Longtime New York Knicks fans can break the franchise’s history down into four easily digestible eras:
- The Willis Reed/Walt Frazier one from 1969-1974, a glorious run that included titles in 1970 and 1973.
- The post-Reed era from 1975-1985, a down cycle with just one 50-win season, and no appearances in the conference finals.
- The Patrick Ewing era from 1986-2000, which was fun and joyous and full of 50-win seasons. There were two trips to the NBA Finals, and the Knicks were consistently a Top 7 team in the NBA.
- The wasteland that has been the post-Ewing era, from 2001-present, with one playoff series win (2013), and a litany of awful decisions by the worst owner in the NBA, James Dolan. From the GMs to the coaches to the players, the Knicks have gotten it wrong for nearly two decades.
The latest disaster, the one to bring in Phil Jackson, was doomed from the start. It was a terrible decision, and anyone with two eyes could see it was going to be a massive failure. Almost three years later, and Jackson is now in a feud with the star he gave a contract extension to (Carmelo Anthony), his admirable “Big 3” plan is blowing up in his face, and the Knicks franchise is headed toward losing an entire generation of fans.
Remember how the Cowboys had an epic run in the early 90s and then were nearly irrelevant for 20 years? That’s sort of where the Knicks are right now.
Rock bottom has to be the Charles Oakley incident last night – a beloved former Knicks player, angry at the direction of the franchise because of the comically inept Dolan, went after the owner at MSG during a nationally-televised game, and ended up in handcuffs.
And once again, the Knicks are the laughingstock of the NBA. Sports fans are forever linked to eras in which they grow up. Consider this: If you were born in Boston around the turn of the century, you have grown up not knowing what futility is for the New England Patriots. A 15-year dynasty is unheard of in pro sports.
For Knicks fans growing up in the 80s – ahem – Ewing was the man, and for 15 years, the Knicks opened every season with the hope of getting to the Finals. The Celtics blocked them initially, then the Pistons did, and then it was Michael Jordan, but at least you could take solace in the fact the team was a) going to win 50-ish games, b) going to the playoffs where they’d likely win at least one series c) with a break here or there, could get to the NBA Finals.
If you were born in or around New York in the year 2000, the polar opposite is true: Futility. Lottery futility. Find-another-team futility.
All of that can be traced to owner James Dolan, who essentially began calling the shots for the franchise in 1999. There’s no point in breaking it down in granular fashion – from Allan Houston’s terrible contract, to Larry “Next Town” Brown, to Isiah Thomas … I could go on for days, but I’ll leave you with this: When the NBA commish blasts your management (as David Stern did in 2007), you know things are bad. It’s been a decade since David Stern made his famous remarks, and nothing’s changed.