to leave the Knicks, as he had played fifteen seasons with no NBA Championship win to prove for it. In addition, the summer between seasons caused tension, as the Knicks refused to grant him a two-year contract extension.
In 2001, former Head Coach Jeff Van Gundy resigned after leading the team for five years. This would begin a series of head coach changes – ten within seventeen years.
2003 saw the hiring of one of the most controversial Knicks’ head of basketball operations: Isiah Thomas. This was after a poor career streak for Thomas, who was replaced by both the Raptors and Pacers. The following Thomas era would be known as one of the worst of any sports executive in the last half of a century. In addition, bad seed Stephon Marbury would be a future cause for drama on and off the court.
In 2007, former Northwestern basketball player Anucha Browne Sanders filed a lawsuit against Thomas and the Knicks due to sexual harassment. This unleashed ugly details of the innerworkings and scandals between players and employees, and the case was decided in her favor.
In 2008, the New York Knicks looked for a new start in President of Basketball Operations Donnie Walsh. Marbury is bought out of his contract in 2009, wiping a bug off of the windshield for the team.
In 2010, the Knicks attempted to pursue Lebron James who was a free agent, promising him billionaire athlete status. James did not sign to the Knicks. Carmelo Anthony became the leading man for New York, as he signed in 2011. However, the Knicks traded away key starters for Anthony, though he clearly wanted to sign to the Knicks. A surprising turn of events saw Jeremy Lin, a D-league player, on a hot streak in 2012, but he was soon injured and traded.
The frustration is encapsulated with Amar Stoudemire after losing Game 2 in the 2012 playoffs. Stoudemire punched a fire extinguisher after the game, causing him to miss Game 3. This was the farthest the team had gone in years, and the playoffs represented the success mountain that the Knicks still couldn’t manage to climb. The 2012-2013 season would see their best record in years, though again, it still wasn’t enough to warrant a spot in the NBA Finals.
In 2014, the Knicks hired President of Basketball Operations Phil Jackson in addition to coach Derek Fischer, who just ended his career on the Oklahoma City Thunder. However, he was fired in 2016 amidst growing rumors that Fischer was seeing the same woman as Tim Hardaway Jr. In 2016, the Knicks would trade for Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, though both had knee injury concerns.
Drama escalated between Jackson and franchise star Anthony due to racially-charged comments from Jackson, and Jackson’s accusations that Anthony doesn’t share the ball. In early 2017, Rose didn’t show up for a game, and no official could determine where he is. He popped up in Chicago with little explanation, and there were concerns of his emotional and mental wellbeing.
During a 2017 game against the Clippers, Knicks legend Charles Oakely was removed, handcuffed, and arrested. In addition, the team parted with Jackson after three years as President of Basketball Operations.
In summary, the Knicks might be struggling their way through the new millennium. Any sports journalist can tell you that. However, their worth and fan support still outweigh more successful teams. NBA’s lovable losers mean more to New York than a season record.