Other clubs have captured more world championships, but there’s arguably no franchise more iconic than the New York Knicks. At the very least, there’s no topping the stately trappings of Madison Square Garden. Through four incarnations, the hallowed halls of “The World’s Most Famous Arena” have served as the site to not just some of the greatest moments in NBA history, but landmark moments in pop culture, too. From the Rolling Stones to Michael Jordan, everything just seems bigger when performed on that grand stage.
As one of the league’s first 11 teams, the Knickerbockers can trace their history all the way back to 1946. Upon entering the Association, New York competed in the NBA Finals in ‘51, ‘52 and ‘53, but it was the arrival of head coach William “Red” Holzman in ‘67 that established the franchise as a marquee attraction. Big man Willis Reed and point guard Walt Frazier were seemingly destined for greatness regardless of where they played, but suiting up for the Knicks made them living legends. In ‘69-70, the duo powered the club to 60 wins during the regular season to set the stage for an incredible run through the playoffs.
At the NBA Finals, New York met Wilt Chamberlain and the Los Angeles Lakers. The series went back and forth for the first six contests, but it was the battle in Game 7 that would live on in the hearts and minds of fans for years to come. League MVP Reed had been injured in Game 5, and a return seemed doubtful. However, just minutes before tipoff of the deciding tilt, Reed descended from the locker room and brought an entire city to its feet. He’d score the team’s first four points before exiting, but his mere appearance was enough to inspire the Knicks to persevere and capture the title.
Earl “The Pearl” Monroe joined the club in ‘71-72, and New York won the Eastern Conference crown. The following season, the franchise trounced all foes and notched a second world championship. The shadows cast by Reed, Frazier and Monroe would loom over the NYC skyline until the late ‘80s, when center Patrick Ewing began to make his mark as one of the game’s elite. An 11-time All-Star, Ewing would guide the Knicks to the playoffs 13 times, including NBA Finals appearances in ‘94 and ‘99. He also elevated his teammates, as John Starks, Charles Oakley, and Anthony Mason would become veritable folk heroes in the Big Apple.
Even in down years, the Knicks remain the hottest ticket in town, and a quick scan of the Garden crowd during games turns into a who’s who of A-list supporters. Spike Lee, Chris Rock, Liam Neeson and Taylor Swift are among the megawatt celebs who can be found in attendance on any given night. In general, New Yorkers believe that they can do anything, so it’s no surprise that their confidence carries over to the hardwood. In the concrete jungle where dreams are made of, the Knicks will always be the kings of the court.