March Madness is upon us, and in the spirit of the basketball tournaments that are associated this time of year, I've put together a fantasy one-on-one tournament between 16 of the most popular Knicks of all time.
Each game follows standard one-on-one rules. First to 11 wins, win by two, with winner's outs, meaning you score, you keep the ball. Each basket is worth one point, with shots from behind the arc counting for two.
The decisions about who would win each game are not based on statistics or qualitative analysis, but a combination of playing styles, past big-game performance and personality.
Our competitors are: Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Bernard King, Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Mark Jackson, John Starks, Allan Houston, Larry Johnson, Latrell Sprewell, Stephon Marbury, David Lee, Amar'e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, Tyson Chandler, and Jason Kidd.
Let the games begin!
In the opening contest, Patrick Ewing, the greatest Knick of all time, goes up against David Lee.
Lee, not among the greatest Knicks, made the cut for being the bright spot during one of the darkest periods in Knicks' history, being a consistent double-double guy and a crowd favorite. Unfortunately for Lee, he’s going up against the best.
This is a physical matchup from the beginning, with both men fighting close to the rim, but then Ewing switches it up and starts draining his patented mid-range jumper from the side. Lee is not used to chasing after big men like this, and Ewing takes the opening match fairly quickly.
Winner: Patrick Ewing
In the next first-round matchup, we have Bernard King taking on Stephon Marbury. This is sure to be a crowd-pleaser, with both men known for electric scoring ability.
In the pregame interview, the side-line reporter asks Marbury if it’s a relief for him to not have to worry about deciding who to pass to. Marbury doesn’t understand the question.
King and Marbury trade jumpers and crossovers, to the delight of the audience. With the score tied at 9, both men two points away from victory, Marbury decides he does not want to play anymore and takes a seat on the sideline.
Fans and officials try coaxing Marbury to finish, but he insists he’s done. Then his agent calls him with an offer to play a tournament in China for more money, and Marbury hops on a private jet and leaves. The crowd simply wonders, “The plane wasn’t there a second ago, that was weird.”
Winner: Bernard King
Willis Reed faces John Starks in the next game, and the fans are wondering how this one will go—Reed, one of the greatest big men of all time and Starks, the undersized but talented guard.
Starks has the ball for the opening possession and launches a three (which counts for two here). Swish. Feeling confident, he does it again. Swish. He does this four more times and the game is over in a stunning upset.
Reed doesn’t know what to say. He didn’t even get to touch the ball. If he had, he likely would’ve steamrolled right over Starks, but he’ll never know for sure. Remember, it’s not always the best player who wins a tournament, but who gets hot at the right moment. Starks is as streaky as they come.
Winner: John Starks
Current teammates square off, as Amar’e Stoudemire faces Jason Kidd.
Kidd, new to the Knicks, has already proven his worth this season and has earned a spot in this tournament. Kidd, almost 40, feels this is an even matchup against Stoudemire, who is only 30, but with the body of a 50-year-old.
Unfortunately for Kidd, Stoudemire is healthy on this day, and is as explosive as ever. He’s blocking Kidd’s shots, executing sweet moves in the post, and delivering powerful dunks. Kidd is a pass-first guard with a decent outside shot. This is the wrong game for him.
Winner: Amar’e Stoudemire
Mark Jackson can’t catch a break here, drawing Tyson Chandler in in the opening round. Jackson, like Kidd, is known for assists, not one-on-one moves. Chandler isn’t exactly known for his offense either, but he does shoot for a higher percentage than just about everyone in the NBA because he gets the ball close to the basket.
Facing a much shorter man, Chandler has no problem backing his way towards the basket—something that Jackson did to opposing guards all the time—and getting easy buckets. This one just isn’t fair. Sorry, Mark.
Winner: Tyson Chandler
Latrell Sprewell faces Larry Johnson in the next first-round contest.
The former Grandmama isn’t as powerful as he was during his early days as a Charlotte Hornet, but he’s a dangerous outside shooter. Spree, on the other hand, can shoot from long range and slash to the hoop.
The bigger and stronger LJ pushes Sprewell around during the opening minutes, forcing Spree to shoot jumpers. Both men trade outside shots in a riveting display.
As the game goes on, Johnson tires and slows down, and that’s when Sprewell heats up. Spree drives to the basket over and over again, abusing the older, slower Johnson, finishing it with a thunderous slam. Johnson walks off the court saying, “I used to be able to do that.”
Winner: Latrell Sprewell
Carmelo Anthony, the current star of the Knicks, has been playing as an undersized power forward this season.
His first-round competition is against the real deal, the enforcer Charles Oakley. The Oak-man started at the 4 when the Knicks almost won the championship in 1994. He’s as tough as they come.
Anthony knows how strong Oakley is, so he keeps his distance, draining outside shots. Oakley waits for a miss and grabs the rebound and then starts abusing Anthony inside, getting some close-range buckets.
Never known for his offense, however, Oakley eventually loses possession, and Anthony doesn’t let him back in the game. Spins moves in the post, runners and long bombs overwhelm the Oak-man, and Anthony moves on to the next round.
Winner: Carmelo Anthony
In the last first-round game, Walt “Clyde” Frazier takes on Allan Houston.
Each of these guys are prolific scorers in their own right, swooping and hooping from the get-go. This one comes down to defense, though, because Houston’s not very good at it. Clyde is tenacious on D, pick-pocketing Houston on several occasions, and converting the steals to easy points.
Both men put on a shooting clinic in this one, but Frazier gets more stops and comes out on top.
Winner: Walt Frazier
The second round starts with two of the greatest scorers in Knicks' history, Patrick Ewing and Bernard King.
Both men can hit from outside and take it to the hole. Both have strength and finesse. Ewing has the size advantage, and King has greater speed.
The battle rages on, and for the first time in the tournament, the win-by-two rule comes into play. It's tied at 11, then 13, 15, 20.
Finally, Ewing is up by a point, but King steals the ball to stay alive. Ewing then gets a key block while King drives the lane. King crashes to the floor, but it's a clean block and before he can get up Ewing jams the ball to advance to the semi-finals.
Winner: Patrick Ewing.
Amar'e Stoudemire starts with the ball in his second round game against John Starks, which is significant, given how Starks won his first contest.
Stoudemire uses his rare combination of size and speed to plow through Starks repeatedly to take an early lead. Starks won't quit though, and his patience pays off when a Stoudemire miss results in a generous bounce that goes right to Starks for the rebound.
From there, it's the same old story. Starks sinks two-pointer after two-pointer, until he has a 10-5 advantage. Stoudemire gets close enough to contest a jump shot, but keeps some distance to show some respect for Starks' ability to drive to the basket. Not enough respect, apparently, because after a pump fake, Starks is off and running to the hoop along the baseline, dunking in Stoudemire's face, reminiscent of when he did the same to the entire Bulls team in the 1993 playoffs.
Winner: John Starks
This one just isn't fair. Tyson Chandler is a beast on the defensive end, but you can't kill what you can't catch. Sprewell's speed is too much.
Sprewell scores from the outside, goes around his opponent driving inside and hits mid-range jumpers and running floaters. At times, Chandler can contain Sprewell, but ultimately, he cannot stop him. Spree moves on to the semis.
Winner: Latrell Sprewell
Well folks, business is about to pick up. Walt Frazier and Carmelo Anthony are both phenomenal talents who can do it all. Well, on the offensive end, anyway.
Once again, Clyde's defense is key, as he's up against an opponent not known for his skills on the other side of the ball.
Frazier scores on Anthony with ease, but Anthony can't do the same. Anthony makes several difficult shots, including fade-aways out of the post and acrobatic layup, but it only works for so long. Frazier's defense eventually gets the best of his opponent, stealing and dealing his way to victory.
Winner: Walt Frazier
Patrick Ewing and John Starks have a long history together. They won battles against the Pacers and Heat together, and lost wars to the Bulls and Rockets. Here, they face each other for the chance to play for the Fantasy March Madness title.
Starks has the ball to start the game. Without wasting any time, he launches a bomb from beyond the arc and...misses. For the first time all tournament, Starks fails to make a shot. Lucky for him, there's a long rebound and he chases it down. He puts up another shot from long range. Again, nothing but rim. Ewing smiles as he grabs the rebound. He knows what's about to happen.
Ewing dominates Starks, backing him into the basket, drawing him outside and driving through him, and burying jumpers. Every time Ewing misses, Starks gets the rebound and immediately runs behind the line for a two-pointer. He comes up short every time. The curse of the streaky shooter is that as good as he is one minute, he can be equally bad the next. Somewhere in the stands, J.R. Smith nods his head.
Winner: Patrick Ewing
Walt Frazier had been getting past his opponents by taking advantage of their lack of defense. Latrell Sprewell used his superior speed to roll to victory. They both have to come up with something new this time around.
Both are quick, wily scorers who can defend. Sprewell may be a better outside shooter, but Frazier keeps a hand in Spree's face the entire time. They trade baskets throughout the course of the contest. When one misses, the other never fails to get the rebound. The pace is furious and even the crowd is exhausted.
And then, Sprewell makes his only mistake. With Frazier's hand in his face, he pump fakes, steps to the left, and drives to the basket. But with Clyde's right hand obstructing his vision, Sprewell fails to see Frazier's left poke the ball away. One steal is all it takes. Frazier puts up a 20-foot jumper for the win and a spot in the finals.
Winner: Walt Frazier
The finals. Walt "Clyde" Frazier against Patrick Ewing. After a grueling tournament, how fitting is it that the two biggest names in Knicks' history square off for the title?
Ewing has the size and strength. Frazier has the speed and agility. Who wins?
It's a war from beginning to end. Frazier steals from Ewing, Ewing blocks Frazier.
Ewing dunks. Frazier drives for a layup.
Ewing posts up and nails a turn-around. Frazier hits a pull-up jumper.
Ewing grabs a rebound. Frazier chases down a loose ball.
In the end, Ewing swats a shot from Frazier that would have given Clyde a one-point lead. Ewing sets behind the arc for a shot that is slightly out of his normal range, but he has an open look. He takes one dribble too many though, because Frazier comes from behind and pokes the ball away. He runs to the other side, behind the arc, and launches the two-pointer—nothing but net.
Ewing shakes Frazier's hand, but you can see the disappointment on his face after coming up short. Frazier, a champion in the past, is a champ once again.
And yes, Clyde played the whole tournament styling and profiling in the suit in the above picture.