More than any other sport, basketball players exhibit the fluidity, power and grace of the human body. Fans around the world have grown enamored with watching athletes defy gravity and move with the speed and power of a freight train.
From Walt Frazier to Patrick Ewing to Carmelo Anthony, the New York Knicks have had many great players throughout their proud history. Though the ballplayers who have generated the most buzz in Madison Square Garden are those who have captured the imagination of the fans through mind-blowing feats of athleticism.
These are the five most athletic freaks in New York Knicks' history.
With a rare combination of athleticism and power, Larry Johnson, AKA "Grandmama" threw down vicious slams during his days with the Charlotte Hornets. By the time he arrived in New York, a back injury had severely hampered his ability to get off the floor.
Current Knick Amar'e Stoudemire and Antonio McDyess are two other high-flying power forwards who had their most explosive seasons for other teams.
Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway and Tracy McGrady had similar builds, overlapping skills and exceptional athleticism. Both were cut down by knee injuries before having a cup of coffee with the Knicks.
Steve Francis and Baron Davis were little guys with sensational hops who put together jaw-dropping highlight reels early in their careers.
Athletic is not the first word that comes to mind when most basketball fans think about this muscular forward, but few athletes his size have exhibited such quickness and dexterity.
"Mase" was listed at 6'7'', 250, though it is fair to say that the barrel-chested Queens-native weighed significantly more. Yet, Mason ran floor like a gazelle. The lefty had a surprisingly soft touch with both hands and displayed excellent body control while executing in the post.
Mason was also a phenomenal ball handler. He helped bring the ball up the floor on the rare occasions that teams pressed the Knicks and during Don Nelson's short stint as coach of the Knicks, he ran the offense through the big man.
Micheal Ray Richardson was billed as the heir apparent to Walt "Clyde" Frazier when the Knicks selected him with fourth pick in the 1978 draft. At 6'5'' he had foot speed of smaller guards, lightning quick hands and remarkable athleticism which enabled him to finish around the basket.
"Sugar Ray" become the first player to lead the league in assists and steals in the same season during his second year in the league and was named an All-Star three times and to the NBA All-Defense First Team twice during his four seasons with the Knicks.
Sadly, Richardson's career was derailed by a drug habit. The Knicks sent him to the Golden State Warriors after the 1981-1982 season and he was eventually banned from the league for life after his third offense under the NBA's drug policy.
Isiah Thomas still maintains that Sugar Ray was the only player that scared him.
Kenny Walker never lived up to the expectations the Knicks had for him when they selected him fifth overall in the 1986 draft. He did not have much of a jump-shot or back-to-the-basket game, but Walker could sky.
The 6'8'' forward walked away with the trophy after treating NBA fans to an array of high-flying, rim-rattling dunks at the 1989 Slam Dunk Contest. On one memorable reverse jam, he nearly hit his head on the rim.
Walker followed that up with a third-place finish at the 1990 Slam Dunk Contest. Chronic knee problems permanently grounded "Sky" Walker a few years later.
Charlie Ward ran the Knicks' offense with a measured pace, though he was deceptively quick and used his elite athleticism to shield the ball from defenders in the paint. He was the starting point guard for the Knicks team that advanced to the NBA Finals in 1999 and the popular line among New Yorkers at the time was that Ward was also "the best quarterback in New York."
Ward won the Heisman Trophy in 1993 while leading the Seminoles to the National Championship. That season, the Georgia-native threw for 3,032 yards and 27 touchdowns along with just four interceptions and averaged five yards per carry.
As if that were not enough, Ward was also drafted as a pitcher by the Milwaukee Brewers in 1993 and the New York Yankees in 1994, despite not playing baseball in college.
Nate Robinson is listed at 5'9'' and that may be generous. The diminutive point guard has exalted NBA fans with his remarkable leaping ability since the Knicks selected him with the first pick in the 2005 draft.
Dressed in green,"KryptoNATE" leaped over 6'10'' inch "Superman" Dwight Howard in the final round of the 2009 Slam Dunk Contest to capture the second of his record three Slam Dunk Contest titles and he once soared so high during a Knicks game that he was able to block a shot by 7'6'' center Yao Ming.
Nate's athleticism was not confined to the hardwood. He was a standout defensive back during his collegiate career for the University of Washington football team.