The Knicks deserve to be rooted for…even in the Midwest.
They haven’t won a title in more than 35 years and their last two times in the Finals were respectable efforts with heartbreaking results. They are New York City’s team, which means they are America’s team in terms of exposure and attention; and despite the dearth of recent championships, they still have cool and compelling history from the 70s through the 90s.
The 70s Knicks brought great basketball teams, including two championships in 1970 and ’73. They were known for flashy fashion statements from Walt Frazier, unorthodox players like Dave Debusschere and Bill Bradley, and Willis Reed coming in hurt late to rally his team in the Finals.
Throughout the 80s, they played the doormat to their Eastern neighbors, the Boston Celtics, who continued to add hardware to their legend.
In the 90s, the Knicks led by Patrick Ewing were bold, brash, in your face, and left you never knowing what to expect next. Ewing’s teammates gained more notoriety for fights, technicals, comebacks, personality and rivalries (with the Heat, Bulls and Pacers). Latrell Sprewell, Larry Johnson, John Starks and others always gave fans their money’s worth.
The 90s Knicks got stung twice, once losing the seventh game to the Houston Rockets and their starpower led by Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, and the other time as an eigth seed running into the San Antonio Spurs and their dynamic duo of Tim Duncan and David Robinson. The San Antonio series was anti-climactic as Ewing was out due to injury.
In 2012, 13 seasons removed from their last appearance as an NBA finalist, they have the greatest underdog story in recent pro sports history. Jeremy Lin has captivated the nation and turned casual and fervent fans of all areas towards rooting for the New York Knicks.
Madison Square Garden’s history, location, and its reputation as basketball’s ‘Mecca’ adds to the rooting barometer. Instead of Hollywood stars as in LA, Broadway stars and comedians abound.
Many tourists know of MSG or have gone in at least once to see what all the buzz was about. It’s right there in the heart of America’s most populated city. It’s hard to compare the energy in MSG with any other arena when their team is firing on all cylinders. Ask anyone who was there the night of LJ’s four-point play in the video above.
The uniform colors are cool, some orange and blue, similar to the Mets, but different from the average brand.
The nickname, though, doesn’t make a lot of sense. Very few pro sports franchises can say they are named for some old white people’s last name. This is the case for the Knicks, a shortened derivation of Knickerbocker, a Dutch surname.
The combination of Linsanity, the failed recent history of the franchise, and being from New York make the Knicks a compelling story, especially this year. Fans are all-in on rooting for this team to beat the ego-driven Miami Heat in the playoffs and make the NBA Finals. Fans want to see “Linning,” which means they’d also prefer Lebron get pushed harder before getting his ring.
Howard Alperin is Managing Editor of AmericanizeSoccer.com