The NBA will hold it’s annual All-Star contest Sunday in Arlington, Texas at the home of the Dallas Cowboys. The House That Jerry Built will hold around 100,000 basketball fans to watch Lebron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the NBA’s best put on an offensive clinic with the scores settling in around the 160’s. For the first time since 2001 (Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell), the New York Knicks will have a representative at the All-Star Game as forward David Lee was chosen as a replacement for the injured (and undeserving) Allen Iverson.
But to be honest, none of that concerns me. I may watch a few sporadic minutes of the game. It’s not that I have anything against All-Star games or any of the players involved. Basketball used to be my favorite sport to watch. But James Dolan, Scott Layden, Isiah Thomas, Larry Brown and all the other Knicks’ decision makers over the past decade have effectively killed my love of the Knicks and my ability to sincerely care about NBA basketball.
You all know the misery. The Knicks have not been to the postseason since 2004. Thomas proclaimed “Welcome to the Playoffs” and the cross-river rival New Jersey Nets gave them a quick exit, sweeping them out in four games. The Knicks haven’t won a playoff game since 2001, and haven’t won a playoff series since 2000. Trading away Patrick Ewing, and subsequent trades after that destroyed their salary cap for the entire decade and gave away their relevance on the New York sports scene, something New Yorkers would have considered impossible during the 1990’s.
I can barely remember the last Knicks game I went to. I think they were playing the Milwaukee Bucks. It was around 2000 or 2001. The game might have gone into overtime. Maybe the Knicks won. I can’t remember anything about the game. I can’t remember the last time I watched a Knicks game from start to finish on TV. The only moment that stands out in the past nine years is the Knicks-Nuggets brawl at the Garden in December 2006, at the height of the Isiah Error. There hasn’t been a memorable moment since the Knicks dispatched the Heat in the 2000 Eastern Semis.
I tried cheering for the Nets during the Jason Kidd era. They were fun to root for while they dominated a horrendous Eastern Conference, but it didn’t last. There isn’t another team I want to root for. I feel left out of the loop. The only NBA coverage I follow is from ESPN.com’s Bill Simmons. The career’s of Lebron, Wade, ‘Melo, Kobe Bryant, Chris Bosh, and several other potentially great players are blossoming and there is nothing to draw me in. I know a lot of Knicks fans feel the same way.
And heading into the summer of 2010 we are being told to hold our breath for the ultimate free-agent crop. Lebron, Wade, Bosh, Steve Nash, and Amare Stoudemire headline the free-agents to be. Dolan, Donnie Walsh, and Mike D’Antoni are certain multiple free agents will come to MSG to save basketball in one of the few cities that adores basketball. Maybe Lebron or Wade will sign and bring Bosh with them. Maybe Nash or Amare will want to play for D’Antoni again. But it wouldn’t surprise me if none of them signed with the Knicks. It probably won’t lead to a championship. And you don’t need to play in New York to be a global icon anymore. Unless a player truly cared about saving New York basketball (like Curt Schilling cared about bringing a World Series to Boston - and he went to a team that was on the precipice) there is no reason to come to the Knicks.
After nearly a decade of embarrassing futility, no Knicks low surprises me anymore. Perhaps I’m being a defeatist, and there really is light at the end of the Midtown Tunnel. Maybe Walsh can work some salary-cap magic and give the Knicks fans some hope. But until that happens, my passion for the NBA will remain in a coma, with a feeding tube full of the rest of the NBA action ground into a bland paste being pumped into my fan “stomach” with no end in site. And if there is no sign of recovery a year from now (heading into the lockout that is almost certain to happen) you can pull the plug on my NBA fandom.
I hate hating the Knicks. But there is nothing to love.