OUR game…

Our game, defined by our people

Basketball is a team sport in which two teams of five players try to score points by throwing or “shooting” a ball through the top of a basketball hoop while following a set of rules. Basketball is one of the most popular and widely viewed sports in the world.[1]

A regulation basketball hoop consists of a rim 18 inches (45.7 cm) in diameter and 10 feet (3.05 m) high mounted to a backboard. A team can score a field goal by shooting the ball through the hoop during regular play. A field goal scores two points for the shooting team if a player is touching or closer to the hoop than the three-point line, and three points (a “3 pointer”) if the player is “outside” the three-point line. The team with more points at the end of the game wins, but additional time (overtime) may be issued when the game ends with a tie. The ball can be advanced on the court by bouncing it while walking or running (dribbling) or passing it to a teammate. It is a violation (traveling) to walk with the ball, carry it, or to double dribble

(to hold the ball and then resume dribbling).

Of course, along the way, others have helped raise the profile of the great game of basketball, pioneers of our boroughs on the playgrounds and dimly-lit gyms to the bright lights of arenas and ABA and NBA venues.
Meet my all-time New York professional squad:
  
Guard: Walt “Clyde” Frazier 6’4″ 200 lbs: With a nickname taken by a Knicks trainer from the folk-hero robber Clyde Barrow, Frazier presided over the Knicks for 10 years from 1967 to 1977. He left holding team records for points scored, games played and assists. “It’s Clyde’s ball,” teammate and Knicks captain Willis Reed told Sportmagazine at the height of the Frazier era in New York. “He just lets us play with it once in a while.” As a Knicks player, Frazier scored 19.3 points per game, played in seven NBA All-Star Games, and was named to four All-NBA First Teams and seven NBA All-Defensive First Teams. He is especially remembered for his inspirational performance in the seventh and deciding game of a thrilling 1970 NBA Finals against the Los Angeles Lakers.
Career Year: 1969-’70 (21 ppg, 8.2 assists, 6 rebounds)

Years in New York: 10

Tierney’s Take: Frazier’s tenacious defense set the tone on one end, while his keen sense of finding the open man paved the way for perhaps the most unselfish team the league has ever seen to hit top speed. With so many great players and diverse talents, minus Frazier, it’s unlikely the Knicks would have discovered such symmetry and cohesion. Simply put, he was the key that ignited the Porsche’s engine.

  Guard: Julius Erving 6’6″ 200 lbs: The great and wondrous “Dr. J,” was the dominant player of his era, an innovator who changed the way the game was played. He was a wizard with the ball, performing feats never seen: midair spins and whirls punctuated by powerful slam dunks. Erving was one of the first players to make extemporaneous individual expression an integral part of the game, setting the style of play that would prevail in the decades to follow.Warmed by the media attention he received in New York, Erving led the Nets to a 55-29 regular-season record and the 1974 ABA Championship. The Nets’ roster also included talented youngsters Larry Kenon and Billy Paultz, and once the players got used to each other on the court, the team was unstoppable. After claiming the Eastern Division by two games, New York beat Virginia in five playoff contests and then wiped out Kentucky in four straight to reach the ABA Finals. Utah was the opponent, and the Nets dropped the Stars in five games for the crown. Erving repeated as league scoring champ with an average of 27.4 points per game. His all-around game began to emerge as well: he ranked sixth in the league in assists and third in both steals and blocked shots. As a reward, he picked up the first of three consecutive ABA Most Valuable Player Awards.

Career year: 1975-’76 (league-best 29.3 ppg, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, MVP)

Years in New York: 3

Tierney’s Take: Far from a conventional “two” by definition, Doc had  enough “J” to justify this selection. His early years were defined by style, but also backed up with plenty of substance. Imagine Erving playing at the Garden in his prime, for the Knicks? Like a shooting star temporarily lighting up the New York skyline, Erving took the baton from Oscar Robertson, before handing off to Michael Jordan, completing the evolution of how the game was played, and defying gravity and suspending belief.

 Center: Patrick Ewing 7’0″ 240 lbs: Warrior. That is the one-word description often applied to Patrick Ewing. He was indefatigable and relentless in pursuit of an NBA championship despite being denied on an annual basis. Bold predictions did not always materialize and some took them as empty promises, while others as a will to succeed. One of the finest shooting centers to play, he left the game as the New York Knicks’ all-time leader in nearly every significant category and the game’s 13th all-time scorer with 24,815 points. Never achieving the Holy Grail of the NBA, Ewing came painfully close. He led the Knicks all the way to the NBA Finals in 1994 but lost to the Hakeem Olajuwon-led Houston Rockets in seven games. Nonetheless, Ewing’s career highlights and production are impressive. They include averages of 21 points and 9.8 rebounds per game, 11 All-Star berths, an All-NBA First Team bid and six Second Team selections. He was the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1986, was named one of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History and played on two gold medal-winning Olympic basketball teams, in 1984 and 1992.

Career Year: 1989-’90(28.6 ppg, 10.9 rebounds, 4 blocks, 1st team All-NBA)

Years in New York: 15

Tierney’s Take: Even on his best day, # 33 was arguably never entrenched as one of the league’s top 5-7 players, overshadowed by Bird, Magic, Jordan,  in addition to Hakeem Olajuwon, Shaquille O’Neal and eventually Tim Duncan in the pivot. Still, for nearly two decades, Ewing’s fluid jump shot and explosive 1st step not only kept the Knicks relevant, but also placed them on the championship radar. Quite frankly, Patrick Ewing is a missed finger roll away from being among the most revered NY athletes ever. So, so close…but yet so far. Still, you better believes he anchors the paint on this squad.

 Small Forward: Bernard King 6’7″ 205 lbs: King enjoyed his greatest glory while playing in a New York uniform. His scoring output increased each year with the Knicks, from 21.9 ppg in 1982-83 to 26.3 ppg (fifth in the league) in 1983-84. On Jan. 31 and Feb. 1, he posted back-to-back 50-point outings against the San Antonio Spurs and the Dallas Mavericks. He also returned to the All-Star Game that year and earned his first spot on the All-NBA First Team. He almost single-handedly led the Knicks to a 3-2 first round series win over the Detroit Pistons as he posted over 40 points in four games and 36 in the other. King averaged 34.8 ppg in the entire 1984 NBA Playoffs, before losing in the Eastern Conference Semifinals to the Boston Celtics in seven games.

Career year: 1984-’85 (league-best 32.9 ppg, 6 rebounds, 1st Team All-NBA)

Years in New York: 6 (2) with Nets, (4) with Knicks

Tierney’s Take: Despite a turbulent start to his career due to several self-imposed detours, BK remains, for my money, the greatest offensive player in franchise history. King’s accomplishments are even more impressive when measured against the era in which he competed. The 80’s were defined by rugged play, particularly in the Eastern Conference, where every point was earned. King’s ability to absorb contact and still score was, aside from his lethal turnaround, his greatest asset. King didn’t look to make friends between the lines. Instead, he looked to destroy. Basically, #30 was unstoppable.

 Power Forward: Willis Reed 6’9″ 235 lbs: Hall of Fame center Willis Reed ranks third among the New York Knicks’ all-time leading scorers. Reed spent his entire career in a Knicks’ uniform, spending ten seasons with the team from 1964 to 1974. The seven-time All-Star averaged a double-double seven straight times to start his career. In 1969-70, Reed won the NBA MVP Award as he averaged a career-high 21.7 points per game to lead the Knicks to their first NBA Championship. He led the team to another title in 1973 and took home Finals MVP hardware in each championship.

Career year: 1969-’70 21.1 ppg, 13.1 rebs NBA MVP

Years in New York: 10

Tierney’s Take: While my connection to Reed remains tied to VHS tapes and stories from those who actually saw him play, I envision Willis Reed as a cross between Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley. His rebounding prowess and no-nonsense approach encapsulated an era defined by pure passion and heart. Still, his ability to shoot elevates him to rarefied air: a superstar who actually was as talented as he was tough. The captain of the Knicks, and undeniably, the captain of this mythical squad.

RESERVES:

 Power Forward: Buck Williams 6’8″ 220 lbs: The New Jersey Nets’ all-time leading scorer is the longest-tenured player in franchise history, Buck Williams. Williams began his 17-year NBA career by winning the 1982 NBA Rookie of the Year Award with averages of 15.5 points and 12.3 rebounds per game. He spent his first eight seasons with the Nets while earning three All-Star appearances and two of his four All-Defensive Team selections.

Years in New York: 10 (8) with Nets, (2) with Knicks

Tierney’s Take: Unassuming and soft-spoken, Williams’ talent was two-fold: his never-ending quest to chase down every loose ball, but also, according to those who played with him, Williams possessed a true cerebral sense of how to attack the glass. Like Dennis Rodman a few years later, and Kevin Love more immediate, Williams was a “thinking- man’s” rebounder, relying on angles and anticipation more than sheer force. Additionally, a superb locker room presence.

 Point Guard: Jason Kidd 6’4″ 205 lbs: Jason Kidd is one of the NBA’s greatest play-makers and one of the New Jersey Nets’ all-time leading scorers. Kidd spent seven of his prime years in New Jersey and led the Nets to their most successful run in the NBA. In his first two seasons in New Jersey, Kidd averaged 17.0 points and 9.6 assists to lead the Nets to back-to-back NBA Finals, their first two appearances in the NBA’s championship series.

Years in New York: 6.5

Tierney’s Take: Kidd’s court sense and vision rates favorably with anyone in the history of the league. His size and strength enabled him to see over opposing point guards, and his willingness to make the extra pass turned the Nets from perennial punching-bags into the conferences dominant team for nearly 5 years. Kidd’s instincts were all-world, combining grace and flair with precision. Never a great shooter, unlike others, he understood his weaknesses, and made a living watching others deposit two points.

 Shooting Guard: Allan Houston 6’6″ 210 lbs: Elite shooter Allan Houston was the most recent player to become one of the top five scorers in New York Knicks’ history. Houston developed as a shooter and a scorer in Detroit before joining the Knicks in 1996. He spent his last nine years in New York and became a two-time All-Star there. Houston averaged 18.5 points in his time with the Knicks, twice eclipsing the 20 per game plateau. His top skill was his great shooting touch which carried him to 1,305 three-point makes on a .402 percentage. Both numbers are good for the top 25 in NBA history.

Years in New York: 9

Tierney’s Take: It took a few years for Houston to truly earn the respect of Knick fans, as the team transitioned from a rough-and-tumble style to a more free-flowing pace. In his last years, he was hounded by a debilitating knee injury that quickly cut into his spring and reduced him to a spot-up shooter. However, in between, Houston earned a ticket as one of the premier shooters in the world. He eventually dispelled the “soft” tag during countless playoff battles with Miami, including one franchise-changing floater in the lane in Miami. Additionally, Houston’s character resonates throughout the city, as one of the most gracious and humble stars around. Besides Chris Mullin at St. John’s, have we ever been treated to such textbook mechanics from 20 feet?

 Shooting Guard/Small Forward: Vince Carter 6’7″ 215 lbs: One of the most recent stars of the franchise, All-Star swingman Vince Carter ranks second among the New Jersey Nets’ all-time leading scorers. After establishing himself as a superstar in Toronto, Carter was shipped to New Jersey in midseason 2004-05. He averaged 27.5 points in his first half season with the Nets. Carter was named an All-Star in each of his first three years in New Jersey with a combined average over 25 points per game; he has made eight All-Star appearances in his career as a whole. Through 12 NBA seasons, he has scored 19,498 points and he is likely to pass the 20,000 point mark in 2010-11 with the Magic.

Years in New York: 4.5

Tierney’s Take: As exciting as anyone to lace up the kicks, Carter, like Erving, combined grace with power, often creating in mid-flight. Never viewed as a sharp-shooter, Carter, while streaky, rarely shied away from taking the big shot. Along the way, VC drilled plenty of game-winners, captivating Nets fans, while across the river, the Knicks remained second-class citizens.

 Guard: Earl “Pearl” Monroe 6’3″ 185 lbs: Before the arrival of “Magic” Johnson there was another “Magic” — “Black Magic,” also known as “Earl the Pearl.” He was Earl Monroe, a dazzling ball-handler and one-on-one virtuoso who made crowds gasp with his slashing drives to the hoop. Monroe joined the NBA in 1967 and parlayed his talents into a distinguished 13-year career. He was part of a changing of the guard in the NBA, arriving at a time when high scorers like Dave Bing and Jerry West were showing that the backcourt could rack up points just as effectively as the center position.

Years in New York: 8.5

Tierney’s Take: An amazing one-on-one player, Monroe quickly adapted to the team concept following his trade to the Knicks, despite possessing the ability to drop 30+ regularly. Luckily, I have had a chance to work with Earl during Knick broadcasts, and can easily understand why he fit in so well with his new team. He has a quiet confidence sure, and style, yes…but at his core, he remains humble and proud. A true gentleman.

 Guard/Forward: Carl Braun 6’5″ 180 lbs: The first 10,000 points scorer in team history, Carl Braun ranks fifth among the New York Knicks’ all-time leading scorers. Braun was a five-time All-Star with who played for the Knicks from 1947 to 1961. The longtime swingman finished in the top ten in scoring four times in his career while assembling an overall average of 13.5 points in 788 NBA games.

Years in New York: 12

Tierney’s Take: One of the early pioneers, Braun earns a spot on my squad as one of the league’s early stars. During an era played below the rim, Braun possessed an array of moves, gliding by opponents with either hand, scoring at will and bridging the cap for future stars.

 Guard: “Super” John Williamson 6’2″ 185 lbs: A member of the Nets’ two ABA Championship teams, guard John Williamson ranks fifth among the New Jersey Nets’ all-time leading scorers. Williamson played three full seasons and three partial seasons with the Nets as he holds the unique distinction of having been traded by the team twice. In 1977-78, he was traded to the Nets at midseason and had his most prolific scoring stint with 29.5 points in 33 games with the team. For the duration of his stays with the franchise, Williamson averaged 17.8 points in 405 games.

Years in New York: 5

Tierney’s Take: According to many, “Super John” was never out of range and always on the offensive, making him a great candidate to jump off my bench and inject some life into the offense should the starting unit stall.

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1 Comment

  1. bdegrande

     /  02/14/2011

    I can’t agree with a lot of this. Two players are really out of position. Reed was not at his best when he played power forward as a rookie, and Erving played guard only very late in his career to let Barkley start at forward.

    Reed should be the center. As great as Ewing was, Reed was in another class, winning regular season, All Star, and playoff MVPs in the same season. Injuries destroyed his career, but he was a better player than Ewing before then.

    Dave DeBusschere was the best power forward in NY/NJ history, and didn’t even make your list. He was the best defensive forward in the league, handled the ball like a guard, shot from what is now three point range, was a great rebounder, AND was smart enough to be a head coach in the NBA in bis early twenties. Buck Williams, Oakley, etc, were not close to being the complete player he was. Look at what the Knicks did from the day he arrived. Watch some video of him, you are really missing the boat here, and his skills would translate even better today with the three point rule.

    Likewise at guard, you seem to have something against players who played both ends of the floor. Ray WIlliams, Latrell Sprewell, and Michael Ray Rixhardson defended, and rebounded, and passed, and scored, and you choose one dimensional shooters like Houston and Suoer John Williamson?

    Well, at least you didn’t pick Gallinari.

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