I enjoy rooting for most New York sports teams. I root for the Yankees because, well, when you have 27 World Series titles, it’s hard not to. Most of my friends are Jets fans, so by association I root for them. I don’t really follow hockey, but when two of the greatest hockey players of all time—Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier—have played for you, I’ll support you. Then there’s basketball. In the immortal words of Kurtis Blow, “basketball is my favorite sport.”
The last New York basketball team to win an NBA championship was the New York Knicks in 1973. I wasn’t alive to see that. Neither was my older sister. My parents hadn’t even met. And notorious Knick fan, Spike Lee, was probably a 16-year-old virgin trying to figure out how to Do The Right Thing to get laid.
I’ve been alive long enough to witness the Giants win three Super Bowls. I remember when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994. I’ve watched Derek Jeter bring five World Series titles home to both the new and old Yankee Stadium. I was 10 days old when the Mets won a World Series title. (Yes, the Mets!) But I have never witnessed a New York basketball team win a championship. Not even the New York Liberty.
I came close when, as a kid, I briefly rooted for the Knicks in the 1994 NBA Finals. They severely broke my heart when they lost in Game 7 to the Houston Rockets. That’s when I went back to rooting for the Chicago Bulls as Michael Jordan returned to lead my childhood team to win three more NBA championships.
In 1999, I watched Knicks struggle to make the playoffs in a lockout-shortened season. Then, I watched a classic Cinderella story unfold: The Knicks became the only eighth-seeded team to advance to the NBA Finals. A feat which has yet to be duplicated and most likely never will.
As I watched the Knicks battle the San Antonio Spurs for the title, my mind told me that they would lose. But deep inside my heart, despite the pain that remained from 1994, I secretly hoped that they could somehow find a way to win. They didn’t.
It’s been 15 years since that Knicks team went to the NBA Finals.
A lot can change within that time span.
A lot has.
There has always been an underlying beef between the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Many people may not know that Brooklyn was once its own city up until January 1, 1898. Which sort of explains the inbred I’m-from-Brooklyn attitude.
You have to realize that Manhattan is looked upon as the flawless, well-mannered, in-the-know, popular rich kid at school. Whereas Brooklyn just happens to be this weird, troublesome yet cultured, rebellious outcast. These two were bound to clash, and clash they have.
Brooklyn, the overlooked ugly duckling of New York, has grown up to become a beautiful, alluring swan. While the once desirable swan from Manhattan is becoming a shriveled up duck, losing its once electrifying feathers to its dull denizens and their archaic pleasures.
There’s a surging energy in Brooklyn and the Barclays Center is at the core of it. Mikhail Prokhorov, the Russian billionaire and owner of the Nets, is partly responsible for the cutting-edge venue in Downtown Brooklyn. He boldly moved the Nets to Kings County, and by doing so he officially declared war on the Knicks, the original New York basketball team which happens to play across the bridge in Madison Square Garden. In the process, he added more fuel to the feisty battle of the boroughs.
However, both the New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets have lost over half of their games this season, resulting in a collection of stunned and confused analysts and fans. Coming into this NBA season, the Knicks were looking to recapture and build upon the magic from the team’s chemistry that developed last season, with the hopes of solidifying themselves as a true title contender. Across the bridge in Brooklyn, after acquiring future Hall-of-Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce from the Boston Celtics, the Nets had built a team with realistic hopes of potentially knocking off two-time defending champion, the Miami Heat.
This season is a wash for both teams and that’s sad. I always expect the Knicks to figure out new ways to lose, but when the Nets arrived in Brooklyn, I naively had high hopes. I thought they would have left their mediocre culture back in Jersey. Wrong.
I never imagined that these two organizations would be fighting over the title for the worst basketball team in the city… and it appears, that in this category, Manhattan is winning by losing.
Am I ever going to see a New York basketball team win a championship?
Featured image courtesy of The Brooklyn Game