After another round of mostly blowouts, we’ve whittled 32 candidates for the most-loved Knick ever* down to four. A reminder, since it comes up with every new bracket — the asterisk next to “ever” is to signify the limitations of this tournament. There are no players from before the 1980s, for multiple reasons:
- People often conflate “loved” with “successful,” and since the Knicks’ most successful years in their 75-year history came over a four-year stretch, I didn’t want this to end up being Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Patrick Ewing and Bill Bradly/Dave DeBusschere/Earl Monroe. It’s just so predictable.
- If you’re old enough to remember those golden era Knicks, you already enjoy a privilege the vast majority of the fanbase does not. Cherish your memories and leave us our lesser but no-less-loved heroes and their feet of clay.
- This is not a peer-reviewed, scientific investigation into an objective conclusion. It’s a fun dumb internet contest. Just trying to spread some diversion while the blue marble boils, sickens and spins.
- Your favorite Knick ever who didn’t make the cut didn’t not make the cut because I hate them, or because I’m biased or trying to steer the results in one direction.
- Don’t be bothered by anyone else’s vote! There’s no right answer here; it’s all about your opinion, or really just your feelings. We all know Ewing is a better player than John Starks. That doesn’t mean if Starks is your favorite you’re “wrong.” I would never have voted for, say, Iman Shumpert over Ewing, but that’s because I’m middle-aged. Maybe you’ve been following the team, like, 10 years. Or maybe for whatever reason Shump just hit you right. Own it. (Not anymore, though, ‘cuz Shump is long gone).
With all that out of the way, let’s get down to the penultimate votes. As with the last round, the final four matchups were determined according to how many votes each player received last round, so #1 meets #4 and #2 meets #3. Voting is open through Friday, December 3rd at 11:59 p.m.
Patrick Ewing vs. Bernard King
What might have been! Ewing and King were the Gerund Generation that never was. King spent the entirety of Ewing’s 1986 rookie season recovering from the torn ACL he suffered in 1985 in Kansas City, an injury that was so debilitating back in the day King didn’t return until the final six games on the 1987 season. About three weeks before King’s return, in a home game vs. Indiana, Ewing slipped on a wet spot and fell, after which Steve Stipanovich, the Pacers’ 245-pound center, fell on top of Ewing. As Ewing rose he slipped and fell again, this time doing a split, and not in a good way. He had to be helped off the floor and was diagnosed with sprained ligaments in his knee. King showed he could still score in those final six contests, but the dream union of the dynamic big man and the elite small forward never actually happened.
Still, these are arguably the two greatest Knicks since those 1970s title teams, and while King never got past the second round and Ewing never won it all, to this day when their faces appear on the jumbotron at MSG the crowd never fails to remind them that they are and always will be New York City icons.
Who you love more?
This poll is closed
Charles Oakley vs. John Starks
There is something beautiful and impossible about this last matchup. Oak and Starks were the second-tier here for years. Oak was an All-Defense selection in 1994 and 1998, Starks was All-Defense in 1993 and Sixth Man of the Year in 1997, and both joined Ewing on the 1994 Eastern Conference All-Stars, making them — along with Mark Jackson and Allan Houston — the only Knicks to be named All-Stars during Ewing’s career.
Oakley and Starks played with an edge that was necessary for their success, an edge the league has since quashed. Oak is the NBA’s all-time leader in flagrant fouls. The elders say on quiet nights, when the wind goes silent, you can still hear him smacking Bo Outlaw’s head.
In his Chicago days, Oakley even came at Ewing with the elbows, leaving #33 groggy after a shot to the chops.
Starks was not averse to giving a hard foul.
Or taking one.
Oakley and Starks pushed themselves and their opponents to the edge, and often beyond, because more than wanting to play they wanted to win. Do the ‘90s Knicks win a title if they had, say, Mitch Richmond and Shawn Kemp instead of #3 and #34? Maybe. Would they have been any more loved for doing so? I don’t know. Remember: “most successful” is not the same at all as “most loved.”
Who you love more?
This poll is closed
P.S. I just learned that a friend of mine, a young man with a wife and two children, died unexpectedly. It’s been haunting me for days. It makes no sense to me, and it’s sometimes too sad to think about. With all this love talk, if there’s someone you know and care about whom you haven’t spoken to in a while, or even if you have but you just haven’t told them what they mean to you for a while, take some time and share. You never know when or if you’ll get the chance again.
P.P.S. See y’all next week in the Finals.