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The Most Knicks Moment Ever* tournament: Joy Division I & Slam Dunks

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Which is the Knicksiest #Knicks of them all?

https://untappedcities.com/2019/08/30/10-secrets-of-madison-square-garden-in-nyc/

Quarantine isn’t life. Also it is, though. Our seven-year-old has started making her own breakfast. This little biped who used to need us to do every little thing for her can now feed herself. She’s also developed an outsized attitude where she’s suddenly a teenager. The other morning she was shaking up the oat milk for her cereal and I politely suggested she’d shaken it enough. She narrowed her eyes at me like some villainess out of a telenovela. Every day, ups and downs. C’est la vie. C’est la Knicks.

For what are the Knicks, if not a whole lotta this or that? Most of us wouldn’t have stuck with them this long if they didn’t spark joy. But when they stumble and fall, many of us are more likely to tsk tsk and “Knicks gonna Knicks” than channel Alfred Pennysworth.

Which leads to the question — when are the Knicks the most Knicks? The answer is out there. The answer is in you.

(Bracket courtesy of the lovely & talented Jonathan Schulman. For real: don’t just gloss over that. It’s beautiful and comprehensive. Let it hit you.)

Welcome to the P&T Most Knicks Moment Ever* tournament (“Ever*” meaning “Since 1990.” They don’t pay me enough to go back before then). We’ve selected 64 moments that each in some way contain something essentially Knicks-y. These moments have been divided into eight categories:

  • Joy Division I
  • Joy Division II
  • Dunks
  • Misery
  • J.R. Smith
  • “I choose violence”
  • Injuries
  • LOL/WTF

(There’s two brackets for joy ‘cuz these days I neeeeeed joy in my life)

Starting today we’ll post two brackets per post, totaling eight match-ups. You vote. You decide. Which joy is the joy-siest? Which dunk the illest? Which WTF the WTF-est? The brackets will advance from 64 until a final two, and then voila!: the most Knicks moment ever* shall be known.

Today we’ll vote on Joy Division I and dunks.

Joy Division I

  • ALLAN HOUSTON’S SERIES-WINNER @ MIA VS. LARRY JOHNSON’S 4-POINT PLAY

1999 was the last Knick season to end as an indisputable success. Before an injury-depleted New York lost to San Antonio in the Finals, there was a rollicking month spent besting the hated Heat, the “meh” Hawks and the hated Pacers. Two moments in particular shone during that time.

Both baskets pulled the Knicks from behind into the lead. Both reduced our enemies to wailing tears and the gnashing of teeth. Both are immortalized in franchise history. But there can be only one winner today.

Poll

Which of these momentous moments moves you most?

This poll is closed

  • 36%
    Allan Houston’s shot
    (71 votes)
  • 63%
    LJ’s shot
    (125 votes)
196 votes total Vote Now

  • TRENT TUCKER’S 0.1 GAME-WINNER VS. DAVID LEE’S 0.1 GAME-WINNER

If you’re 55 or younger, you’ve pro’ly never seen the Knicks win a championship. But count your blessings, friend, and drink from a glass half-full. The Knicks have twice treated the home crowd to tenth-of-a-second miracles. You may never see a prettier rainbow than Trent Tucker’s in 1990.

Bonus joys: the shot came right in the face of Scottie Pippen, arguably the GOAT defender, and the sight of Michael Jordan slinking off the Garden floor as the runner-up never gets old. Or familiar.

Tucker’s shot led the league to a rule change: whenever a team has 0.2 seconds or less to shoot, only dunks or tip-ins can count. Nearly 16 years later, David Lee said stick this in your rule change and smoke it.

Added joy: Lee’s game-winner was the second game in a row the Knicks won at home at the buzzer. The other moment is a nominee in Joy Division II.

Poll

Whose buzzer-beater gives you the best buzz?

This poll is closed

  • 55%
    Trent Tucker’s
    (103 votes)
  • 44%
    David Lee’s
    (81 votes)
184 votes total Vote Now

  • LINSANITY VS. CARMELO’S 62

Few Knicks in recent-though-it’s-getting-farther memory evoked the joy or polarity of feelings that Jeremy Lin and Carmelo Anthony did. It seems fair to say no Knicks have brought more joy since these two. Hey! Here’s Seth:

As far as our record-setting night, what would be more quintessentially Carmelo than a highlight package featuring...all Carmelo?

A magical three weeks versus a magical night. Both high points in Knick history.

Poll

Which brought you more joy?

This poll is closed

  • 76%
    Linsanity
    (156 votes)
  • 23%
    Melo’s 62
    (48 votes)
204 votes total Vote Now

  • ALLAN HOUSTON’S 53 @ LAL VS. JAMAL CRAWFORD’S 52 VS. MIA

Hard to fathom nowadays, but for a dozen years from the late 1990s to the late 2000s the Knicks almost always had a prolific scoring guard on the roster. Allan Houston trails only Carmelo as the most complete scorer I’ve seen on this team, and no Knicks has ever brought the loosey-goosey fun and potential energy on that end that Jamal Crawford did. When he got kinetic, he could light up the city. He did. Crawford’s 52-point explosion against the Heat featured a stretch of 16 consecutive made baskets.

Crawford’s performance came in the middle of a stretch where the Knicks lost five of their other six games, three of them by one or two points. Bonus joy: look who was in attendance that night.

Houston’s 53 were a big deal for many reasons. No Knick had broken the half-century mark since Patrick Ewing 13 years prior. Also, Houston was going against Kobe Bryant that night, and Kobe was at or near the peak of his powers. The game against New York was the ninth in a stretch of 13 where Kobe scored 40, 38, 42, 35, 46, 42, 51, 44, 40, 52, 40, 40 and 41. So this wasn’t picking on some expansion team or scrub defense. This was Houston coming into Kobe’s house and outscoring the scoremeister himself.

Added joy: Houston was sooo feeling it that night he threw some hot sauce on what was otherwise normally a pretty turkey club and mayo repertoire.

Houston and Crawford both lit it up in a way Joakim Noah could only dream of.

Poll

Which 50+-piece lights you up more?

This poll is closed

  • 68%
    Allan Houston’s vs. LA
    (119 votes)
  • 32%
    Jamal Crawford’s vs. MIA
    (56 votes)
175 votes total Vote Now

Dunks

  • JOHN STARKS CHICAGO ECF VS. PATRICK EWING INDIANA ECF

These dunks came a year apart. One is known as “The Dunk.” Remember: this moment came after Jordan and the Bulls had eliminated the Knicks three of the prior four years. The Knicks had homecourt advantage and had won Game 1, but the Bulls were the two-time defending champs who’d won 10 consecutive playoff series. Raise the volume while you watch this clip. Listen for the high-pitched cheer when Starks throws it down. That’s the sound of a unique instant in Knick history: a time when we really did believe we were overthrowing the dynasty.

Bonus joy: no one dunked on Jordan! No one. I mean, it happened, sure. But there are no memorable instants of MJ coming up short. I had the poster of this dunk on my bedroom wall for years. Whenever I put in my contact lenses, I’d look at Starks over the Bulls’ big three and the world was clear and vivid and infinitely possible.

Ewing’s tip-dunk a year later didn’t inspire posters or artistic re-imaginings, but the stakes were higher, almost as high as it gets. With 35 seconds left in Game 7 of the Eastern conference finals, New York trailed Indiana by a point. The three years prior to this one, the Knicks had lost in the first round, then the second and then the ECF. With Jordan retired, the opportunity to breakthrough and reach their first Finals since 1973 was closer than ever, but the pressure to do so was more intense, too.

Losing to the hated Reggie Miller would have been rock-bottom. Winning would set off a party decades in wait. There could be but one reality. Starks drove and went up with his left hand, as he had the year before. But this moment called for more. The big man took one in his hands and made it happen.

Bonus joy: this, along with his game-winning dunk against the Heat six years later, gave Ewing two Game 7 game-winning dunks in his career. I can’t quantify it, but that’s gotta be a record.

Poll

Which dunk brings you the most joy?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    John Starks vs. CHI
    (152 votes)
  • 19%
    Patrick Ewing vs. IND
    (36 votes)
188 votes total Vote Now

  • ANDREA BARGNANI VS. MARIO HEZONJA

These may be the most unlikely moments of joy in a long time around these parts. Both dunks involved disappointing high lottery picks getting the better of MVP-caliber defenders. Neither Bargnani or Hezonja will ever earn a statue or a place in the MSG rafters. But for two shining moments, they took us somewhere we didn’t think possible.

Bonus joys: Hezonja stepping over Giannis Antetokounmpo, which is like you on your best day stepping over God, and also, this:

Poll

Who ya got?

This poll is closed

  • 80%
    Hezonja over Giannis
    (152 votes)
  • 19%
    Bargnani blows by KG
    (36 votes)
188 votes total Vote Now

  • KRISTAPS’ PHOENIX SEQUENCE VS. LATRELL OVER JAREN JACKSON

It’s easy to forget or block out or not care about anymore — all of which are equally valid, healthy responses — but once upon a time Kristaps Porziņģis inspired hope in Knick fans. More hope than any young player since Ewing. A tantalizing talent on both ends of the floor, it didn’t end up working out for KP and NY. But there were hints that helped us through long, cold winters...

No, no, no. Not that one. This one.

For end-to-end brilliance, that’s pretty tops. One way to top it? Raise the stakes...like, say, throwing down a vicious facial while facing elimination in the NBA Finals.

Sprewell is undoubtedly one of the best in-game dunkers the Knicks have ever employed. Porziņģis will never be nearly as well-loved, which pro’ly says something about us that we’ll look past a dude assaulting another human being if it gets him in position to help us but we’ll never forgive someone wanting to work elsewhere. But this isn’t a morality bracket. It’s a Knicks bracket. So: which moment of joy strikes you as more Knicks? A what-might-have-been end-to-end highlight, or a throwdown during the last stand of the last great Knick season?

Poll

Whose dunk you like more?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Porziņģis’
    (44 votes)
  • 76%
    Sprewell’s
    (140 votes)
184 votes total Vote Now

  • J.R. SMITH FROM PABLO PRIGIONI VS. AMAR’E STOUDEMIRE OVER THE CLIPPERS

J.R. Smith has his own bracket in this competition for moments having nothing to do with his dunking abilities. But don’t let all the drama and comedy around the man make you lose sight of his hops. During his Denver years Smith participated in multiple Slam Dunk contests. He didn’t shoot 3s all day because that’s all he could do. Seriously: how many Knicks have you ever seen who could do this?

Stoudemire is on the short list for most impressive Knick dunkers. Big men usually suffer when contrasted stylistically with smaller guys, but not STAT. The grace. The fluidity. The power. I don’t think any Knick ever made me jump out of my seat more or “Whooooo!” as often as he did dunking on fools. Blake Griffin dished it out a ton, but on this occasion he had to sit and take it. Brian Cook, too.

Smith’s dunk was one of those glorious moments that kept the magical 2012-13 season rolling. Stoudemire’s established his then-Knick high in points and helped further the sense that the bad old Knicks of the 2000s were destined for memory’s dustbin. Twas not to be, chéri. But that didn’t diminish the joy.

Poll

Which feat of derring do does it more for you?

This poll is closed

  • 73%
    J.R. Smith
    (134 votes)
  • 26%
    Amar’e Stoudemire
    (49 votes)
183 votes total Vote Now

The voting will be open for two weeks. Keep an eye out for the other brackets over the next 7-10 days. Thanks, and enjoy!