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Who Wore It Best? Knicks #4

This One’s 4 Nate.

Sprite Rising Stars Slam Dunk Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Through the first three installments of our “Who Wore It Best” series, the general consensus was rather clear. Amare’ claimed the top spot for #1, L.J. easily secured number #2, and John Starks almost unanimously dominated the votes for #3. The #4 promises to be no different.

Throughout the history of the organization, there are only five numbers in which 26 or more individual players wore that specific number. Number four is one of them. Outside of Nate Robinson, though, who is the obvious choice here, who else could even get a nod? Chauncey Billups wore it for half a season in 2011, when he was acquired as part of the Carmelo Anthony trade. Derrick Rose wore it during his second stint with the Knicks, but at the later stage in his career, in which he served as more of a team mentor than the superstar player the Knicks hoped they were once acquiring during his first stint with the team in which he wore #25.

We may have to go deep into the Knicks history books here. Carl Braun, who played for the Knicks from 1948-61 wore the number longer than any other Knick in team history. So let me be the first to congratulate Nate on this one. Time for the discussion for the runner-up position to commence. . . . or not, because Nate is still going to win all the votes.

Carl Braun

Carl Braun was more than a Knick. He was more than a basketball player. After his first three seasons with the team, Carl Braun also served two years in the United States Army. Braun’s career was off to a hot start before his time served. During his first three seasons with the Knicks from 1947-50, Braun averaged 14.6 points per game. It would be great to mention how many rebounds he averaged during those years, but rebounds were not a stat that was kept record of back then. Braun, a Nassau County native, was an incredible athlete but went undrafted and signed a contract with the New York Yankees. As a member of the Yankees farm system Braun appeared in just 35 games over the course of two seasons. During baseball’s 1947 offseason, Braun signed with the New York Knicks. On December 6th, 1947, he set an NBA single game season record of 47 points. Even after becoming a member of the New York Knicks, he would still pitch one more season with the Yankees organization, becoming one of the first two-way athletes in sports history. Over the course of a 13-year career, Braun was a five-time All-Star, and was a member of the 1962 NBA Champion Boston Celtics. Legend even has it that the term “swish” became the popular term that it is today thanks in large part to Carl Braun, who would often say it after a good shot during warm-ups.

New York Knicks Photo by NBA Photos/NBAE via Getty Images

Nate Robinson

Alright, game over. Except for the numbers hanging in the rafters, and maybe a small handful of others, Nate would win the WWIB debate regardless of whatever number he wore. Even though he briefly sported the #2 in his final season with the team, that’s not the number synonymous with Nate in the hearts of Knicks fans. That’s not the number that Nate wore when he clinched three slam dunk contest victories. During the era when Knicks fans needed something, literally anything to cheer for, Nate provided that. At just 5’9”, Nate was a phenomenon across the league. Yes, Spud Webb was two inches shorter, and won the dunk contest back when Nate was just three years old. Nate was different though. Nate had charisma unlike anybody else. He was beyond explosive, and not just in a dunk contest setting. He was equally explosive on the defensive end. If you’ve never seen Nate’s block on Yao Ming, who is 7’5”, just stop reading this right now and watch the clip below.

Regardless of how bad the Knicks were during Nate’s tenure with the team, Nate was must-see TV. His personality on and off the court was, and still is larger than life. Will Ferrell would attend Knicks home games just so that he and Nate could do their “Shake and Bake” pregame handshake. Nate was the fun that Knicks fans yearned for when the team was losing. Whether it was posterizing jam, a three-pointer after the buzzer at the wrong basket just to piss Mike D’Antoni off, or the first to come to his teammate’s defense in a brawl, Nate was the Knicks fan’s Knick. While his three slam dunk championships brought him national acclaim, it was the 2009 Slam Dunk Contest dunk over Dwight Howard, adorned in his bright green Kryptonate foamposites and the Knicks’ all-green St. Paddy Day uniform, that catapulted him to international fame. Forever known as Kryptonate, Nate remains an enduring All-Time New York Knick fan favorite.

Sprite Slam Dunk Contest Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Derrick Rose

The question around Derrick Rose will forever be “What If?” What if the former 2011 MVP and 3x All-Star had not gotten injured time and time again? His first career injury, an ACL tear came during the playoffs of his MVP year. The injury caused him to miss the entire 2012-13 season.

Less than one month into his return from injury, Rose tore his meniscus on November 22, 2013 and missed the remainder of the 2013-14 season.

He returned to the hardwood, still as a member of the Chicago Bulls at the start of 2014-15 season. 51 games into the season, Rose tore that same meniscus again and would miss another six weeks. Rose returned in time for the playoffs to help lead the Bulls to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they were ultimately defeated by the Cleveland Cavs.

After one final season in Chicago, the Knicks made a trade for D.Rose prior to the start of the 2016-17 season. As the newest member of the Knicks, Rose opted to wear #25 in honor of Chicago high school basketball legend Ben Wilson, who was murdered while still in high school.

In hopes that his injury plagued days were behind him, and with Phil Jackson now at the helm of the organization, there hadn’t been more excitement around the Knicks going into a new season since they acquired Amare’ Stoudemire in 2010. That excitement didn’t last long though. Things between Rose and the organization were B.A.D. At one point midway through the season, Rose went AWOL, and the team was unable to locate him as he missed a game against the Pelicans. Two months later, after the organizational matters seemed to have been resolved, Rose tore his other meniscus requiring his fourth knee surgery in nine years. His Knick career was over, or so it seemed. Rose didn’t want to be a Knick, and neither did the organization, or the fans.

New York Knicks v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

As his career had been plagued by injury after injury, and a negative attitude perceived around the league as someone who just didn’t care anymore, Rose became a journeyman playing for the Cavs, Timberwolves, and Pistons over the span of 4 years. When the Knicks re-acquired Rose in a trade with the T-Wolves in 2021, no one really knew which Rose they were acquiring. Phil Jackson was no longer running the team, and he was now being reunited with his former Bulls coach Tom Thibodeaux. Perhaps the reunion or his new #4 rejuvenated a new breath of life into Rose’s dwindling career. The negative attitude that he was perceived to have developed was now gone. Rose had become a leader. Once refusing to come off the bench, Rose now embraced the role. His leadership expanded well beyond the floor as he became a mentor to the Knicks young guns. The Knicks opted to not re-sign Rose during this past off season. Rose signed with Memphis for his veteran leadership and ability to mentor their young gun (no pun intended) Ja Morant.

Honorable Mentions

Chauncey Billups, Johnny Newman, Anthony Bonner, Howard Eisley, James White.

Poll

Who Wore It Best #4

  • 46%
    Carl Braun
    (84 votes)
  • 35%
    Nate Robinson
    (63 votes)
  • 5%
    Derrick Rose
    (10 votes)
  • 3%
    Chauncey Billups
    (7 votes)
  • 8%
    Johnny Newman
    (15 votes)
179 votes total Vote Now