On the road again, as this NBA Tuesday miniseries heads to the Big Apple to take on the history of the New York Knicks—a.k.a., the Knickerbockers! In 77 overall seasons, the team has made 44 postseason appearances, winning two NBA titles (1970, 1973). Since 1950, the team also had reached six other NBA Finals, however, so the overall track record may be a disappointment to any diehard Knicks fans who still remembers those glory days of the early 1970s.
No. 5: 1968-69 New York Knicks
With a 54-28 record, the Knicks finished third in the East Division, just 3 games out of first place. The No. 1-ranked defense carried New York to the top rating in the SRS, however, despite the No. 11 offense. Interestingly, the Knicks swept the division-winning Baltimore Bullets in the first round of the playoffs before then facing the fourth-place Boston Celtics, who finished with just 48 wins. But Boston’s mystique carried it to a six-game series victory over the Knicks.
The team was led by center Willis Reed (14.7 Win Shares) and point guard Walt Frazier (12.7), as it would be for the next handful of years (see below). The bench wasn’t deep, as only 8 players topped 1.5 WS—including some guy named Phil Jackson (1.7). In the Celtics matchup, Boston took the first two games and then won Games 4 and 6 by one point each—both times at the infamous Garden. It was a tough way for the Knicks’ season to end abruptly after the Baltimore sweep.
No. 4: 1992-93 New York Knicks
One of two teams in franchise history to win 60 games (see below), these Knicks posted a 60-22 record to win the Atlantic Division. Despite the No. 1 defense, though, the offense was downright bad (ranked 24th of 27 teams at the time). This dragged the overall SRS rating down to fifth in the league. New York dropped only one game in each of the first rounds, though, eliminating the Indiana Pacers and the Charlotte Hornets. But then the Chicago Bulls beat the Knicks in six.
Six players registered at least 6.5 WS—and led by C Patrick Ewing (10.6). He was supported by shooting guard John Starks (7.5), small forward Anthony Mason (7.4), and power forward Charles Oakley (7.3)—a former Chicago Bulls star. In the Chicago series, Jackson was coaching the Bulls … with Michael Jordan, of course, in his prime. The Knicks won the first two games at home, but then they lost the next four—including Game 5 at home by three points. That hurt badly.
No. 3: 1972-73 New York Knicks
A 57-25 record was enough to earn second place in the Atlantic Division for these Knicks, and the team finished No. 4 in the overall SRS ratings. The No. 1 defense and the No. 11 offense (out of 17 teams) still made them a formidable force, however. After beating the Bullets in five games to open the postseason, the Knicks got revenge on Boston with a 7-game series victory to advance to the NBA Finals. Then, New York beat the Los Angeles Lakers in five games to win the title.
Frazier (13.0 WS) was the stud here, although PF Jerry Lucas (7.8), SG Earl Monroe (7.8), and SF Bill Bradley (7.0) all were pretty famous in their own rights, as well. Overall, eight players topped 4.0 WS, too, so it was a deep roster. In the Boston series, New York went up 3-1, but it still needed a Game 7 win on the road to eliminate the Celtics. In the Finals, everything must have seemed a lot easier: The Lakers won Game 1, but the Knicks won four straight, all by single digits.
No. 2: 1993-94 New York Knicks
Probably the most infamous of all New York teams, this group went 57-25 to win the Atlantic Division; it was No. 1 in defense and No. 21 in offense. This amounted to the No. 2 SRS rating, overall. In the playoffs, the Knicks lost once while eliminating the New Jersey Nets, and then New York needed seven games each to punch out the Chicago Bulls and the Indiana Pacers. Against the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals, though, New York lost heartbreaker Games 6 and 7.
Ewing (13.1 WS) and Oakley (10.5) were, by far, the dominant players on this version of the Knicks. On the whole, N.Y. sported eight players with at least 4.0 WS on the year, so the depth was pretty good. But … Ewing was outplayed by Houston C Akeem Olajuwon, who held the Knicks star to just 36.3-percent shooting for the series. Then, Olajuwon blocked Starks’ game-winning shot attempt at the end of Game 6, and Game 7 was a disaster for Starks, too. Ouch.
No. 1: 1969-70 New York Knicks
The best team in organizational history won 60 games to top the East Division, while again finishing No. 1 in defense—like every team on this list! The offense was ninth, but it still added up to the No. 1 rating in the SRS. But the playoffs were hard: New York needed seven games to oust the Bullets in the first round, although the Knicks did beat the Milwaukee Bucks in five games next. But the Finals? A seven-game grind against the Lakers to earn the team’s first-ever NBA title.
Frazier (15.0 WS) and Reed (14.6) were stunningly good; six other players finished with at least 3.4 WS to provide depth behind the big stars. New York won Game 7 at home against Baltimore by 13 points to escape the first-round upset, but the Finals were a tougher challenge. Reed was famously hurt, so other players had to carry the load: Frazier, of course, but also PF Dave DeBusschere, SG Dick Barnett, and Bradley—all of whom scored in double digits during the series.