There is nothing like experiencing your team win a championship, although I've never witnessed the Bulls win firsthand I remember my joy at experiencing my team win those six championships even from a distance as far as Australia. I remember five vividly, the first one against the Lakers is a little hazy, but the rest are as fresh as if they happened yesterday. So when I speak of my fondness for the New York Knicks it is said with a proud record of two decades supporting the Chicago Bulls. But the surprising start by the Knicks this season has me actually cheering for them to succeed. Lord knows 'The City' is in need of it.
The Knicks are off to their best start after 25 games in 16 years. They sit at 16-9 and are on an 8 game win streak leading into the game with Boston at The Garden on Wednesday. Who would of thought that basketball in New York would matter again so soon? The dark days of Isiah are behind them and yet the franchise is only just beginning to rise to it's feet again. Some effects of the bad management decisions of the past are still being felt -namely Eddy Curry's albatross contract- but free agent signings Amar'e Stoudemire and Raymond Felton have made the Knicks and the city relevent once again in the basketball world and I for one couldn't be happier. Happy for the city of New York.
You hear all the stories about the 'mecca' of basketball, the mystique of 'The World's Most Famous Arena', but these are just words on paper or merely dilogue being spoken by commentators, that is until you experience it for yourself. I will stop short of intimating there is something magical about walking into Madison Square Garden but there is an aura surrounding the building that is truly something to behold when walking in. A feeling that cannot be understood completely by someone who hasn't experienced it. We've been regaled by stories that most people my age were not alive to witness, we go by second hand accounts and shonky Youtube footage. We've heard about Willis Reed's inspirational return from injury in the 1970 Finals, about Earl 'The Pearl' Monroe, Walt Frazier, before he was a color commentary man for MSG Network was dropping 20 points a night on helpless opponents. As soon as you enter the main foyer of the building you feel the history of MSG being absorbed into your body. The history comes alive in an instant.
I was at The Garden on a cold windswept night in March 2008. Isiah Thomas was still in charge of the side and the Knicks were hosting the Charlotte Bobcats, The Knicks season was already over at this point but the energy and enthusiasm from the crowd was contagious. They were supporting their side as if it was a Game 7 in the playoffs and the 'Fire Isaih' chants only beagn late in the fourth with the Knicks already down big. I've been to The Garden close to a dozen times, only seen the Knicks win about a third of those games, yet the place is always filled with fans that support New York basketball fervorishly. That's why this latest incarnation of the Knicks needs to succeed. Not for the sake of the NBA, they've managed quite fine even with the Knicks sucking. But for the sake of the fans of the side and for The City itself. Once a breeding ground of star players now reduced to an afterthought. It's time to restore that rich tradition. Friends of mine in New York say they haven't been this excited for an NBA season in close to a decade. One said in recent memory only the initial arrival of Stephon Marbury brought the city alive like this (and we know how that turned out). Yet the city is alive once more, the buzz has returned and as one TV analyst said "You know when Spike Lee travels to Washington to watch the Knicks, they matter again."
It still remains to be seen what the long term plan and goal Mike D'Antoni has for the Knicks but they are moving in the right direction. Critics point to the record saying it's fools gold, that the Knicks haven't played any decent teams yet. Out of the teams considered champioship caliber, the Knicks have played Boston (L), Chicago (W) and had a game against Orlando postponed. But you can only play who's in front of you so the real test comes this week, with games against Boston and then Miami, both at MSG. Then we'll know if these Knicks are for real or just another disapointment.