I don't believe in curses, but after watching the NY Knicks' persistent futility over the past dozen years, it seems entirely possible that Patrick Ewing has put a hex on the team—and not once, but twice.
As a Yankees fan, I don't know or care about the Curse of the Billy Goat or the Curse of Babe Ruth. Those "curses" do not affect me. However, I do believe that for employees of the service industry, karma is a boomerang. And I agree with Paul McCartney that, "In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make."
And on that basis, it seems entirely possible that the Knicks have been doubly cursed by Patrick Ewing.
First, the mellifluous Patrick Ewing era in New York was cursed by the rigged 1985 draft lottery, dooming the team never to win a championship and be thwarted variously by Michael Jordan, Reggie Miller and Hakeem Olajuwon.
The very first year of the draft lottery was 1985, and as the story goes, David Stern wanted to bring a marquee player to New York to resurrect the franchise, so he conspired with the accountant from Ernst & Whinney to have them win the first pick. See the video where the fourth envelope is curiously jabbed against the side of the drum.
The Knicks got the first pick and selected Patrick Ewing out of Georgetown. Their playoff futility with Patrick Ewing on the team is as follows:
1988: Lost in the first round to the Celtics in four games.
1989: Lost in the conference semifinals to the Bulls in six games.
1990: Lost in the conference semifinals to the Pistons in five games.
1991: Lost in the first round to the Bulls in three games.
1992: Lost in the conference semifinals to the Bulls in seven games.
1993: Lost in the conference finals to the Bulls in six games.
1994: Lost in the NBA finals to the Rockets in seven games.
1995: Lost in the conference semifinals to the Pacers in seven games.
1996: Lost in the conference semifinals to the Bulls in five games.
1997: Lost in the conference semifinals to the Heat in seven games.
1998: Lost in the conference semifinals to the Pacers in five games.
1999: Lost in the NBA Finals to the Spurs in five games.
2000: Lost in the conference finals to the Pacers in six games.
These losses were pockmarked with a litany of embarrassments. They include 1993, when the Knicks were up 2-1 in the series over the Bulls, and Michael Jordan dropped 54 points in a Game 4 win for Chicago. Then, Charles Smith missed approximately 5,000 layups in the waning seconds of their Game 5 loss.
And in 1994, that's when the Pacers' Reggie Miller scored 25 points in the fourth quarter of Game 5 of the conference finals and pantomimed to Spike Lee that the Knicks were chokers, leaving an indelible imprint on the franchise. The Knicks went to the NBA Finals that year, and then, John Starks went 2-of-18 and 0-of-10 in the fourth quarter of their Game 7 loss to the Rockets.
Not to mention 1995, that's when Reggie Miller scored eight points in nine seconds to win Game 1 of the conference semifinals. Then, Ewing missed a finger roll which would have forced Game 7 into overtime.
And, of course, there was the 1997 scuffle in Game 5 with the Heat that led Allan Houston, Patrick Ewing, John Starks and Larry Johnson to leave the bench area. All of them earned automatic one-game suspensions, and Miami won Game 6 and Game 7.
And, for the coup de grace, there was the Game 4 brawl against the Heat in 1998, with Jeff Van Gundy hanging off Alonzo Mourning's leg. The Knicks would win that series, but again, lost to the Pacers in the conference semifinals.
The Knicks made the NBA Finals in the next season, but with Ewing injured, they were summarily dismissed in five games by the Spurs.
They have not gotten that close since.
Second, as if so many ignominious playoff defeats weren't enough, the Knicks inexplicably traded Patrick Ewing—their all-time leader in points, rebounds, blocks, steals, free-throw attempts, free throws made, field-goal attempts, field goals made, minutes and games played—to the Seattle SuperSonics in September of 2000.
The trade involved four teams, and the Knicks ended up with Glen Rice and Luc Longley, among other considerations.
The result? The Knicks were horrible for the next decade. They made the playoffs that season after posting a 48-34 record but lost in the first round to Toronto. They followed that with nine consecutive losing seasons, including two campaigns of 59 losses.
Isiah Thomas came to the Knicks as an executive and disgraced the franchise in numerous ways. Legendary coaches Don Chaney, Lenny Wilkens and Larry Brown were all fired for not doing better with lackluster rosters. He inexplicably traded draft picks for Eddy Curry and did not lottery-protect them. And he was found to have sexually harassed an employee and fired her for rejecting his advances.
When Thomas was eventually fired in 2008, it took the team two years to dig out from the mess he had made. And while the Knicks have greatly improved in the past two seasons, they have been easily dismissed from the playoffs to conclude both years.
The Knicks are now deserving owners of the NBA record for consecutive playoff games lost by a franchise (13). And even though that streak was mercifully snapped by their win in Game 4 over the Miami Heat this year, the future of the franchise is still very much up in the air.
What can possibly be done to break the curse? We shall see what bright ideas GM Glen Grunwald comes up with this offseason.
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