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The Most-Loved Knick Ever* Sweet 16

The chaff chafed, the wheat withstands

New York Knicks’ Latrell Sprewell is helped up off the court Photo by Linda Cataffo/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images

The first round of voting in the Most Loved Knick Ever* tourney wrapped up two days ago. I didn’t expect Iman Shumpert and Danilson Chandllinari to last long, but there were a few surprises in round one: Carmelo Anthony and Frank Ntilikina, leaders of two of the louder hordes of Knick stans, got smoked, while ‘90s cult icon Herb Williams fared better than I’d dared hope against Pablo Prigioni. Pablo won, but Herb got some love.

Round two features quite a few heavyweight collisions. Voting is open until 11:59 p.m. on Monday the 22nd. Create the eight you wanna see in the world.

1) Immanuel Quickley vs. Rasheed Wallace

Quickley defeated Rod Strickland by a 3 to 1 margin. Sheed knocked off Renaldo Balkman by an even larger margin. Maybe you love IQ more — he’s certainly done more as a Knick than Wallace; you don’t have to squint hard to see Quick being a key player for the franchise for years. Maybe you love Rasheed more — some romances are short but intense, sea storms in a bottle. Can’t go wrong either way. On this day, though, there can be only one.

Poll

Who do you love?

This poll is closed

  • 74%
    Immanuel Quickley
    (534 votes)
  • 25%
    Rasheed Wallace
    (185 votes)
719 votes total Vote Now

2) Derrick Rose vs. Kurt Thomas

Rose topped fellow two-term Knick Mark Jackson, while Kurt, yet another two-term Knickerbocker, easily dusted the duo of Danio Gallinari and Wilson Chandler. Rose has been so good this season he may win the tournament off recency bias alone.

But Thomas made a career out of insisting upon his presence until opponents couldn’t ignore him. He also played for the 2000 and 2013 Knicks, the only two Knick teams this century (depending how you count your centuries) to win a playoff series.

Poll

Who do you love?

This poll is closed

  • 53%
    Derrick Rose
    (400 votes)
  • 46%
    Kurt Thomas
    (351 votes)
751 votes total Vote Now

3) Bernard King vs. David Lee

If styles make the fight, this should be a good one. King arrived at MSG at 26, having already established himself as an All-Star scoring machine. In only three full seasons in New York, King played in four playoff series. Lee broke in as a Knick before being traded at 26 to Golden State, where he’d make his second All-Star team and win a ‘chip. Both Knick greats still appear courtside many nights, to the delight of the Garden. Only one may advance.

Poll

Who do you love?

This poll is closed

  • 84%
    Bernard King
    (640 votes)
  • 15%
    David Lee
    (117 votes)
757 votes total Vote Now

4) Mitchell Robinson vs. Jamal Crawford

Two of the warmer energies in this contest face off in round two. Mitch almost didn’t get here, surviving the one competitive face-off from the first round.

Both of these beloveds did or do things that aren’t common for the boys in blue and orange. Crawford looked like a 6’5” kid. RJ Barrett had an NBA-ready body the night he was drafted; Crawford looked the same at the end of his career as he did throughout. Crawford also handled the ball with the chutzpah and handles of a streetball legend.

Mitch couples freak athleticism with a lotta “Did you see that?!” moments.

Two showmen. For one, the show must go on.

Poll

Who do you love?

This poll is closed

  • 61%
    Jamal Crawford
    (453 votes)
  • 38%
    Mitchell Robinson
    (280 votes)
733 votes total Vote Now

5) Anthony Mason vs. Latrell Sprewell

The last four Sweet 16 face-offs are pretty epic. Here two fan favorites and tempestuous types go toe-to-toe. On Knick teams lauded for their toughness, no one was tougher than Mase — both in terms of strength and difficulty to deal with. In 1994 Pat Riley waited until literally the last minute possible to add Mason to the playoff roster — that’s how tired Riles was of dealing with him. But from 1991-96, the Knicks were a successful franchise with a strong sense of self, and nobody was more themselves or more loved for who they were than Mase.

Spree missed Mason by a couple of seasons, but earned most favored Knick status soon after his arrival and retained it until he was traded in the unpopular Keith Van Horn trade. Spree torched the Knicks for 31 in his MSG return, but won a few more fans for life that night by repeatedly cursing at James Dolan in his courtside seat, prompting perhaps the first instance in NBA history of an owner sticking his tongue out at a player.

Poll

Who do you love?

This poll is closed

  • 57%
    Anthony Mason
    (444 votes)
  • 42%
    Latrell Sprewell
    (322 votes)
766 votes total Vote Now

6) John Starks vs. Jeremy Lin

Consider this the tragic hero bracket. Starks cared as much about being a Knick as any Knick I’ve ever seen. In Paul Knepper’s The Knicks of the Nineties, there’s a story about a reporter asking Starks about his matchup with Reggie Miller and Starks replying, with crazy-eyed seriousness, that he was going to cut off Miller’s penis and make him eat it. When you’re the Knicks’ second banana and you make comments to the press that sound like a comment section post that gets flagged, you are truly in love with being a New York Knick. That, as much as the 3s, the defense and the dunks, was what made Starks such a hero to so many.

It amazes me how polarizing Lin remains to so many fans nine years after his fairy tale ended, a testament to how hard it is to wrap up any good story and to the infinite factions of fandom that form Knicks Nation. Sometimes some commenters seem to get off prescribing a moral code or standard to who you “should” vote for. One of their favorite targets is love or votes for Lin, who wasn’t here long enough or who didn’t do enough to earn the accolades afforded him. Borges said snobbery was the most sincere of Argentine passions. Some of y’all are sincerely Argentinian. There are no wrong answers in this tournament. Even with the 2013 surprise and the relative success of the Tom Thibodeau era, Linsanity was a pure and pulchritudinous place in our lives.

Poll

Who do you love?

This poll is closed

  • 85%
    John Starks
    (666 votes)
  • 14%
    Jeremy Lin
    (114 votes)
780 votes total Vote Now

7) Charles Oakley vs. Larry Johnson

These two were not always teammates. Certainly not always friends.

Oak, of course, was an equal opportunity combatant. No one was too small or too big to bother, as Muggsy Bogues and Alonzo Mourning came to know.

Oak was also one of the greatest help defenders ever and as good a shooter from 15-18 feet out as any Knick besides Ewing; rather than retire his number, the Garden should honor him with a chalk outline on the court, representing either Oakley diving to the floor or the corpse of one of his victims. But while those were all things he did, it’s who he was — an annoying, acrimonious antagonist — that made Oakley as loved as he was. Is.

The Larry Johnson the Knicks acquired in the summer of 1996 was not the same LJ who’d been a franchise player in Charlotte and a marketing sensation in his early years.

In five years as a Knick his shooting percentage fell each year, the result of injuries depleting his athleticism and the shift from a starring role to a supporting one pushing him out of the post and out to the perimeter; the only season he averaged even 10 shots a game in New York was the one Ewing missed most of with a broken wrist. But while LJ is best remembered for his four-point heroics vs. Indiana, his menschness may have shone the most when it mattered the least. In the Finals vs. San Antonio, the Knicks were without Ewing against David Robinson and Tim Duncan. LJ and Marcus Camby were outmatched, as seen in Johnson’s 7.6 points a game on 29/11/62 shooting. But he was there, and he never quit fighting a fight he couldn’t win. He and Oakley have that in common, along with our love.

Poll

Who do you love?

This poll is closed

  • 79%
    Charles Oakley
    (602 votes)
  • 20%
    Larry Johnson
    (159 votes)
761 votes total Vote Now

8) Pablo Prigioni vs. Patrick Ewing

Ewing was the runaway winner in round one, winning 98% of the vote over Shumpert in a result that mostly only created controversy for readers who wondered how even 2% of people would choose anyone over the Big Fella. Pablo trailed Herb in the opening days, but as an exceptionally non-snobbish Argentine his natural charm kicked in and the people had their cult hero champ.

This is an intriguing matchup, in that Prigioni represents a particular time and place in Knicks history, the 2013 exception to the 21st century rule, whereas Ewing represents a 15-year stretch that’s the longest run of good Knicks in franchise history. I pass no judgment, and despite what some of you tin foil hat lot think I do not arrange these matchups to achieve a specific outcome. I don’t even vote. I just like to see what happens.

Poll

Who do you love?

This poll is closed

  • 3%
    Pablo Prigioni
    (27 votes)
  • 96%
    Patrick Ewing
    (736 votes)
763 votes total Vote Now

There’s your Sweet 16 bracket. See you next week when we’re down to eight.