The New York Knicks are one of the most well known and storied franchises in all of sports. In their 73 year history, the Knicks have 96 All-Star selections, 42 playoff appearances, and 2 championships to their name. Several dominant and legendary players have called Madison Square Garden their home. Let’s jump into the five best Knicks ever.
Top 5 Players in the history of the New York Knicks
5. Bernard King
Young Knicks fans think of Carmelo Anthony when thinking about a walking bucket. But before Melo, there was the king of getting buckets, and his name was Bernard. After playing for three teams in his first five years in the league, Bernard King was traded to New York. He was a huge boost to the Knicks, helping them win 14 more games than the prior season, securing a playoff berth. He averaged 21.9 points on 52.8 percent and 4.8 rebounds.
His next two seasons would be two of the best seasons for any Knick. In the 1983-84 season, King averaged 26.3 points on 57.2 percent and 5.1 rebounds per game and made All-NBA First Team. He recorded consecutive 50 point games for the first time since 1964. In the first round of the playoffs against the Detroit Pistons, he averaged an absurd 42.6 points on 60.4 percent shooting. He then went on to average 29.1 points on 54.5 percent shooting in a losing effort against the eventual champions, the Boston Celtics. King followed this up with a scoring title the next season, averaging 32.9 points on 53.0 percent, which is 21st all-time for a single season scoring average.
King’s reign came crashing down when he tore his ACL in March of 1985. He missed the remainder of the season as well as the next two because of it. Despite having a short stint with the Knicks, he made the most of it. Making the All-NBA First Team in two seasons
The Knicks’ lack of team success during the King era is hardly King’s fault. In his first three seasons, his best teammate was Bill Cartwright, who made only one All-Star game (none with King as his teammate). He also missed the chance to team up with Patrick Ewing, as New York drafted him the season after his injury. Still, King was one of the best scorers in Knicks history.
4. Dave DeBusschere
Dave DeBusschere (de-bush-er) is possibly the least known of the championship core despite being one of the most important players. In fact, DeBusschere was the missing link to their championship nucleus. He was traded to the Knicks in December of the 1968-69 season. The next year, they won their first championship.
DeBusschere was a player-coach for the Detroit Pistons at age 24 before becoming a Knick. In an effort to rebuild, Detroit traded DeBusschere to the Knicks. New York was 18-17 (.514) before acquiring DeBusschere and went 36-11 (.766) with him. His toughness and leadership helped the Knicks finally get over the hump. His ferocious rebounding and suffocating defense made opponents fear him. He could hit shots from outside, too.
DeBusschere did his job very well and stepped up when he needed to. In his first playoff series with the Knicks, he averaged 21.3 points. He averaged 19.0 points and 12.6 rebounds in the 1970 Finals. He recorded 13 points, eight assists, and seven rebounds in Game seven of the 1973 Eastern Conference Championship.
3. Willis Reed
The first piece of the championship nucleus, Willis Reed, cemented the blue-collar identity of those Knicks teams. Reed led the team in scoring and rebounding as a rookie, made the All-Star game, and won Rookie of the Year. He continued his dominance as the championship core was being built around him. For his leadership and toughness, he earned the nickname “The Captain”.
Reed is still the only Knick to win the MVP award, taking home the award in the 1969-70 season. He averaged 21.7 points and 13.9 rebounds while leading the Knicks to a league-leading 60 wins. He continued his dominance in the playoffs, averaging 24.0 points in the first two rounds en route to a chance at the championship. New York faced the Los Angeles Lakers, headlined by Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, and Wilt Chamberlain. Reed showed up big time, averaging 31.8 points, 15.0 rebounds, and 3.8 assists through the first four games.
Things took a turn for the worst in Game five, when Reed tore a muscle in his thigh. Chamberlain poured on 45 points and 27 rebounds in Game six, setting up a Game seven. Incredibly, Reed fought through the pain and played. He made his first two shots, which inspired the Knicks and helped them win the game, and with that, the championship. Reed took home the Finals MVP for that Finals and the 1973 Finals.
2. Patrick Ewing
Patrick Ewing was the face of the last time the Knicks were contending for a championship. He was the obvious first choice entering the 1985 draft, and the Knicks were able to win the lottery and choose him first overall. Decide for yourself how/if the lottery was rigged, but New York landed Ewing regardless.
Ewing, like Reed before him, was an intimidating paint presence on both sides. He shut down the paint for opposing offenses and scored at will on opposing defenses. He also had a nice touch that made him a reliable shooter from mid-range and the free throw line.
Ewing has the most All-Star nominations for the Knicks with 11. He also has the most All-NBA selections, games, points, rebounds, steals, blocks, and win shares. His 24,815 points and 11,607 rebounds rank 23rd and 25th most in NBA history respectively. He led the Knicks in several playoff runs, including a trip to the Finals in 1994.
Along with the ’94 Eastern Conference crown, Ewing has several great moments in the playoffs. There’s his putback to punch the Knicks’ ticket to the 1994 Finals. He finished that game with 24 points, 22 rebounds, seven assists, and five blocks. There’s also the game-winner against the Indiana Pacers the next year to avoid elimination, the dagger three-pointer against the Celtics in 1990, and his heroic Game six of the conference finals where he had 27 points, eight rebound, and three blocks on a sprained ankle against the Chicago Bulls.
1. Walt Frazier
The swooping and hooping. The wheeling and dealing. The styling and profiling. Before Walt Frazier delivered these phrases as the Knicks’ color commentator, he was doing it for a decade as a Knick. Sometimes known as Clyde, Frazier was the catalyst for the best teams in Knicks’ history.
Frazier was a dangerous scorer and playmaker but did most of his damage on defense. He made seven All-Defensive First teams. His quick hands helped him rack up steals and quickly dish passes to teammates. He is the franchise’s all-time leader in assists and ranks second in points and eighth in rebounds. He ranks 10th in steals, which weren’t a recorded stat for his first six seasons.
Frazier is responsible for one of the best games in NBA Finals history. In Game seven of 1970 Finals, he recorded 36 points, 19 assists, seven rebounds, and four steals in a winning effort. For the whole series, he averaged 17.6 points, 10.4 assists, and 7.7 rebounds
The decision for number one is a close battle between Frazier and Ewing. Both were tough, talented players that dominated both sides of the ball. The deciding factor was their play in big games. Frazier came through more often then Ewing, and both faced admirable opponents.
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