I’m from the South Bronx where basketball is life; it lives and breathes in the culture.
When I was a kid, it was like a love of the sport had been poured into us all, taking the shape of our individual personalities. Some were professional trash talkers, others played from sunup to sundown on threadbare courts without nets. On the corner of Valentine and Burnside, across from Echo Park, there is still a mural dedicated to the life of our own local hero – the late Malik Sealy.
Across several blocks, hundreds of people from all ages, races and genders mixed and matched on the court. Imagine that – a summer day in the South Bronx, hip hop blasting and every court full of laughter, shit-talking kids playing 21, 3v3 or full court (winner keeps going). We came from different cultures, spoke different languages and attended different schools. It would have been easy to focus on what separated us – but none of that mattered – we all just wanted to hoop.
I love basketball because it brings people together more than it drives them apart. I like to think that we connect with sports on an emotional level and teams become a part of our identity – extensions of our own personal wins and losses. With millions of different opinions, experiences and cultural expectations, it’s crazy to think how much we are all tethered by something as simple as fandom.
This is the point of view I feel the media that covers the NBA in New York has forgotten. In many ways we have been typecast, forever made synonymous with angry Stephen A. rants, booed draft picks and Charles Barkley cheap shots. While any of these events may happen in isolation, there’s a lot more to us than that.
New Yorkers are among the most diverse populations in the country and to summarize our fandom – the experiences, beliefs, habits and goals – with a set of hostile caricatures is for lack of a better word, dishonest. A more accurate perspective would take into account the loyalty, passion and unwavering (even stubborn) hope that unifies every true Knicks fan.
We come from around the world – in all genders, shapes, sizes and years of devotion. We root for different players, regimes, trades and leadership with nothing less than straight up passion and support. That level of dedication can result in some pretty extreme takes (enter Twitter threads about Carmelo Anthony at your own risk), but to know a Knicks fan is to know someone who values loyalty above all else.
Basketball should be a force that unites us instead of one that drives us apart. Fans aren’t looking for click-bait headlines or made-up drama about their team; they are looking for useful information and stories that offer a closer connection to the team.
In a city of over eight million people from all around the world, there are going to be a lot of different opinions. This is New York, after all. We will never be shy in sharing our thoughts. Being bold is part of our identity. Some takes will inevitably be more based in reality than others, but the one thing I believe all Knicks fans have in common, wherever they are from, is an unwavering belief that our team will be great again…some day.
We can be patient, too. We can survive a legitimate rebuild. These things are possible because passion and perseverance are as important to this city as Madison Square Garden itself. We represent the Mecca – a place that was once home to the NBA world champions, a city known globally as a beacon of art, history and growth. A place where we have all grown from struggle.
This is why NYC will always be Knicksland. It’s why we have bonded with communities of fans from all over the world. It’s why, even though we haven’t had a winning team in years, the Knicks are still more relevant than half the other teams in the league. Forget about booing fans who crave attention and hot takes from burned out writers. Remember that our team is one of the originals in the league; that while we’ve witnessed plenty of lows, there are over SEVEN decades of connection between the city of New York and Knickerbockers basketball. No shade to the Nets but they will never have the same historical roots planted in this city. I feel a great amount of pride in supporting this team, wins & losses be damned.
The other day I randomly Googled “Knicks fans” and was reminded of how a lot of people might see us. A child crying ridiculously over a European player he knew nothing about. Random articles pumping fresh toxicity into our daily discussions. A social media post where a so called “fan” auctions off his loyalty for purple and gold delusions of grandeur. Let me tell you something right now – anyone who truly embodies the spirit of this team, of this city, could never sink so low as to barter character for cash. Any self-respecting Knicks fan, no matter where they are on the globe, can separate real support from fake enthusiasm.
Knicks fans come from every walk of life and are among the most engaging and passionate group you will ever find. Don’t believe me? Walk up to anyone rocking the blue & orange and ask what they think of Ewing, Porzingis or Ntilikina. If you’re feeling especially brave, start up a conversation about Carmelo Anthony or Phil Jackson. Mention Oakley or Mason for extra cool points. What do we think of Fizdale? Is Perry really a low-key genius? Will the French Prince ever fulfill his destiny?
There’s a lot to discuss and none of it involves tears on national television or throwing slander at our home squad. Ask us ANYTHING about the team, from any era, and you’ll instantly become part of a multifaceted conversation about everything from defense, to team building, to draft pick analysis to ridiculous free agency hopes. That is who we are. Passionate, opinionated, hungry and always relevant.
Ignore the few who act out on national television for attention or those too burned out or impatient to recognize the team is headed in a new direction. The organization is in a healthy place and we’re lucky to have such pragmatic and motivated leadership. There is a deep history with this team, one that includes both hardship and championship success. My advice as we move forward in this new era of basketball is to focus on the unifying passion and loyalty that has always been the lifeblood of this city.
There are much better days ahead.