On This Date: The New York Knicks sign Anthony Mason

July 30th 1991: The New York Knicks sign Anthony Mason

In a somewhat unheralded move at the time, the New York Knicks officially signed Anthony Mason to an NBA contract. Mason, later known simply as the original “Mase,” spent the summer of 1991 on the Knicks summer league roster. A native of Queens, Mase spent his first few post-collegiate years overseas in Turkey and Venezuela. In between those stints, he spent parts of 2 seasons with the Denver Nuggets, New Jersey Nets, and the Tulsa Fast Breakers of the Continental Basketball Association.

Before joining the Knicks, Mase was heralded for his talents in the frontcourt combined with a deft passing ability unseen in many big men. New Knicks coach Pat Riley inserted Mase into the 2nd unit where he helped cement the Knicks already strong frontcourt presence. His combination of toughness on both ends of the floor helped the Knicks reach the playoffs, including a finals run in 1994.

After Riley left, coach Don Nelson inserted Mase into the starting lineup. As a starter, Mase averaged career highs in all categories, with 14.6 points/game, 9.3 rebounds/game, and 4.4 assists/game. The latter showcased Mase’s skills as a point forward. It was a role that eventually became a part of the positionless basketball, highlighted by Draymond Green amongst others. Unfortunately, differences in coaching philosophies cut Nelson’s tenure short after less than 1 season with the Knicks.

After the 1996 season, a combination of off-court issues and a quest for more offensive firepower led the Knicks to trade Mase to the Charlotte Hornets for Larry Johnson. Mase harbored tensions towards the Knicks organization due to the trade. Mase displayed his point forward skills during his tenure with the Hornets and also earned an All-Star berth in 2001 with the Miami Heat after reuniting with Riley.

Mase eventually reconciled with the Knicks and was often seen courtside at games or chatting with several of the Knicks players during the years. Sadly, Mase passed away in 2015 due to congestive heart failure at the age of 48.

On This Date: Knicks sign Clarence Weatherspoon

July 21st 2001: The New York Knicks sign Clarence Weatherspoon

The New York Knicks officially signed Clarence Weathersppon to a 5 year contract worth $27 million. The move was made in anticipation for Larry Johnson’s eventual retirement due to his chronic back injuries. Weathersppon started all 82 games for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the previous season and averaged 11.3 points/game and 9.7 rebounds/game.

Weatherspoon provided the same rebounding tenacity he brought throughout his prime, but mostly played a nondescript role on an aging, unathletic Knicks squad that missed the playoffs for the first time in nearly 15 years. The highlight of his Knick career was during Patrick Ewing’s jersey retirement when he grabbed a career high 24 rebounds.

The Knicks dealt Weatherspoon early in the 2003-04 season to the Houston Rockets for Moochie Norris.

On This Date: Knicks sign Allan Houston, Chris Childs, and trade for Larry Johnson

July 14th 1996: The Knicks 1996 Free Agency: Allan Houston, Chris Childs, Allan Houston

In one day, the New York Knicks officially transformed their roster to make a final championship run during the final stretch of Patrick Ewing’s prime. The Knicks acquired 3 key pieces to their starting lineup, including a new backcourt. First, the Knicks signed Chris Childs to a 6 year $24 million contract. The Knicks announced that they signed Allan Houston to a 7 year $56 million contract. Finally, the Knicks acquired former #1 overall pick Larry Johnson from the Charlotte Hornets for Anthony Mason & Brad Lohaus.

Heading into the 1996 free agency, the Knicks’ main goals were to find a 2nd superstar to pair with Ewing or find a core of young players to provide more offensive firepower. The original tea leaves suggested the Knicks sought Reggie Miller & Michael Jordan, but neither option was plausible. The Knicks signed Childs, 28, after a solid sophomore season with the New Jersey Nets where he averaged 12.8 points/game and 7.0 assists/game. The Knicks appreciated his toughness and poise on both ends of the floor. Childs replaced the older Derek Harper and immediately cemented his spot as the starting point guard.

Houston, 25, was one of the top free agent shooting guards on the market. He came off a season where he averaged a then-high 19.7 points/game and 2.3 three pointers made/game. He was known as a sharpshooter with the Pistons and brought that same dexterity to a Knicks roster that needed more perimeter shooting. Houston joined Childs in the starting lineup.

The most controversial move was acquiring Johnson for Lohaus and Mason. Johnson, 27, was on a long-term contract with 7 years and $84 million remaining. He also suffered a back injury during the 1993-94 season that would later hamper him during his Knicks tenure. Mason represented the tough and gritty Knicks defense of the early 90s. However, the team sought more offensive firepower and felt Johnson provided it despite the back issues. Additionally, the team was probably frustrated with the various on and off-court issues that plagued Mason during his Knicks tenure. Johnson never regained the athletic touch and offensive firepower he had during his early Charlotte days. He instead reinvented his game to become more of a perimeter threat and a clutch performer, especially in the 1999 NBA Playoffs.

On This Date: Knicks drop Game 1 of the 1999 NBA Finals

June 16th 1999: The New York Knicks drop Game 1 of the 1999 NBA Finals

For the first time in the 1999 NBA Playoffs, the underdog New York Knicks team lost a Game 1, with a 89-77 defeat to the San Antonio Spurs. After the Knicks ended the 1st quarter with a 27-21 lead, the Spurs dominated in the 2nd quarter and pulled away in the 4th quarter. The Spurs’ twin towers of Tim Duncan & David Robinson proved to be too much for the hobbled, undermanned, and undersized Knicks.

The Knicks simply could not stop Tim Duncan. Duncan dominated against the undersized Knicks defense of Larry Johnson or Marcus Camby to the tune of 33 points and 16 rebounds. David Robinson had a near triple double, and just-as-close 5×5 game, with 13 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists, 3 steals, and 3 blocked shots. Camby & Johnson both committed 5 fouls a piece. Johnson played through a sprained knee he suffered at the end of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Allan Houston & Latrell Sprewell scored 19 points a piece, but neither player could get into a shooting rhythm in the 4th quarter to withstand the Spurs’ runs. Both players combined for 5 points in the 4th as the Spurs turned a 6 point lead with 8 minutes remaining into a 15 point lead with 2 minutes left in the game.

On This Date: Knicks become the first #8 seed to reach the NBA Finals

June 11th 1999: The New York Knicks make history in becoming the first #8 seed to reach the NBA Finals

Miracles. Only one word to define the 1998-99 season. After enduring the endless drama, on-court struggles, and injuries, the Knicks did the unthinkable and stormed past the #1 seed Miami Heat in the 1st round, the #4 seed Atlanta Hawks in the 2nd round, and the #2 seed Indiana Pacers to become the first #8 seed to reach the NBA Finals.

The Knicks defeated the Pacers 90-82 in Game 6 to advance to the Finals. This was done with Patrick Ewing on the sidelines and Larry Johnson sidelined most of the game due to a sprained right knee suffered in the 2nd quarter. Instead, the “role players” per se took charge in front of the roaring MSG crowd.

Allan Houston led the way with a team-high 32 points on 12-17 from the field. Latrell Sprewell scored 20 points, but his defensive energy was once again infectious for the Knicks team. Marcus Camby was an all-around force off the bench with 15 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals, and 3 blocked shots in 37 minutes. Camby was the instrumental cog in the victory. While he was on the floor, the team was +26 and -18 while off.

The Knicks simply dominated on the free throw line. The team took 33 free throws, led by Houston (8-10), Camby (7-11), & Sprewell (6-6). The Pacers, on the other hand, only attempted 9 free throws.

The Knicks took control of the game in the 4th quarter. A Jalen Rose 3 point play with less than 29 seconds remaining put the Pacers down 86-82. However, the Knicks hit 4 more free throws and the Pacers simply conceded with 15 seconds remaining after Spree blocked Jalen Rose’s layup.

The MSG crowd went nuts as Chris Childs dribbled out the clock. Spree was running along the sidelines galvanizing the crowd. Jeff Van Gundy’s wife was shown in tears right after the buzzer sounded. Even with Patrick Ewing sidelined, he enjoyed the taste of seeing another NBA Finals. Just simply an ecstatic and priceless moment in Knicks history.

On This Date: Knicks advance to the 1994 NBA Finals and the LJ 4 Point Play

June 5th 1994: The New York Knicks advance to the 1994 NBA Finals

The New York Knicks advanced to the NBA Finals for the first time in more than 20 years after defeating the Indiana Pacers 94-90. The game was back and forth with less than a minute remaining in the 4th quarter. With less than 35 seconds remaining, Dale Davis threw down a dunk to put the Pacers up 90-89. Little did they know that those would be the last points the Pacers scored in the game.

After Pat Riley called a time out, John Starks received the ball and drove to the basket from the right hand side of the court. Starks threw up a missed layup, but Patrick Ewing was there to throw down the go-ahead iconic tip-dunk with 26 seconds remaining to put the Knicks ahead 91-90.

The Pacers worked the clock and Reggie Miller received a pass off the curl which he subsequently airballed out of bounds to the delight of the MSG faithful. With 4.2 seconds remaining, Starks received the inbounds pass and was, surprisingly, flagrantly fouled by Reggie Miller. After the foul, Ewing was shown putting both his arms up (as shown in the iconic photos) in the air knowing he was off to the NBA Finals. He gave the courtside fans a high five and even bear hugged a fan along the way.

Starks hit one of the two free throws off the flagrant foul and subsequently hit an additional 2 free throws to seal the victory. Ewing ended Game 7 on a historic effort with 24 points, 22 rebounds, 7 assists, and 5 blocked shots.


June 5th 1999: Larry Johnson’s 4 point play

Without Patrick Ewing and down 91-88 with 12 seconds remaining in Game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals, the Knicks were in desperation mode to save the game. There were two choices: hit a quick 2 and foul or attempt a 3. Charlie Ward was the inbounds passer from the sideline by the Indiana Pacers bench. The Pacers tipped the inbounds pass, but it landed in Larry Johnson’s palms.

LJ took 4 seconds off the clock before making a move off of Antonio Davis.He drove left towards the sideline and Davis fouled him as he shot the 3 with less than 7 seconds remaining. Miraculously, LJ made the shot and the MSG crowd roared. The various TV replays showed the Garden crowd literally going nuts after the shot was made. It was a priceless moment.

LJ ran down to the other side of the basket about to celebrate only to be held back by Chris Childs & Latrell Sprewell. LJ completed the 4 point play to put the Knicks up 92-91. After the Pacers called a timeout, Mark Jackson threw up a desperation shot over pressure defense that missed to help the Knicks win Game 3.

Larry Johnson helped carry the Knicks in Game 3 after Patrick Ewing’s injury sidelined him for the remainder of the playoffs. LJ led the Knicks with 26 points and 3 three pointers, including the iconic 4 point play. The momentum of Game 3 didn’t carry over to Game 4, but it definitely played a role in winning both Games 5 & 6 to head to their 2nd NBA Finals in the decade.

On This Date: Larry Johnson scores 25 to help tie the 2000 ECF 2-2

May 29th 2000: Larry Johnson leads the Knicks with 25 points to tie the series between the New York Knicks & Indiana Pacers

With Patrick Ewing sidelined due to a sprained right foot and Latrell Sprewell & Marcus Camby hobbled with a bad foot and knee respectively, Larry Johnson took the initiative to lead the New York Knicks past the Indiana Pacers 91-89 to tie the series 2-2. LJ scored 25 points and hit a couple clutch three pointers to give the Knicks a cushion after the Pacers cut a 17 point halftime deficit down to 1 with 6 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter. LJ hit all 5 of his three point attempts and played 44 minutes overall.

The Knicks also received positive contributions from Charlie Ward & Kurt Thomas. Ward scores 16 points on 4-6 from three and had 7 assists, 6 rebounds, and 3 steals. Ward was the key playmaker for the Knicks in transition and within the halfcourt offense, especially finding LJ for looks. Thomas scored 16 points off the bench and had 6 rebounds and 4 assists in 35 minutes. Chris Dudley started in Ewing’s absence, but only played 8 minutes due to Kurt’s productivity.

Latrell Sprewell & Marcus Camby were both hobbled throughout the game due to injuries. Spree fractured his 5th metatarsal in his left foot near the end of Game 3, but played nearly the entire game and scored 12 points despite being hurt. Camby also went down with a knee sprain in Game 3, but returned to secure 8 rebounds and 3 blocks in 18 minutes off the bench.

On This Date: Knicks/Heat Fight Round 1: Charlie Ward & PJ Brown

May 14th 1997: Knicks/Heat Fight Round 1: Charlie Ward vs. PJ Brown

In the waning moments of a disappointing Game 5 loss against the Miami Heat, Charlie Ward & PJ Brown got into a nasty fight after trying to gain position for a rebound on the free throw line. After Tim Hardaway Sr hit the free throw, Ward rammed into PJ Brown trying to box out and Brown suplexed him to begin the melee. The fight ensued behind the baseline as coach Jeff Van Gundy & the various garbage time players on the floor, including John Wallace, attempted to separate the players.

Not learning the lessons from the 1994 NBA Playoffs, Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Larry Johnson, and Allan Houston all left the bench area to break up the fight. As a result, each of the 4 players were suspended one game each along with Charlie Ward. The NBA suspended PJ Brown 2 games for his role in the brawl.

With the multitude of suspensions, the NBA decided to stagger the suspensions, by last name order, over both Game 6 and 7. Ewing, Houston, & Ward were out for Game 6 and Johnson & Starks were out for Game 7. Although the Knicks were leading 3-2 in the series, the suspensions left the team severely undermanned. The Knicks lost both Games 6 and 7.

Before Game 6, the Knicks filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York to order a stay on the suspensions, arguing that the punishment should be determined in arbitration. The NBA Players Union sided with the Knicks alleging that the rule itself was never approved by the players in the collective bargaining agreement. On game day, the SDNY ruled in favor of the NBA arguing that the rule was plain and clear and within the rights of the league office.

The biggest “what-if” moment was determining how far the team would go into the NBA Playoffs. Had there been no suspensions, the Knicks most likely defeat the Heat and face off against the Chicago Bulls once again. The Bulls easily defeated the Heat in 5 games, but maybe the “new” Knick core of Ewing, Houston, & Larry Johnson provide a better fight.


May 14th 2003: Dave DeBusschere passed away

Dave DeBusschere passed away at the age of 63 after collapsing due to a heart attack. DeBusschere spent 6 seasons with the Knicks and won 2 championships. He was an 8 time All-Star and 6 time honoree of the All-Defensive Team. The Knicks retired his #22 and the NBA subsequently inducted him as one of the 50 Greatest Players in 1996. He was also inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame.

He also served in the Knicks front office and was responsible for drafting Patrick Ewing.

On This Date: Patrick Ewing & Alonzo Mourning face off in the playoffs for the first time

May 9th 1993: Patrick Ewing & Alonzo Mourning’s first NBA Playoffs matchup

Former Georgetown Hoya alums Patrick Ewing & Alonzo Mourning faced each other in the NBA Playoffs for the first time on this date. For Ewing, this was his 6th straight season in the playoffs. For Zo, this was his 1st experience in the NBA Playoffs as this was his rookie campaign with the Charlotte Hornets. After Ewing graduated from Georgetown in 1985, the university waited 3 years until Mourning & Dikembe Mutombo both arrived on campus to man the Hoya frontcourt.

As for the playoff game itself, the vastly experience Knicks defeated the Hornets 111-95 in Game 1. This was the Hornets’ first year in the NBA Playoffs. Ewing won the battle against Zo with 33 points, 10 rebounds, and 4 blocked shots. Zo had a respectable performance with 27 points, 13 rebounds, and 4 blocks, but also committed 7 turnovers. His lack of experience1 proved to be costly as Ewing took advantage of him both defensively and offensively. Zo allowed Ewing to feast on the perimeter where his patented jump shot proved to be key to victory.

Anthony Mason had a double double off the bench with 11 points, 11 rebounds, & 5 assists in 38 minutes. There were several former and future Knicks on the Hornets roster at the time. Larry Johnson, a then 2nd year player, missed most of the game with a sprained right leg. Former Knicks Johnny Newman & Sidney Green played a decent role for the Hornets in Game 1. Newman started and scored 18 points in 28 minutes. Future Knick David Wingate, who’d become merely a garbage time presence with the team, entered in garbage time for the Hornets.

On This Date: Larry Johnson & Alonzo Mourning fight in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

April 30th 1998: Larry Johnson & Alonzo Mourning get into a fight with seconds remaining in Game 4 of the 1998 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

With less than 6 seconds remaining in a 90-85 Game 4 victory, Alonzo Mourning & Larry Johnson got into a fistfight after fighting for position boxing out. Both players threw punches & missed each other. The most iconic moment came when Jeff Van Gundy ran to the floor and held on to Zo’s leg for his dear life to stop the fight. His efforts were ultimately futile, but the photo was an iconic memory in Knick history.

Outside the Knicks/Heat rivalry, both players had tensions rooted from their playing days in Charlotte. While the players formed a dynamic duo in the 1992-93 season, animosity built up after LJ received a 12 year $84 million extension. Mourning thought he was the better player of the two and sought for a long-term extension. Before Zo was due for an extension, the Hornets traded him to the Miami Heat to become new Knick nemesis Pat Riley’s core centerpiece.

This was the 2nd Knicks/Heat playoff fight after the Charlie Ward/PJ Brown brawl. Unlike that brawl, most of the Knick bench remained on the sidelines. Only Chris Mills left the bench area. The NBA suspended LJ, Mills, & Zo one game for their involvement in the fight (and leaving the bench area, for Mills). With Mourning out, the Knicks easily defeated the Heat 98-81 in Game 5 to advance to the Semifinals.

On This Date: Knicks win Game 1 against Anthony Mason and the Charlotte Hornets

April 24th 1997: The New York Knicks defeat the Charlotte Hornets in Game 1 of the 1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals

The Knicks/Hornets rivalry intensified during the 1996-97 season after the Larry Johnson/Anthony Mason trade. LJ left the Hornets on a sour note after publicly requesting a trade due to a disillusionment regarding the direction of the franchise and a desire for a long-term contract. The trade left a severely bitter taste in Mase’s mouth. He felt resentment after the trade and alleged that Patrick Ewing played a role in his departure. Ewing & Mase clashed offensively over the course of their 5 year tenure. Mase clamored more touches during the Riley era & Ewing often complained about lack of touches during the short Don Nelson run.

During the regular season, the Hornets won 3 of the 4 matchups, including the last 3. Their last game in February delved into heated tensions at halftime where both John Starks & Glen Rice had to be separated after yelling “you want some of this” in the tunnel.

Despite the regular season acrimony, the real battle began on Game 1 when Mase returned to MSG and Larry Johnson faced off against his old team. To begin the playoffs, the Knick players wore warmup shirts with the slogan “make em feel ya.” Starks created the slogan on behalf of the team. Additionally, 8 of the players shaved their heads as part of the playoff tradition, including Allan Houston & LJ.

The Knicks did defeat the Hornets 109-99 in Game 1. It was the new Knicks – Houston, Childs, & LJ – that made the most contributions in the victory. Houston led the team with 25 points on 4-7 from three and LJ scored 20 on 2-4 from three. Chris Childs scored 14 points and had 8 assists. The Knicks held a 13 point lead at halftime, but the Hornets erased the lead by the end of the 3rd quarter. The Knicks eventually built a 10 point cushion in the 4th for the victory.

Despite the tenacious rivalry during the regular season, the Knicks handily swept the Hornets to advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

On This Date: Melo’s 42 point playoff outburst against the Boston Celtics

April 19th 2011: Carmelo Anthony caries Knicks with 42 points in Game 2 loss

Without Chauncey Billups due to a knee injury and Amare Stoudemire in the 2nd half due to back spasms (after attempting dunks in practice), Carmelo Anthony single handedly willed the Knicks during this game. Melo scored 42 points and had 17 rebounds and 6 assists. He led the Knicks in just about every offensive category. However, it wasn’t enough to defeat the Boston Celtics as the Knicks lost 96-93.

In prime Melo fashion, he scored from all over the court. Whether it was in the paint, in the midrange (via his signature jab steps), or from the three point arc, Melo was proficient and neither Jeff Green or Paul Pierce could stop him alone. He kept the team in the game despite being severely outmanned by the defending Eastern Conference champions.

Ultimately, Kevin Garnett hit the go-ahead basket in the final seconds. Melo tried to feed the ball to Jared Jeffries after seeing a double team, but Jeffries fumbled the go-ahead pass and the Celtics stole the ball from him.

Melo’s performance in Game 2 made me wonder what happened if the NBA Lockout didn’t happen. Perhaps a proper offseason would have helped coach D’Antoni fully utilize Melo’s talents (especially on the passing end). We may have seen a souped up Olympic Melo, but that memory will only exist in our dreams.


April 19th 1996: Patrick Ewing records his only triple double

Patrick Ewing recorded his only triple double in his NBA career with 28 points, 15 rebounds, and 11 assists. Unfortunately, the Knicks lost to the Charlotte Hornets 115-108. The game was merely important for the Knicks to establish playoff seeding and home court advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference Playoffs. Future Knick Larry Johnson hurt the Knicks with 28 points and 18 rebounds.

 

On This Date: Knicks defeat the Spurs in Spree’s return to MSG

February 12th 2017: Latrell Sprewell and James Dolan bury the hatchet as the Knicks defeat the Spurs

The Knicks snapped a 4-game losing streak with a 94-90 victory against the San Antonio Spurs on a nationally televised broadcast. Carmelo Anthony led the way with 25 points (including 3 three-pointers), 7 rebounds, and 2 assists. Kristaps Porzingis scored 16 points and blocked 4 shots. Willy Hernangomez made his second start of the season and had 12 points, 9 rebounds, and 3 steals. Willy’s minutes increased steadily after a shoulder injury sidelined Noah for the remainder of the season.

Despite the victory, it off-the-court headlines dominated the story. Throughout the 2016-17 season, Phil Jackson sent veiled shots at Carmelo Anthony expressing disappointment that he’s not a “star” in the realm of a Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant. Days before the game, Phil sent a cryptic tweet aimed at Melo:

Additionally, Charles Oakley was arrested only a few days earlier after an altercation with security personnel during the Knicks/Clippers game. Oakley allegedly hurled some parting shots at James Dolan. Dolan subsequently alerted security to escort him out. Oak was subsequently banned from MSG for one year.

To quell the PR backlash, Dolan decided to reconcile with Latrell Sprewell and ended their 13+ year feud. Spree sat courtside with Dolan, Bernard King, and Larry Johnson. Since the moment, Spree has spent plenty of games courtside at Madison Square Garden and participated in various Knicks charitable causes.

On This Date: Knicks acquire Othella Harrington

January 30, 2001: Knicks acquire Othella Harrington from the Vancouver Grizzlies

The Knicks had large shoes to fill in replacing their franchise player Patrick Ewing, shoes that would remain empty for a long time. But on this date, they acquired another former Hoya in Othella Harrington from Vancouver in exchange for Erick Strickland, the 2001 Los Angeles Lakers 1st round pick acquired in the Patrick Ewing trade (Jamaal Tinsley), and a 2001 2nd round pick (Antonis Fotsis). Harrington (turning 27 years old the next day) was not the most talented Hoya, but was a serviceable big man who provided necessary front-court depth for the Knicks.

Since the Ewing trade, the Knicks lacked reliable depth in the front-court. Marcus Camby was the starting center, but was historically injury prone with the Knicks. Additionally, Larry Johnson faced chronic back injuries in his final season with the Knicks. Harrington provided the ability to backup both LJ & Camby at the 4 and 5, respectively.

The Knicks acquired Erick Strickland in a draft-day deal for John Wallace & Donnell Harvey, the Knicks 1st round pick in the 2000 NBA Draft. The team intended for him to be a backup guard, but was rendered useless after Glen Rice arrived in the Ewing trade. Likewise, Othella Harrington had little use with the Grizzlies after the team drafted Stromile Swift 2nd overall in the 2000 NBA Draft.

The Knicks may not have “won” the trade per se, but they did make the most of Harrington during his 3.5 year tenure with the team. He mostly provided depth off the bench.

Unfortunately, the Knicks continued their reputation of throwing away first round picks in low value trades. Had the Knicks valued their first round picks during the 1990s and 2000s, their reign of contention would have been prolonged.

On This Date: Queens native Metta World Peace returns to MSG as a rookie

January 11, 2000: Metta World Peace (f/k/a Ron Artest) returns to MSG as a rookie

In the 1999 NBA Draft, Ed Tapscott inexplicably drafted Frederic Weis over St. John’s own Metta World Peace. 99% of Knicks fans and media, alike, panned the selection. Even MWP himself was baffled the Knicks didn’t select the Queens native. The Chicago Bulls selected him right after the Knicks picked Weis.

On this date, MWP returned to MSG for the first time as a Chicago Bulls player. Additionally, Peekskill native Elton Brand – picked #1 overall in the 1999 NBA Draft – also made his rookie MSG debut. MWP led the Bulls with 24 points on 6-15 from the field with 4 assists and 2 steals. Elton Brand scored 22 points on 9-18 from the field.

However, the veteran-laden Knicks roster was too much for the Baby Bulls as they sailed to a 95-88 victory. The Knicks had 6 players score in double figures as Larry Johnson led the team with 19 points. Patrick Ewing had a double double with 14 points and 14 rebounds.

World Peace had an idiosyncratic NBA career to most standards. While known as one of the toughest defenders in the league, his volatile personality derailed most of his prime years. The Malice at the Palace forever tainted his career. His best years came with the Los Angeles Lakers, winning a championship ring with Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson.

MWP did have a short run with the Knicks during the 2013-14 season. However, a combination of lack of playing time and CAA politics led to a buyout during the middle of the season. He did return to the Lakers for a few seasons, enjoying Kobe’s farewell season and mentoring some of the younger players on the roster.

On one hand, I could have seen MWP mesh well with a strong veteran presence in the 90s Knicks roster. The roster could have played a crucial mentorship role that he lacked early on in his career. However, I could also see that NYC would also be a distraction for him due to growing up here. Many NYC-bred basketball players did not succeed with the Knicks due to a myriad of reasons including high expectations and temptations.


January 11th 1997:  The New York Knicks sweep the Boston Celtics on “Throwback Weekend.”

To commemorate the 50 year anniversary of the NBA, the Knicks & Celtics participated in a back-to-back “Throwback Weekend.” The two teams were the only two franchises still playing in their original cities. The Knicks took a train ride up to Boston to play the first matchup on January 10th and returned to MSG to play the doubleheader the next evening. Legends from both teams including Bob Cousy, Bill Russell, Earl Monroe, and Dave DeBusschere attended the festivities. Legendary Celtics coach Red Auerbach was the team president.

Both teams wore special throwback uniforms that celebrated the 50 year anniversary of the NBA. The Knicks wore the following throwback uniforms:

As for the games itself, there was not a lot of competition. The Knicks swept the home-and-home series 111-98 and 112-99 respectively. The Knicks held a 17-game winning streak against the Celtics. The streak reached 21 games before the 94-85 loss on January 26, 1998.

While the Knicks were perennial playoff contenders in the 1990s, the Celtics were in a phase of rebuilding after the Larry Bird/Kevin McHale retirements and Reggie Lewis’ sudden death.

Watch: John Starks and Larry Johnson visit Katz’s Deli

Larry Johnson and John Starks recently were at the iconic Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side, for the creation of a new Knicks sandwich. The episode of “Unfiltered Knicks” with the two former Knicks and the owner of Katz’s will be airing this Monday (December 3) after the Knicks game on MSG Networks, timed to Hanukkah Night at the Garden that evening.

“We’ve been here for 130 years. In many ways, we are the quintessential New York deli and the Knicks are the quintessential New York basketball team. We go together like peanut butter & jelly.”

Katz’s Owner Jake Dell

On This Date: Knicks play first ever NBA Game and commemorate it 50 years later

November 1, 1946: Knicks play First ever game in NBA History

The first ever NBA game somehow happened in Canada. It featured the New York Knicks against the Toronto Huskies at the historic Maple Leaf Gardens in Toronto, Ontario. New York native Ossie Schectman scored the first ever basket and led the Knicks to a 68-66 victory. Leo Gottlieb led the Knicks with 14 points.

The league was originally created as the Basketball Association of America (BAA) and comprised of 11 teams. Of the eleven teams in the inaugural 1946-47 season, only three teams are currently active in their original form: Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, & the Philadelphia (now Golden State) Warriors. The other eight teams folded or merged with other organizations.

The BAA was formed to find a way for hockey franchise owners to populate their large sports arenas on off days (i.e. MSG III, Boston Garden). The success of college basketball, especially in New York City, convinced certain franchise owners that there was a large enough market for a professional league.

Although the BAA was founded in 1946, there were already two established professional basketball leagues: the American Basketball League (ABL) and the National Basketball League (NBL). Unlike the BAA, these two leagues often played in small arenas or even high school gyms. Most of the teams in the league eventually disbanded or merged into the NBA.

After the BAA inaugural season, the Toronto Huskies disbanded. In 1949, the NBL merged with the BAA and was effectively renamed as the National Basketball Association (NBA).   


November 1, 1996: Knicks commemorate 50 Year Anniversary of the first ever NBA game

To pay homage to the anniversary, both teams wore throwback uniforms honoring those original teams. In particular, the Toronto Raptors wore jerseys that represented the Toronto Huskies team.

The Knicks beat the Raptors 107-99. The game marked the Knicks debut of both Allan Houston and Larry Johnson. Houston led the team with 28 points and 3 steals. Johnson scored 12 points in 29 minutes. John Starks came off the bench and scored 22 points. With the Houston signing, Starks took the challenge of coming off the bench and ultimately received the 6th man of the year award at the end of the season.  

Chris Childs’ Knick debut was delayed a few weeks due to a fractured fibula in his right leg. The injury gave Charlie Ward an opportunity to start the season and debut along with the first few weeks of the season. Ward scored only 4 points in the season debut, but had 8 assists. Charles Oakley did not play in the season debut due to a two-game suspension for instigating a fight with Charles Barkley in the preseason.  

Of the three rookies the Knicks drafted in the 1996 NBA Draft, John Wallace made his NBA debut and had an auspicious start with a double double. Wallace’s comfort in the SkyDome would come in handy soon enough as he was traded to the Toronto Raptors in a deal that netted Chris Dudley.  

Walter McCarty and Dontae’ Jones, the other two rookies, did not dress for the game due to a coach’s decision and a foot injury respectively. McCarty only played 35 games that season and Jones missed the entire season with his injury. Just like John Wallace, both were traded to Boston for Chris Mills before the 1997-1998 season. To maximize Patrick Ewing’s short window of contention, all three young players were sacrificed for immediate impact players.

Future Knick Marcus Camby made his NBA debut as well, coming off the bench to score 5 points in 15 minutes.

Former Knicks Doug Christie and Hubert Davis also played in the debut. Christie – acquired by the Raptors in the 1995 Expansion Draft – scored 24 points and had 7 assists and 4 steals.  Davis – acquired by the Raptors for the Knicks’ own 1997 1st Round Pick – scored 6 points in 30 minutes. Davis was traded to the Raptors due to a glut of guards on the roster after the Allan Houston signing.