Year: February 1991
Event: NBA All-Star Game
My first memorable encounter with basketball occurred as a four year old watching the NBA All-Star Saturday festivities. Only four things stick out in my mind that I remember to this day:
- My pops getting Bernard King, Ricky Pierce, and Karl Malone to sign his program
- Seeing MJ and Barkley outside of the Omni Hotel
- Seeing the Fresh Prince sitting courtside talking to Kendall Gill. (At the time, I thought Will Smith was the scariest person on the planet. In my defense, my parents were sort of like the black Flanders, and rap music was public enemy #1 in my house.)
- Seeing Derrick Coleman hugged up with a woman who had half of her hair shaved off. Little did I know, that woman was Pepa from Salt-N-Pepa
Seeing the event live made me have an interest in basketball, and I needed to pick a team. Initially, my favorite team, by default, was the Charlotte Hornets. I attended the games and was a genuine fan. However, the Hornets always played scared. At the time, I was not able to identify their problem as “fear”; in my eyes, it was a matter of them not trying hard enough. Something held me back and I was not able to understand fully what it was. The next year, the Hornets drafted Larry Johnson from UNLV. He signed an $84 million dollar contract, and bought a house in Lake Wylie on the water. He was a local celebrity. He opened a barbershop. The Hornets kept playing scared. This was fall of 1991. I was five.
and then I watched the Knicks play.
Exciting? Of course.
Problem solved, I was a Knicks fan.
Little did I know what I signed up for when I made my decision. Here is how the next seventeen years went:
1992 & 1993 – lost to MJ’s Bulls both seasons in the playoffs. (The Hornets made the playoffs for the first time in 1993, and faced the Knicks in the 2nd round after beating the Celtics. Alonzo Mourning hit the series game winner. Charlotte had a pep rally for the team in Southpark Mall.)
1994 - lost in the Finals to the Houston Rockets. (Starks went 2-18 in game 7, and had his shot blocked by Hakeem in game 6. The game 6 three pointer would’ve given us a championship. I cried…random sidenote, I remember game five being interrupted because of the OJ chase. Damn you Orenthal.)
1995 – lost to Reggie Miller’s Pacers, courtesy of Ewing’s bad knees, and a missed layup.
1996 – MJ returns from his baseball experiment, and beats the Knicks…again.
1997 – beat Charlotte in the first round, but lost to Miami after being up 3-1. The PJ Brown Flip. After the flip, half of our team gets suspended and we have no chance of winning games six and seven. Pat Riley beat us. This begins the Heat vs. Knicks rivalry in the late 90’s…also known as thug ball.
1998 – beat Miami in round one. LJ and Zo had a legendary fight….lost to Reggie Miller’s Pacers in round two.
1999 – beat top seeded Miami with an Allan Houston buzzer-beater. As an 8th seed, we reached the finals. Lost to the Spurs in five games. I watched game five in Shreveport, LA.
In an era marked by a drug abusing owner, inept coaches, terrible draft picks, and Stephon Marbury, we failed to win a playoff game for ten years. We made one playoff appearance in ten years. We paid Larry Brown $50 million for five years, he lasted one season. We paid Jerome James $30 million for five years. In four years, Jerome never averaged more than 3 points a game. We paid Stephon Marbury over $20 million in his last season as a Knick, and he never played a game that season. Isiah Thomas had a sexual harassment lawsuit.
And this doesn’t even include the draft history:
We drafted Channing Frye over Andrew Bynum.
Renaldo Balkman over Rajon Rondo.
Frédéric Weis…who never played an NBA Game…over Ron Artest.
To save time, space, and me from killing myself, the Knicks never won more than 40 games from 2001-2009, and every player we drafted during that timeframe, no longer plays for the Knicks. It was madhouse, and we were the laughing stock of the league. Even the Clippers made the playoffs during this time span.
2010 – We clear cap space, and thanks to Donnie Walsh, we build a playoff team. We sign Amare Stoudamire, and Ray Felton. We are a legit team, and for the first time in years, we are shown on national TV.
2011 – Carmelo Anthony is traded to the Knicks and signs a three year extension.
And this is where we are now. People jumping on the Knicks bandwagon because of Carmelo. Although I’m happy my team is doing better, and has a chance to contend for a title the next few years, I am pissed that all these bandwagoners are taking my seat on the bus.
When you love something, you suffer. I have suffered with the Knicks for many years. Through thick, thin, and Eddy Curry. Real fans know what time it is: time to celebrate. We have hope. We have something to be legitimately optimistic for, instead of lying to ourselves, and having conversations with other fans like this: “With Marbury and Zach Randolph, we could make a run at the 8th seed.” I laugh at it now, but in 2007, we were dead serious.
I don’t know how to end this blog. That’s my Knick history. I’ve been down for a while. To the newbies, one piece of advise: when the real fans are talking, just wear your #7 jersey, and do not talk. To the OG’s: keep hope alive.