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P&T Roundtable: Numbers the Knicks won’t retire, but should

These players belong in the MSG pantheon.

The number 2 represents the greatest injustice in the history of the Knicks. World War II ended a little over a year before the Knicks began playing, yet they only have two Nixon-era titles to show for it. Appalling.

The number 9 represents the second-greatest injustice. Only nine people have had their numbers retired by this organization, and only one who was born after World War II. We can’t do anything about the dearth of titles. But we can offer nominees for players whose numbers the Knicks should (or, in one case, shouldn’t) retire. Entonces:

MMiranda — Jamal Crawford’s #11

The Knicks are bad. The Knicks have been bad. Hope springs eternal that the Knicks will not always be bad, and a new hope is spreading that the end of the bad is nigh.

Darkness is no monolith. In the early 2000s, darkness took the form of falling from contention. Then missing the playoffs. Then missing them repeatedly. Then being embarrassed in the playoffs. Then being a night-in, night-out embarrassment.


Luckily, light is no less versatile. It may take the form of an 87-inch Latvian. Or a teenage Rwandan by way of France and Belgium. Light, like water, can take on any form to fill a space. Back in the mid 2000s, the Knicks were unwatchable on the court and unlikable off it. So light found its form. Jamal Crawford.

It wasn’t just the game winners when wins of any kind were hard to come by.

Or the historic performances for a team and time whose historics and histrionics were mostly lows.

The greatest joy when the Knicks won those days was Crawford speaking to the MSG sideline reporter immediately after home wins. The Knicks were a miscast mishmash of mushmouths, misogynists and meh. But Crawford was always so classy, so humble. His game had so much sizzle, but when he spoke he was so calm, so even-keel. Even after he was traded away once the Knicks were suddenly decent for cap room to sign LeBron James Amar’e Stoudemire Amar’e Stoudemire’s knees with 200,000 miles on them, his comments reflected reflection, deflection and appreciation for his time in New York.

The Knicks retired the number 15 for both Dick McGuire and Earl Monroe. Maybe one day Frank Ntilikina’s number 11 will hang from the MSG rafters. If it does, and I accomplish my dream of writing a best-selling trio of novels that earns me enough $ to become the Knicks majority owner, Frank’s 11 will hang next to Crawford’s. Thanks for the memories, Jamal.

Stingy — Baron Davis’ #85

Not unlike Professor Miranda, I feel a deep connection to the electricity in Jamal Crawford’s finesse. These mind-bending megavolts can be conducted at lower yields through my choice, Baron Davis. It’s a two-pronged approach for me here. Firstly but not worst-ly, nobody wears that silly number. Secondly, I beckon thee, I want Baron to take over for Clyde Frazier when the time comes.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again and again and again and again. Until I don’t have to say it anymore. At which point I’ll just tell you I told you so. Of course you’ll say, “but Baron is from Los Angeles”. Well that’s why you retire his number in New York. Get him in your good graces, Knicks! He’ll be Los Angeles if you let him, just don’t let him.

Baron wasn’t BARON when he finally came to the Knicks. His short tenure with the Knicks (29 games at the injury riddled age of 32) ended grotesquely. His knee cap basically took the escalator down to his ankle. But his style and flair on the court was the city’s breath of life in that short time. His sleight of hand kept defenders off balance, then he would jostle them with the big body-ness. True New Yorker’s know and love old-man game. Baron skated around the floor, his body language communicating the ecstatic relief of a crowd that can appreciate such sorcery.

His greatest moment in Madison Square Garden may have actually been when he played for Cleveland. But hey- nobody is really gonna hop out there wearing number 85 anyway. So I’m not hurting anyone. Let’s just call it a heck of an NBA career, he retired as a Knick, and just get that gifted gabber onto the sidelines and into the booth!

Alex Wolfe — Latrell Sprewell’s #8

This one’s pretty easy for me. I kinda owe the ’98-99 Knicks everything as far as my fandom goes — unfortunately, I was just too young to really appreciate the actual good years during the ’90s. It was only when I was an impressionable 9-year-old that I was captured by the spell of the rowdy 8-seed that made an improbable run to the Finals behind some incredible play by Latrell Sprewell (and others, but Spree stood out the most to me).

Spree spent the better part of five years with the Knicks from 1998 through 2003. And yeah, you could make a case that by the time he made it to the Knicks, his best years were already behind him. But I don’t care! This guy wore that number 8 like a champ.

Since Spree’s departure in 2003, here’s the players that have donned the 8: Jermaine Jackson, Ime Udoka, Danilo Gallinari, Derrick Brown, J.R. Smith, Robin Lopez, Justin Holiday, Michael Beasley and Mario Hezonja. It’s kind of become a number that represents the crazy characters of the Knicks, especially in recent years. Not that Spree was anything but a character himself, but maybe that’s why I want his number enshrined so badly.

Retire Spree’s number 8, and then it can stand as a memorial to everyone who wore it after him as well — J.R., SuperCoolBeas, RoLo, Gallo, and all of those other guys that entertained us (while not having quite the level of success) in that number will be retired right up there with him in spirit.

It’d also be good to break the ice and retire a single-digit number, getting ready for the future.

Drew Steele — Retire no numbers

The act of taking away a player’s access is simply un-American. We live in a nation founded on freedom (and slavery and exploitation, but like all good Americans, I choose to ignore it in favor of freedom). Freedom of speech, freedom of choice, freedom to have pizza in the morning, pizza in the evening, and pizza at supper time. Our freedom of choice shouldn’t preclude selecting to have any New York Knick’s number on the back of their uniform.

Frank Ntilikina can’t have the number 10 because Clyde Frazier had it? Why? Because Clyde was so fly on the court? Disconnect yourself from sports logic for a moment and you will see how faulty the concept is. Imagine working for a sales company. They retired eight cubicles because eight salespeople of a different era in the company’s history sold so much product to generate a large amount of revenue. No one is allowed to sit in those cubes and eight employees are forced to sit on another floor, away from their teams. That’s not only poor utility of maximizing a floor space, but it’s also idiotic to have those employees not with their team for the reason presented.

Look at the New York Yankees. They have so many retired numbers that Aaron Judge is number 99 and Dellin Betances is number 68. What kind of numbers are those?! If a franchise wants to honor their great players, simply hang their name in the rafters. Or if they want to hang the jersey, don’t retire the number. The numbers 00 through 99 don’t belong to any one individual: they belong to the universe.

When Zion Williamson is a Knick next year and he wants to be number 33, let him. It doesn’t matter.

You’ve read our spiel. Now you deal: which Knick would you like to see have their number retired? Or do you subscribe to Drew’s pragmatic/humane nihilism? Comment away!