You know you're in New York when you can find a pizzeria on every block, people talk faster than John Wall runs, and every single male above the age of five, and most females can handle a basketball.
That's how it goes in New York. We're a basketball town; we love the game.
It all began back in the 1960s and early '70s when New York basketball was at it's peak. The Knicks featured some of the greatest basketball teams of all time, St. John's was amongst the best teams in the Big East and all of college basketball on a yearly basis, and Rucker Park was filled with the nation's best basketball talent daily.
Even the New York High School basketball scene was producing stars.
We were the mecca of basketball.
However, something changed once the Knicks took a fall.
Rucker Park was no longer the place to be to find a pickup basketball game, the Knicks weren't winning, St. John's was on and off good, and New York was losing it's title as "the mecca of basketball."
While the '80s brought some excitement with the resurgence of St. John's and Bernard King, New York basketball wasn't anywhere near where it used to be.
Then in the '90s, for a brief time basketball finally returned here in The Big Apple.
St. John's was competitive, led by Ron Artest, Rucker Park was once again producing future NBA players, as were New York high schools, and most importantly, the Knicks captivated the attention of the entire state throughout the '90s.
While they never won a title, they played with heart and dedication, and the New York fans loved every minute of it.
But in 2000, the Knicks decided to cut ties with the man responsible for all their success in the 1990s—Patrick Ewing.
This was the beginning of the end for basketball in New York.
The Knicks completely plummeted to oblivion in the 2000s thanks to the efforts of Isiah Thomas and Stephon Marbury.
The same could be said about St. John's, who made some college basketball fans say, "Wow, I wonder if St. John's still has a basketball program" for the better part of this decade.
People completely lost interest in basketball in New York and focused primarily on the Yankees, Mets, Jets and Giants.
It was over. Nobody in their right mind wanted to go to the forgotten school of St. John's in the city where nobody really cared any more, and any player who wanted to join the Knicks should have probably had their head tested.
Then, the two best things that could have possibly happened to the Knicks and St. John's did—a change at the top.
The Knicks finally listened to the "Fire Isiah!" chants that echoed throughout the Garden on a nightly basis, and St. John's also axed their head coach.
Enter Donnie Walsh and Steve Lavin.
The former, one of the longest tenured and best GM's in the NBA, the latter, a former college basketball powerhouse head coach and ESPN analyst.
When Donnie Walsh took over for the Knicks his first mission became clear: Get as much cap space possible for The Holy Summer of 2010.
And he cleared quite a bit, enough to bring in perennial All-Star Amar'e Stoudemire and consistent point guard Raymond Felton. He also managed to draft Landry Fields, and trade for Ronny Turiaf, Kelenna Azubuike, and Anthony Randolph.
Soon after Walsh did his job, Steve Lavin pulled a rabbit out of his hat by netting the third best recruiting class in the nation according to ESPN.
Now that the Knicks are one piece away from contention, and that piece is begging his team to let him leave in Carmelo Anthony, and St. John's is finally ready to be competitive again, it raises the question: Is basketball in New York back?
That's a question that cannot yet be answered.
If Steve Lavin can lead his team to a late NCAA Tournament run, then St. John's will once again become one of the most popular teams in all of college basketball, and if that happens, then every top recruit in the tri-state area will be lining up for the chance to play under Lavin.
And if the Knicks can manage to finish at .500 this year, then they will likely continue their climb to the apex of the Eastern Conference.
Bringing basketball back in New York from a 10-year hiatus won't be easy, but things are already moving in the right direction.
We're not there yet, but just remember folks, Rome wasn't built in a day, and neither is New York basketball.
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