5 Most Overrated Knicks Players of All-Time
The New York Knicks have a passionate fan base that rides the waves of emotion attached to the triumphs and failures of the Knicks and their players. Such emotion, combined with the fallibility of memory causes fans to overrate certain players in hindsight.
Saying a Knick is overrated is very different than saying he is not a good or even great player. There are deserving all-stars and Hall of Famers who are rated higher than they should be for any number of reasons.
Sometimes one spectacular night or dramatic play can grow into a myth, overshadowing the totality of a player's career. In other cases, it is pride or nostalgia for the Knicks teams of yesteryear which causes fans to overvalue the contributions of certain players. Nostalgia among Knicks fans was particularly strong during the worst decade in team history, the 2000's.
Gaudy statistics can also lead fans to inflate a player's value after the fact. When examined out of context, it is easy to forget that an individual's prolific numbers were the result of selfishness or an uptempo style of play. Even something as simple as a funny nickname, a unique skill set or a quirky character trait may cause fans to look back on a player's ability more fondly than they should.
Here are the five most overrated Knicks players of all-time.
5. Bob McAdoo
For an older generation of Knicks fans, the acquisition of Bob McAdoo from the Buffalo Braves in December 1976 generated as much excitement as the Carmelo Anthony trade in February 2011.
The power forward/center was ahead of his time, a big man who could face up or shoot a mid-range jumper. He was named MVP in 1975 and won three consecutive scoring championships from 1974-1976.
The Knicks believed he, along with fellow big man Spencer Haywood, and the aging backcourt of Walt Frazier and Earl Monroe could return the franchise to glory, but it didn't work out. Haywood descended into drug abuse, Frazier was traded and Monroe grew old.
McAdoo, however, averaged over 26 points per game in each of his two-and-a-half seasons in New York before the Knicks traded him to the Celtics for three first-round draft picks. He went on to win two rings with the Lakers and is now enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
In retrospect, many New Yorkers place the blame elsewhere for the team's mediocrity during McAdoo's time with the Knicks, but he was booed mercilessly at the time for his lack of defense. At that point in his career, he was a selfish player who did not make the players around him better. Three other teams got rid of him in the three years after the Knicks traded him.
4. Larry Johnson
With the Knicks trailing the Pacers 91-88 in Game 3 of the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals, Larry Johnson knocked down a three-point shot and was fouled with just 5.7 seconds remaining. The Garden erupted and the Knicks forward calmly sank the free-throw to seal the victory.
Every Knicks fan knows where he or she was when LJ hit that shot. Johnson is so closely identified with that euphoric moment in the minds of fans that it obscures just how frustrating his career in New York was.
When the Knicks traded Anthony Mason to Charlotte in 1996, the player they received in return was not the explosive Larry Johnson who led UNLV to a National Championship and played Grandmama in the Converse commercials.
Months after signing what, at the time, was the most lucrative contract in NBA history—a 12-year, $84 million deal in October 1993—Johnson injured his back and was never the same player. To his credit, the former all-star always played hard—often through a great deal of pain—and bought into the team concept, but he could no longer jump.
Johnson averaged just 4.9 rebounds per game over his five seasons with the Knicks, to go with 11.5 points. His enormous salary hindered the Knicks' ability to upgrade their roster as his condition gradually worsened, finally forcing him to retire at the age of 31.
3. Kenny Walker
The Knicks thought they landed the perfect front court complement to Patrick Ewing when they drafted high-flying All-American Kenny "Sky" Walker out of the University of Kentucky with the fifth pick in the 1986 NBA draft. Walker's career did not work out according to plan.
Kenny could sky, but that was about all he could do. He had no post game, could not take his man off the dribble and never developed a jump shot. Defensively, he lacked the instincts and toughness of his eventual replacement, Charles Oakley.
Walker grabbed just 4.2 rebounds and scored 7.7 points per game over five seasons with the Knicks, though Walker did give Knicks fans one night to remember.
Days after his father passed away, Sky Walker lived up to his nickname at the 1989 Slam Dunk Contest. With his white spandex showing, the former Kentucky Wildcat threw down a powerful 360 slam in the final round to defeat Clyde Drexler and secure the trophy. That spectacular showing and his catchy nickname inflated his value in the collective memory of Knicks fans.
2. Bill Bradley
Bill Bradley epitomized the teamwork and sacrifice that made the Knicks' two championship teams so successful. Consequently, he is often lumped into the same conversation as Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere and Earl Monroe, but he was not the same caliber of player.
Those guys would have been superstars on a different team and were each named to the NBA's 50th Anniversary Team. Bradley was more of a "glue guy."
The Princeton graduate and Rhodes Scholar was a very intelligent player. He moved without the ball, spread the floor and understood passing angles. He was also a rugged defender and could knock down an open shot, but lacked the athleticism or quickness to create his own.
"Dollar Bill" averaged 12.4 points, 3.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists over his ten seasons with the Knicks. He only made one all-star team and likely would not have been elected to the Hall of Fame on his NBA credentials alone (The Hall considers collegiate accomplishments and Bradley was a two-time First Team All-American.)
Bradley's reputation as an NBA player is enhanced by his Princeton days, the Knicks' success and his subsequent political career. He was arguably no better professional than his much less-heralded teammate, Dick Barnett.
1. John Starks
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John Starks was a solid two-way player who forged his way into the hearts of the Garden faithful through sheer will and fearless play. The spunky shooting guard was selected to the All-Star Game in 1994 and nearly shot the Knicks to a championship in Game 6 of the Finals later that season.
But as nostalgia for the Ewing/Oakley years grew during the dreadful Isiah Thomas era, the myth of John Starks surpassed the player.
He was never the consistent perimeter scoring the Knicks teams of the 1990's desperately needed. Starks connected on less than 40 percent of his attempts for two full seasons—1994-1995 and 1997-1998—and shot a putrid 38 percent from the field over 25 playoff games when the Knicks advanced to the NBA Finals in 1994.
Starks averaged a mediocre 14.1 points, four assists and 1.2 steals per game over his eight seasons in New York, while shooting just 42 percent from the field.
Statistics are not everything. Starks was a feisty defender and fierce competitor. He provided fans with wonderful memories, such as "The Dunk" against the Bulls in Game 2 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, and should be admired for his dedication, hustle and loyalty to the team.
He was just not as good as many Knicks fans remember him to be.