Willis Reed grabs rebound from Lakers Wilt Chamberlain during 1970 NBA Finals.
The late 60s were exciting times in New York, back in my old high school days. You could feel the electricity from Madison Square Garden spilling out to the streets and neighborhoods of the city to the suburbs and beyond. The New York Knickerbockers were building a championship contender.
Now for the first time in nearly five decades, that excitement is back. New York fans are thinking hey, we may have something here….finally. With free agents Amar’e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton and precocious rookie Landy Fields, along with holdovers Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, the Knicks are on the way back to contention.
Finally, after a six-year playoff drought, they’re standing and cheering at the Garden again.
Kinda like the way it was back in the 60s. After finishing last in the Eastern Division for seven straight years, starting with the 1959-60 season, the Knickerbockers, as they were called back then, began to show signs of improvement.
The Knicks resurgence began innocently enough with the 1964 NBA draft, and the second-round pick (10th overall) of Willis Reed, a 6-9 center/forward out of Grambling State University.
That same year, Jim “Bad News” Barnes out of UTEP was the Knicks first pick — and the first overall selection in the NBA draft. A year later, Barnes along with Johnny Egan, Johnny Green and cash, was traded to the Baltimore Bullets for center Walt Bellamy.
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In subsequent drafts, the Knicks took Bill Bradley and Dave Stallworth in 1965, Cazzie Russell in 1966, and Walt “Clyde” Frazier and Phil Jackson in 1967.
And they traded Bob Boozer for guard Dick Barnett before the 1965 campaign.
The Bellamy acquisition paid dividends several years later. On December 19, 1968, the Knicks dealt Bells and Howard Komives to the Detroit Pistons for power forward Dave DeBusschere.
With their core unit now intact, the Knicks won their first NBA championship in 1970, beating the Los Angeles Lakers in a thrilling seven-game NBA Finals. With Earl “The Pearl” Monroe and Jerry Lucas in the fold, the Knicks won their second championship in 1973, again knocking off the Lakers.
They haven’t won a championship since. Oh there was plenty of excitement when the Knicks won the lottery and drafted Patrick Ewing in 1985. But although Ewing was a Hall of Fame center, the Knicks never provided him with that second superstar needed to win titles, like the Bulls did with Scottie Pippen for Michael Jordan.
Hopefully the 2011 Knicks have learned their lesson and won’t let history repeat itself.
Did I hear someone say Carmelo Anthony?