In December, 2018, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade played their last game against each other, at what would become the Crypto.com Arena in downtown Los Angeles. Embracing, after the game, LeBron was overheard telling his old frenemy, “It had to be here, or the Garden”.
For those who haven’t been paying attention to the Knicks, or the history of the arena now located between 31st and 33rd on 8th Avenue in Manhattan, every NBA player has a special place in their hearts for New York, without ever wanting to actually come play here. For them, MSG is a big stage, a magical place they mostly remember for Sunday afternoons when Jordan would routinely roast us on the road. And that’s basically right: It’s understood as a place to come in for a weekend, have some fun, put on a show, and go the fuck home.
For Knicks fans, this is a complicated relationship to have with your city, and your home arena. It’s like we’re the champions every year, even when we fucking suck. Event games are only supposed to happen between great teams or players when there are high stakes, or a message needs to be sent between stars asserting dominance. And yet for the Knicks, whenever there’s a new franchise level rookie we didn’t get because the ping pong balls didn’t bounce in our favor, or we made a dumb trade three years earlier for a bad player and sent the pick away, they feel the need to go wild and have what should be a sleepy regular season weeknight anywhere else become a signature game they can add to their budding resumes.
Last night, Steph Curry used a little finesse to ensure he’d be above Penn Station when he broke the record for the most made three point shots ever in NBA history. And around the country, you could hear the sound of beat writers and bloggers snapping open their laptops and aggregating the same list of five to ten scoring performances that writers and bloggers have been regurgitating for over a decade. Yes, we know Jordan came back from retirement and dropped “a double nickel” (dumb name) in the Garden. Yes, James Harden and Kobe both dropped 61 on bad Knicks teams.
But fuck all that. This list isn’t derivative, it’s actually smart and good, because real Knicks fans know lists like these are pain and agony, so let’s really lean into it. The following is a ranking of the ten worst accomplishments that have ever been achieved by individuals at Madison Square Garden. We’re not limiting it to the building itself. This is dedicated to Manhattan’s premier arena, wherever it may have been located at the time. We’re not limiting it to scoring, there are all types of pain inflicting absurd individual statistical performances that have happened here, and as you’re about to see, we’re not even limiting this to basketball.
“Worst” is a subjective term, and will continue to be here, I define it as, in order: 1. Bad for me, 2. Bad for the Knicks, 3. Bad for humanity, which is frankly the lens through which I view all things. So without further ado, the worst of the world’s greatest arena:
10. Steph sets the record. Let’s be real. Who cares? What arena was Ray Allen in when he previously set this record? Saw a lot of Knicks fans freaking out about this on the timeline, and let me say, as delicately as I possibly can, you shit all over yourself in front of your friends, family, and the strangers who follow you online.
And let’s briefly discuss the Steph piece of this. He clearly manipulated the situation to ensure he would get his special party in Manhattan with Spike Lee taking pictures of his butt. Pretty weird!
He only had to hit 16 3s against the Trailblazers last Wednesday to break the record. He fucked that up. Went 3-14 from 3 against the 76ers in a loss Saturday, then he could have broken the record Monday night against the Pacers, and “missed” the game winning shot. I mean look at this! Clearly beefed it so he could get his custom jersey in New York. Loser mentality tbh!
Big time board— Golden State Warriors (@warriors) December 14, 2021
Big time bucket pic.twitter.com/FAuq3N3HHj
9. Hakeem Olajuwon sets record for Offensive Rebounds in MSG. On Valentine’s Day 1985, the Dream came into the Garden and set a record for offensive rebounds, with 15. This probably doesn’t sound like a big deal on its face, but just consider this. You’re Pat Cummings, you’re a 6’9 Center who looks like a substitute algebra teacher, it’s fucking Valentine’s Day, you have to guard Ralph Sampson, your team actually manages to hold the Rockets to a miss on offense, and 15 separate times, this gangly kid snags a board to give his team a second chance en route to a 25 total rebound game. Miserable. Fortunately, this is the worst thing Hakeem Olajuwon would ever do to the Knicks in the Garden.
8. John Stockton sets record for most assists in MSG. Something you’ll see recur frequently on this list, is a big part of how and why accomplishments are ranked where they are has to do with who is involved. John Stockton, the high short wearing weird religious guy you didn’t like in high school, that dirty af, nepotistic product of the conservative 80s sportswriter industrial complex, scorched the Knicks for 27 assists in a game on December 19th, 1989.
I actually looked up the shot chart for this game, and despite having less than the minimum 54 points it would require for this to be true, every single Stockton assist was a dump down to Malone on the baseline, where he patted the ball three times, dribbled once, dipped his shoulder, than hit a turn around contested J from 12 out. The exact shot Julius Randle has doinked off the side of the rim five times a game this season. Very tough.
7. The Ricky Rubio Game. A remarkable feat for the worst player to ever have an incredible game in the Garden, and it only happened a month ago. Ricky Rubio, who was drafted two spots before Steph Curry by the Timberwolves in 2009, finally lived up to his draft slot against the Knicks, with 37 points and 10 assists off the bench. Rubio, who prior to this game had hit seven three pointers his entire life, including Euro League, middle school, and the Fisher Price basket he used to shoot on in his childhood bedroom, went 8-9 from distance.
6. Steph Curry Sets Record For Most 3s In a Game Against The Knicks. This was Steph’s actual signature moment in the Garden. He went 11-13 from 3 for 54 points and played 48 minutes. It’s not like we needed a reminder we’d always wanted to draft him, but this certainly didn’t help. At the time, this tied him with J.R. Smith for the second most three pointers ever in a single game. But the Knicks won!
5. Billy Joel Breaks Record For Most MSG Performances. MSG isn’t just the mecca of basketball, it’s also a concert venue. You may wonder, who is deserving of having played this historic arena the most? Jay-Z? The Beatles? Nah. It’s Long Island’s King of drunk driving and weepy piano ballads about the Cold War, Billy Joel.
4. Wilt Chamberlain’s 73. The season after, but the same calendar year Wilt dropped 100 points on us in Philly, he set the Garden record (up the street at the old location) as a Warrior with 73, breaking Elgin Baylor’s record of 71 two seasons earlier. *Knicks Trivia Voice* Wilt and Bill Russell also have the nine largest rebound totals against the Knicks both at home and on the road. Wilt has the all-time record with 43 rebounds (in Philly) in 1959.
3.Carmelo Anthony’s 62. That’s right! The #1 on all these other lists, and the most points ever scored in this current iteration of the Garden, is the #3 worst all time individual performance that ever happened under the dome. Why?
The performance came on the heels of Melo’s truly great year as a Knick. The next year, without Jason Kidd around to tell him where to stand or what position to play, the true era of Melo Iso-ball began, a boring, paralytic form of the sport I’ve written about at length here before. The meaningless win against a very bad Bobcats team on January 24th, 2014 reinforced his confidence, and made him a God to fans who look at box scores without context and think “Wow! That’s a lot of points!”
A lot of people point to this performance as statistically remarkable because Melo did it with 10 free throws, three layups, and six threes. So the rest were his standard, low percentage pull ups, that happened to go in this one stupid game, only reinforcing his bad habits and dooming the Knicks to five more years of shitty basketball. With the win in Charlotte, the Knicks went to 16-27, they’d finish the season 37-45, ship off Tyson Chandler for attempting to get Melo to play team ball, and it just got worse from there.
2. Conor McGregor Knocks Out Eddie Alvarez. On November 13, 2016, Conor McGregor became the first asshole in the history of UFC to hold two belts, the featherweight and lightweight, in front of a crowd of screaming off duty cops from the outer boroughs, Long Island and New Jersey. This is less about what he actually did, than Connor McGregor as a person, because now the Garden will be linked to this racist piece of shit forever. To add insult to injury, this came just five days after someone he either voted for, or would’ve if he could’ve, became president.
1. James Dolan Becomes Knicks Team Owner. The worst individual accomplishment ever in the history of Madison Square Garden may not have even happened in the Garden, I can’t even find an official date this was announced, but we know in 1999, 44 year old James Dolan took over the Knicks. This happened because he was born with a Jackie Robinson lead between third and home, and none of his other siblings were remotely interested in taking over Cablevision.
It resulted in 20 years of incompetent, overbearing mismanagement overseen by this tragic song and dance man. Perhaps one day, he’ll die or sell the team, and we can finally return this once noble Mecca to the dignified glory the fans who continue to worship here, through the good times and the very bad, deserve.