Nearly 40 years ago, the New York Knicks made one of the biggest trades in their history when they acquired Hall of Fame guard Earl Monroe from the Baltimore Bullets for Mike Riordan, Dave Stallworth and cash.
The Pearl teamed with Walt Frazier to give the Knicks one of the best backcourts in NBA history, and helped lead to New York to its second NBA title in 1973. They haven’t won one since.
This week the Knicks made another reach for that elusive ring when they acquired four-time NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets. In a blockbuster deal, the Knicks traded away nearly half their roster, plus draft picks, in order to bring Melo to New York.
Anthony will join Amar’e Stoudemire to give the Knicks two superstars on the roster for the first time since….well since they last won a championship. Not suggesting New York is going to the NBA Finals this year, but they are heading in the right direction.
Lord knows the Knicks have tried to build a winner in the two decades since their title runs. Tried and failed. Repeatedly.
McAdoo in 1976
For example, in December of 1976, the Knicks sent John Gianelli and cash to the Buffalo Braves for Bob McAdoo — a three-time NBA scoring leader and MVP in 1975 — and Tom McMillen. The feeling was that McAdoo would join four regulars from the championship days — Monroe, Frazier, Bill Bradley and Phil Jackson — along with newcomer Spencer Haywood to bring another winner to Madison Square Garden.
Well not quite. These Knicks never advanced past the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1978. McAdoo was sent to the Celtics during the 1978-79 season for three number one draft picks, one of whom was center Bill Cartwright.
Three years later, the Knicks acquired Bernard King from the Golden State Warriors for Micheal Ray Richardson and a 1984 fifth round pick. King had a spectacular but brief career in New York, and in 1984-85 became the only Knick in history to lead the NBA in scoring, at 32.9 points per game. Unfortunately he blew out his knee that season and later signed as a free agent with the Washington Wizards.
With King leading the charge, the Knicks advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals in both 1983 and 1984 before losing to the eventual NBA champion 76ers and Celtics respectively.
It seemed like Knicks were bound for more championships after they won the 1986 NBA draft lottery and drafted center Patrick Ewing of Georgetown. But despite repeated efforts to firm up the roster, the Knicks failed to bring in a second superstar to help Ewing.
In 1988, seeking help on the boards, the Knicks traded Cartwright and first and third round picks to the Chicago Bills for Charles Oakley and a first-round pick. Oakley was the NBA’s top rebounder in both 1987 and 1988, but it was Cartwright who won three championships with Michael Jordan and the Bulls while the Knicks were shut out
The Knicks kept on trying, and although the deals highlighted below made them competitive, they could never quite get over that championship hump.
Ewing Era Deals
1990 — Knicks sign free agent John Starks, left, released by Golden State
1992 — As part of a three-team trade with the Los Angeles Clippers and Orlando Magic, Knicks acquire forward Charles Smith
1994 — New York gets guard Derek Harper from Dallas for Tony Campbell and a first- round draft pick
1996 — On Bastille Day the Knicks make two moves, signing free agent guard Allan Houston from Detroit and acquiring Larry Johnson from Charlotte in a deal for Brad Lohaus and Anthony Mason.
1998 — Knicks trade Oakley and Sean Marks to Toronto Raptors for center/forward Marcus Camby.
1999 — In a mid-season deal, Knicks trade Starks, Terry Cummings and Chris Mills to Golden State for Latrell Sprewell.
The Knicks were competitive throughout the Ewing era. They advanced to the NBA Finals twice, losing to the Houston Rockets in a seven-game series in 1994 and the San Antonio Spurs in five games in 1999.
In the past 10 seasons, the Knicks have made the playoffs just once, where they were promptly swept by their cross-river rivals the New Jersey Nets in 2004.
Are the Knicks on the championship track at last? Only time will tell, but the pieces are starting to fall into place. And the electricity is back at Madison Square Garden.
Amar’e Stoudemire broke the Knicks record for consecutive 30-point games….but he has miles to go to eclipse Wilt Chamberlain’s NBA record of 65.
Amar’e Stoudemire set a Knicks team record recently when he scored 30 points for the eighth game in a row, all of them New York victories.
Stoudemire broke the team record set by Willie Naulls in 1962, a record that has stood for nearly 50 years, surviving scoring splurges by Knick greats like Walt Frazier, Bernard King and Patrick Ewing
Naulls, nicknamed The Whale, ended his streak by scoring 31 points against the Philadelphia Warriors on March 2, 1962, in Hershey, Pa. That game is forever emblazoned in NBA lore — it’s the night Wilt Chamberlain scored a record 100 points against the Knicks.
Chamberlain holds the NBA record for most consecutive games scoring 30 or more points with 65 from November 4, 1961 to February 22, 1962. That’s the basketball equivalent of Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, or Johnny Unitas string of 47 games with at least one touchdown pass.
Wilt on The Record
Wilt also holds the NBA record for most consecutive games with 50 points (7), 40 points (14) and 20 points (126), all established or begun during the 1961-62 season.
That was quite a year for Chamberlain, who averaged 50.4 points per game — for the season. That’s another of Wilt’s many records that will never be broken.
Willie Naulls, was drafted by the St. Louis Hawks but traded to the Knicks for Slater Martin just 19 games into his rookie season. He averaged a career-high 25 points per game for the Knicks in 1961-62.
Early in the 1962-63 season he was traded to the San Francisco Warriors along with Kenny Sears for Tom Gola, and became teammates with Chamberlain.
Naulls wound up his career winning three straight NBA championships with the Boston Celtics before he retired in 1966.