Tonight is the fourth night of Hanukkah, a Hebrew holiday with numerous spellings, and though many might scoff at the idea that a basketball team like the New York Knicks could be reasonably compared to the festival of lights and the history behind it, those people simply lack imagination.
Before we delve into the history of the holiday and how some current and past Knicks figures fit into the story and everything that comes with it, let’s first bask in the warming glow of Amar’e Stoudemire wishing us a happy Hanukkah via the Knicks official Twitter account:
Happy Hanukkah to you too, STAT! And the happiest of holidays to all.
The story of Hanukkah begins long before any of us were around, circa 200 B.C., kind of like how the game of basketball dates back to 1891, or how the Knicks’ first season started in 1946, when the only highlight videos that existed were in black and white, the three-point shot was more than three decades from becoming a thing, and Kristaps Porzingis was negative 49-years-old.
Anyway, back to B.C. times. Israel had come under the control of Syria and its king, Antiochus III, and things were going pretty okay, as he was generally cool with Jews practicing their religion. Eventually, however, Antiochus III gave way to his son, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and this new Antiochus character was a bit of a curmudgeon, to say the least. He decided to make a law saying that the Jewish religion was no longer cool, and he ordered the Jews to give up their beliefs and instead worship Greek gods like Zeus and Hera. The new king and his new laws were not well received by those of the Jewish faith.
If you’re not picking up on the ways in which this story can be related to Charles Dolan handing over the Knicks to his son James Dolan in 1999, and the way a significant amount of Knicks fans feel about the team’s current overlord, then quite frankly you need to brush up on your reading comprehension.
Back to the story at hand. Before long, Antiochus IV got sick of hearing how Jews in Jerusalem were refusing to drop their beliefs for him, so he sent soldiers to the city to kill a bunch of people. During the war, an important Hebrew temple was desecrated and basically destroyed by the Antiochus army. They even put up a statue of Zeus in the temple, which is totally unacceptable according to the Jewish faith. It’s like if the Knicks erected a statue of Michael Jordan outside of MSG instead of Patrick Ewing.
In all fairness, James Dolan hasn’t sought to massacre massive amounts of people, and he hasn’t attempted to burn down Madison Square Garden or anything like that. Maybe during this part of the story Antiochus IV is more like Isiah Thomas?
We now come to the part of the tale where the Jews rebelled against Antiochus IV and his army, thanks to a Jewish priest named Mattathias who coached his five sons in guerilla warfare, a la David Fizdale and the Knicks starting lineup. The premier son was a man named Judah Maccabee, who led the Jews to a victory over the Syrian army. Within a couple of years, the Syrian soldiers were successfully driven out of Jerusalem, kind of like how within a couple of years Porzingis will lead the Knicks to the promised land (a championship).
Here’s the part of the story that most people know: Judah Maccabee and his fellow victorious Jews needed to rebuild and cleanse the temple that had been desecrated during the war. Part of that cleansing was the lighting of the menorah, but unfortunately, there was only a meager amount of oil, so everyone assumed the candles would only stay lit for a day or so. As the legend goes, the candles miraculously burned for eight nights, resulting in the creation of Hanukkah, the holiday we are currently in the middle of.
Three Miscellaneous Hanukkah-Related Items That Did Not Fit Neatly Into The Above Story
If the Knicks were the candles on a menorah, Porzingis would be the shamash. That’s the candle that is in the middle of the menorah and sits higher than the other candles. It is used to light the other candles. The mere presence of Porzingis on the court helps all the other Knicks shine their brightest. Porzingis is the shamash.
If Porzingis was an entire menorah, he’d be this one, because it’s super duper tall:
Finally, let’s watch some Knicks act like dreidels, which are the spinning tops used in a Jewish game that involves gambling.
We’re not going to delve into the full details of how the game of dreidel is played right now. Dreidels are tops that spin, and that’s all you need to know at the moment in order to appreciate how they are similar to the below clips:
Happy Hanukkah, everyone!