One of the stars of early Knicks history, Ken Sears, died Monday at the age of 83. Sears played seven seasons in New York, making two All-Star teams and twice leading the NBA in field-goal percentage (1958-59, 1959-60). He was the last Knick to pull off that feat until Tyson Chandler led the league in the 2011-12 season...so, yeah, it was a while.
Sears, a 6’9” forward out of Santa Clara, was the fifth overall pick in the 1955 draft. He showed up at the old Garden to start the next season with suitcases in hand. Considering the era he played in, he received the royal treatment:
“I lived in the Belvedere Hotel right across from the Garden on 49th Street with a couple of other guys, Gene Shue and Dick Atha,” says Sears. “Then one game my side was killing me, and you know we were eating in those greasy spoons on Eighth Avenue, so they decided that because I might have some future with the team, they put me in the New York Athletic Club on 59th Street. I was there for two years, I guess, with a free tab where I could eat whatever I wanted. I was eatin’ good there.”
Sears played on some talent-laden Knicks teams in the late ’50s, alongside Hall of Famers Richie Guerin, Sweetwater Clifton, Harry Gallatin and Dick McGuire. Those Knicks squads only made the playoffs once, however: a 2-0 sweep at the hands of the Syracuse Nationals.
The West Coast native retired as a member of San Francisco Warriors, never returning to New York over the last 50 years of his life. Considering what happened with Charles Oakley, staying away from MSG was probably the right decision.
Rest in peace, Mr. Sears.