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Who Wore it Best? Knicks #6

Six Degrees of Separation

New York Knicks v Minnesota Timberwolves Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

This week’s installment of “Who Wore it Best” promises to be another fun one filled with debate and a wide range of votes—unlike the #5, which is the most worn number in Knicks history, but except for Immanuel Quickley, other legitimate choices were scarce. The #6 holds true again with a plethora of players who have worn the number, 25 to be exact.

However, this week’s edition offers a much more substantial list of viable options for who could take the crown. Knicks aficionados may lean towards the legacy of Trent Tucker, a player with the rare distinction of having a league rule named after him. Alternatively, the spotlight could shine on Kristaps Porzingis, a former fourth overall pick who, despite being booed on draft night, quickly became a fan favorite. When healthy, there were signs of brilliance, but ultimately Knicks fans were never given what they were longing for out of KP.

Among the noteworthy candidates, Tyson Chandler looms large, having accumulated the most accolades during his tenure wearing #6 for the Knicks. The recipient of the “Who Wore it Best” #6 title will forever hold this distinction, as the NBA retired the number last season in tribute to the late Bill Russell. This decision not only marks the end of an era for the Knicks but also extends league-wide, with Quentin Grimes being the final player to ever sport the #6, as no players are grandfathered into the number this year.

Trent Tucker

Among the 25 players who have donned the #6 for the Knicks, none held the jersey for a longer stretch than Trent Tucker. Selected as the 6th overall pick by the Knicks in the 1982 NBA draft, Tucker carved out a productive and steadfast 9-year career, emerging as a key role player for the team during the ‘80s era. While his statistical achievements may not have been flashy, the significance lies in the role played by a steady contributor who spent almost a decade providing valuable support off the bench for a team boasting a roster filled with players of a much higher caliber.

New York Knicks v Washington Bullets

In 1986, Tucker represented the Knicks during the first-ever Three-Point Shootout making it all the way to the Semi-Finals before being eliminated by Chicago Bulls guard Craig Hodges. Yet, Tucker’s most enduring legacy lies in the institution of a league rule bearing his name—aptly titled “The Trent Tucker Rule.” This rule was swiftly implemented midway through the 1990 season in response to Tucker’s seemingly impossible feat. On January 15th, 1990, the Knicks and the Chicago Bulls were tied at 106 apiece. With 00.1 of a second remaining, Tucker came from under the basket towards the sideline behind the three-point line, where Mark Jackson was looking to make the inbounds pass. Jackson caught an open Tucker running in the direction away from the basket, and as quickly as Tucker caught the ball, Tucker flung the ball with both hands from about 25 feet towards the Garden rafters, and it swished nothing but net. Did Tucker accomplish the impossible?

Upon careful scrutiny of the video footage, it’s clear the ball was in his hand for more than a tenth of a second. Moreover, there is a conspicuous delay in the initiation of the game clock (Home court advantage?) With instant replay review still 12 years away, along with the absence of light-up backboards and scorers’ tables, referees relied solely on their auditory senses to detect the buzzer and their visual acuity to monitor the modest red lightbulb positioned behind the backboard for real-time decision-making. With the buzzer and bulb impeccably synchronized with the clock’s start button, the referees found themselves in a situation where they had little choice but to acknowledge the shot had counted.

In the aftermath of the game, Chicago Bulls head coach Phil Jackson boisterously voiced his discontent, registering a legitimate complaint to the NBA. Reacting promptly to the controversy, the league took decisive action by implementing the new Trent Tucker rule. This rule stipulates that a minimum of 0.3 seconds must be on the clock for a catch-and-shoot play to even be deemed eligible for consideration if the shot were to go in at the buzzer.

Tyson Chandler

Before LeBron James became the most highly touted High School phenom of all time, there was Tyson Chandler who briefly held that crown. So much so that “60 Minutes” aired a special segment on him while Chandler was still just a high school freshman. It was no surprise to anyone that Chandler was going to leap to the pros straight out of high school, and in 2001 Chandler was drafted 2nd overall by the Chicago Bulls. It wasn’t until his 9th season though that Chandler truly came into his own as a Defensive specialist. After bouncing around several teams from 2001-2010 Chandler found himself on the move for the fourth time as the New Orleans Hornets traded him to Dallas Mavericks. Chandler would play just one season for the Mavs before getting acquired by the Knicks, but for that one season, he became the anchor and team enforcer on defense for a team that already featured Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Kidd. Chandler’s stellar defense earned him his first All-Defensive team nod making the NBA’s All-Defensive Second Team, but even more importantly he helped lead the Mavericks to their first-ever NBA championship. As Chandler became a free agent after the season his market grew exponentially. Ultimately, the Knicks acquired him via a sign-and-trade deal with Dallas.

Indiana Pacers v New York Knicks - Game Five Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

Chandler immediately impacted the Knicks’ defense, helping the team improve their defensive ranking from 22nd in 2010-11 to fifth in 2011-12. That same season, Chandler led the league in field-goal percentage and was named the NBA’s Defensive Player of the Year, becoming the first Knick in franchise history to accomplish the feat. In 2013, Chandler earned his first and only All-Star appearance, and just several weeks later tied a franchise record with 20 or more rebounds in three games in a row. Several injuries marred Chandler’s 2013 season and, following the 2013-13 season, the Knicks traded Chandler back to Dallas.

Kristaps Porzingis

When the New York Knicks selected Kristaps Porzingis in the 2015 draft, the resounding boos from the Barclays Center, filled with Knicks fans, welcomed him. Reflecting on that draft, one can’t help but ponder what might have been if talents like Devin Booker or Myles Turner hadn’t been overlooked. At the time, Knicks fans were even hoping the team would trade up to secure D’Angelo Russel. However, when NBA Commissioner Adam Silver announced Porzingis as the Knicks’ pick, the fans didn’t hold back in expressing their disappointment, making it clear both to Porzingis and the organization how they truly felt.

Undeterred, KP vowed to win the Knicks faithful over, and it didn’t take long for the Garden to be full of #6 jerseys. KP quickly earned the moniker of “The Unicorn” as he stood 7’3” and could do everything. In just his 14th game as a rookie, KP dominated the Houston Rockets on both ends of the court with 24 points, 14 rebounds, and seven blocked shots. He was named Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for October/November, December, and January. He secured a spot on the NBA All-Rookie First Team and finished as the runner-up in the Rookie of the Year voting behind Karl-Anthony Towns.

Cleveland Cavaliers v New York Knicks Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Over the subsequent two seasons, Porzingis continued his ascent, evolving into the face of the Knicks organization. 30-point games and double-doubles were occurring on a nightly basis. During the early stages of the 2017 season, Porzingis set a career-high with 38 points, only to surpass that less than a week later with a 40-point performance. His stellar showing that week earned him Eastern Conference Player of the Week for the week of October 30th-November 5th. Porzingis established a franchise record by scoring 300 points in the first 10 games of the 2017 season, marking the best individual start in team history. This exceptional performance also secured his first, and to date, only All-Star appearance.

Adhering to the age-old adage that what goes up must come down, Porzingis’s tenure with the Knicks undeniably epitomized the essence of that sentiment. On February 6th, 2018, KP tore his left ACL and was ruled out for the rest of the season as well as the start of the following year. This injury not only ruled him out for the remainder of that season, but also cast a shadow over the start of the following year. Compounding the challenges between future salary cap, and a star player coming off an ACL injury, the Knicks chose not to offer Porzingis a contract extension which began a downward slope in the relationship between the Knicks and their franchise player. The decision made by the Knicks to not offer him the extension led to a very disgruntled unicorn who now wanted out of town. After a meeting was held between Porzingis and the Knicks brass in which he expressed his dismay with the organization and desire to be traded, the Knicks shipped him off to Dallas.

While Porzingis continues to dominate both ends of the floor when healthy, staying injury-free has emerged as the primary hurdle for Porzingis having appeared in 70 or more games just once in his career- his rookie year with the Knicks. Between the 2019-20 and 2022-23 seasons KP appeared in just 267 of the 410 possible games between those three years. Now with the Boston Celtics, KP’s fourth team in six years, the question is still out on what Porzingis’s final legacy in the NBA will ultimately be.

Honorable Mentions: Landry Fields, DeAndre Jordan, Quentin Grimes

Poll

Who Wore it Best #6

  • 27%
    Trent Tucker
    (34 votes)
  • 48%
    Tyson Chandler
    (60 votes)
  • 18%
    Kristaps Porzingis
    (23 votes)
  • 5%
    Landry Fields
    (7 votes)
  • 0%
    DeAndre Jordan
    (0 votes)
  • 0%
    Quentin Grimes
    (1 vote)
125 votes total Vote Now