March 18, 2014. One of the prime time news of the day was the announcement that Phil Jackson, the winningest coach in NBA history, would become the new GM of the fallen Knicks franchise. He signed 5-year, 60$ million contract and many speculated that this was just a marketing move by the once proud and great franchise.
They were in a complete mess and not even the authority of the man with 13 championship rings under his belt was enough to convince the doubters that Knicks finally know what they are doing. This was maybe their first step towards relevancy in a long, long time.
New York City is the biggest market in the league, by far. They were always capable of bringing big stars and offering them luxurious contracts. Despite winning just 2 titles, in 1970 and 1973, the Knicks fans and not only them, expect from the team to compete for the championship in almost every season.
Unlike the Lakers and Celtics, which have 33 titles combined, there are other reasons why the Knicks were often considered basketball powerhouse, despite lacking more banners.
The Mecca of Basketball
First of all, the city of New York is regarded as the Mecca of basketball. The street playgrounds throughout the city are well known and famous, with Rucker park achieving legendary status during decades. Some of the NBA icons were born in New York, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Julius Erving, Tiny Archibald, Richie Guerin, Billy Cunningham, Connie Hawkins, Michael Jordan, Bernard King, Chris Mullin, Bob Lanier, Mark Jackson, Stephon Marbury, Pat Riley, Larry Brown and Lenny Wilkens.
The grit and dignity of the 70s generation, the offensive excellence of Bernard King led the squad, the toughness and spirit of Ewing era and the world's most famous arena Madison Square Garden are inseparable to the Knicks.
The fact that Knicks always were matched against some historically great teams like Showtime Lakers, Greentime Celtics, overpowering Bulls or young Bucks with possibly the greatest point guard-center combination ever is the biggest reason why they don't have more championships. Had it not been for Hakeem's tip of the finger in game 6 of the 1994 Finals or Ewing's injury in 1999, the Knicks would have almost certainly raised the third banner.
All of those shortcomings actually added to the Knicks greatness and the fact that orange and blue jersey is one of the symbols of the NBA league. Just as equally as Jerry West's silhouette, MJ's tongue, Kareem's sky hook, Kobe's mamba face or Bird's trash-talking.
The Knicks are the important part of the American pop culture and their influence surpasses the boundaries of basketball. No matter for which team you are rooting for, every true basketball fan is happy to see the resurgence and revival of the Knicks this season.
The Big Apple deserves playoff basketball. That's the place where basketball history was created.
From Reed's epitomization of the Knicks' spirit in 1970 Finals, King's stellar rise and painful fall in mid 80s, Ewing's savvy, consistency and ultimate failure, Starks' heart and tenacity, Spike Lee's skirmishes and disappointment, Sprewell's smashmouth game in 1999 all the way to Carmelo's scoring barrages in the recent past, the Knicks left their mark in the record books and fans' memory. They were victims of some of the greatest performances by Jordan, Miller, Jabbar, West, Bird, Olajuwon, Duncan and James.
The Future: New York Knicks 2015/16
Fast forward in the present time, the NYK guys are fighting for the playoffs. After posting franchise's worst ever 17-65 record in 2015, they are at 20-21 at the moment. Melo is healthy and looks mature and ready to lead this team. Porzingis is playing better than anybody expected, excluding the old fox Jackson who selected him. Few months ago the fans booed him and now he's their favorite.
The Knicks failed to sign some household name like Aldridge, Gasol or Rondo past summer, but attracted good enough players to improve their weak spots. Afflalo is very good 3&D option, Robin Lopez brought size, rim protecting and defensive security, Williams, O'Quinn, and Grant are team-first guys who can help and contribute in various ways. Jackson gets rid of some useless players and troublemakers, instilled confidence in those who stayed and welcomed newcomers.
For the first time in years, it looks like the Knicks are enjoying playing together. Melo embraced Porzingis and said that he would be the face of the franchise one day in the future, plus he's doing things we didn't get used to from him – assisting and sharing the ball. Players respect coach Fisher and his game plans, running some modified triangle offense and being dependable on defense.
Starting unit of Calderon, Afflalo, Melo, Porzingis and Lopez has enough size, length, athleticism and speed to answer on almost every task on defense and challenge even the league's best offenses. The Spaniard rejuvenated his career after looking like a trash can last year and once again is shooting at a ridiculously high rate. Galloway and Thomas showed they are solid rotation players. They have built the chemistry which is the cornerstone for any serious result.
Based on their storied history, the Knicks have learned one thing – If you are not big enough to lose, you are not big enough to win either. And they were really, really BIG in losing. Maybe it's time for some winning.