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Summary: Jonathan Bender is the greatest Knick of all time. Top five, at least.
We at SB Nation have been doing these themed posts every Wednesday, and today is "Comeback Day", with the definition of "comeback" being pretty open-ended. Now, the Knicks have had some legendary team rallies (the most memorable of which came against the Bucks for some reason) and historic player returns (the Willis Reed game, Bernard King's return from injury, Patrick Ewing's return from injury, not Antonio McDyess), but this is P&T and as far as we're concerned, that stuff pales in comparison to the most triumphant return ever to take place at Madison Square Garden.
On Monday, December 13, 2009, it was announced that Donnie Walsh and the Knicks had signed Jonathan Bender, a one-time Walsh draft pick in Indiana whose career had fizzled because of his poor, friable knees. Bender felt ready to make a comeback, though, and after giving him a workout, Walsh was more than willing to give the Bender project another shot with a new team. At the time, my veteran-loathing self was not pleased:
It saddens me to know Joe Crawford and Morris Almond are still biding their time in the D-League while moves like this one are made, but I suppose Bender's worth a shot. Walsh clearly knows his game well and was dying to give him another chance if he was up for it. I've never been a fan of comebacks, personally. I'll side with young, untapped talent 11 times out of 10, but I guess not everyone's as heartless as I am.
(If 2009 me heard that the 2012 Knicks would considering adding Rasheed Wallace as the fourth-oldest player, he'd probably just drop out of college and go live in a hole.)
I was grumpy about it, but New York was already shitty enough at that point in the year (8-15 into a 29-53 season) that it didn't especially matter. It took a few days, I guess, for Bender to collect his limbs and arrive in New York, and he wouldn't debut until that Friday against the Clippers. It was his first game since 2005, and it waaaas awesome:
We were all like "okay, what's this knobbly ol' stick figure got, eh?", and then Bender proceeded to beat Marcus Camby off the dribble on his very first touch, drain a three on his next touch, and commit several batteries on the defensive interior. I know it doesn't sounds like anything, but I assure you it was one of the few highlights of an absolutely dismal season. I was instantly enamored. Bender, always swathed in protective padding and wearing a mildly nauseated expression, would go on to play a fairly mediocre 25 games on a very mediocre Knicks team. He never re-signed in New York or elsewhere, and is probably in some cornfield right now sharing a grape popsicle with a scarecrow. (Seriously, though, he's a pretty active entrepreneur and philanthropist).
And that's the greatest Knicks comeback of all time. Don't let anybody tell you otherwise.