New York Knicks: Patrick Ewing and the 10 Greatest Centers in Team History
Thanks to reader response to Bleacher Report's Top 10 Guards in Knicks History, we've come back to give you more. This time we'll take a look at all the Knicks' centers in the team's 65-year history to come up with the 10 very best.
Some names come right to mind: Patrick Ewing, Willis Reed, Bill Cartwright and Marcus Camby. But you have to go back further to really see who ranks.
And what about Ewing, do his career statistics trump Reed's rings for the top spot? You'll have to read on to find out.
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The list attempts to rank Knicks' centers based on 11 categories. Each player is given a relative score between one (worst) and five (best) for each category, based on their career with the Knicks and disregarding play for any other team.
All players must be primarily centers—with two forward-center exceptions explained—and have played for the Knicks for a minimum of three years.
Here are the categories. The full spreadsheet is available to view on the final slide.
1. Playoff Appearances and Championships
2. Years of Service
3. Offensive Play
4. Defensive Play
5. Hall of Famer
6. Franchise Statistical Leadership
7. Awards / Honors
8. All-Star Appearances
9. League Statistical Leadership
10. Level of Competition
11. Intangibles ("clutchness," leadership, impact on franchise)
Honorable Mentions: Part I
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Bringing up the rear of the best of the rest:
14. Connie Simmons (1949-1954) never put up more than 729 points in one season for the Knicks, nor shot better than 38 percent, but he went to the playoffs all of his five seasons in New York and upped his game in the postseason. He averaged 12.6 points per playoff game, more than two points above his regular season average.
15. Eddy Curry (2005-2011) is more of a "dishonorable" mention, but he did have at least two-and-a-half solid seasons for the Knicks. His best year in the blue and orange was 2006-07, when he scored over 1,500 points (19.5 pts and seven rebounds per game).
16. Charlie Tyra (1957-1961) finishes off the list of the best Knicks centers. He played four solid seasons as the Knicks' backup big man.
Honorable Mentions: Part II
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And the cream of the best of the rest:
11. Herb Williams (1992-1999) still sits on the Knicks bench, nearly 20 years after he first suited up for the team. Fan favorite Williams was Patrick's main backup for the second half of the Ewing era.
12. Marvin Webster (1978-1984): The 7'1" "Human Eraser" was a defensive whiz off the bench. He has the third-most blocks in Knicks history.
13. John Gianelli (1972-1976) averaged 10.3 points and 8.6 assists in his best year, 1974-75, and is one of only three centers on the list to own a championship ring.
10. Ray Felix (1954-1960)
"Best Wishes" from New York City native, Ray Felix, the Knicks' center for the second half of the 1950's.
Before joining the Knicks in 1954, Felix was the NBA Rookie of the Year and became the second African-American to be named an All-Star (for the Baltimore Bullets).
Ray averaged nearly 12 points and nine rebounds per game for the Knicks. During his five-year tenure in New York, he ranked in the top 10 in field goal percentage three times.
9. Marcus Camby (1998-2002)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
The fact is, Camby became a defensive superstar after he was traded away to the Denver Nuggets, but he still made a respectable mark on Knicks' history, and comes in at No. 9. If he played longer in a Knick uniform, he'd certainly be higher on the list.
That said, he was the No. 1 defensive player in the league in 2000-01; appeared numerous times on the league leaderboards for blocks, rebounds and defensive rating; and went to the playoffs with New York three times in his four years.
Camby is fifth all time in blocks for the franchise.
8. Nat Clifton (1950-1957)
Nathaniel "Sweetwater" Clifton was an NBA pioneer, becoming the first African-American to sign an NBA contract.
He helped lead the Knicks to their first appearance in the Finals in 1950-51.
Clifton nearly scored 1,000 points in 1954-55 and averaged 10 PPG and 8 RPG in New York, but was known more for his defense and rebounding prowess.
7. Bob McAdoo (1976-1979)
That's Bob McAdoo on the right.
Of the centers on the list, McAdoo played the fewest games as a Knick (one full season and two half seasons), but what a full season that was in 1978-79. That year he scored over 2,000 points, had over 1,000 rebounds and blocked 126 shots. The two half seasons were just as remarkable (both over 1,000 points, 500 rebounds and 65 blocks). Impressive.
He has the highest scoring average in Knicks' history: 26.7 ppg.
The Hall of Famer is all over the league leaderboards in block, rebound and point categories during his short time in the Big Apple.
6. Bill Cartwright (1979-1988)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Mr. Bill played eight seasons for the Knicks.
In his rookie year, Cartwright scored over 1,700 points, pulled down over 700 rebounds, swatted 101 blocks, shot 55 percent from the floor and was named to the All-Rookie First Team.
He scored over 1,000 points in six of his seasons in New York.
Cartwright is 10th best scorer in Knicks history. He has the second-most blocks and is third all time in shooting percentage.
5. Jerry Lucas (1971-1974)
Jerry Lucas was officially a forward-center, but he made his mark as the big man in the middle when with the Knicks.
He is the second "center" on the list to own a championship ring.
The Hall-of-Famer Lucas was traded to the Knicks in the twilight of his career, but was a critical player in two of three Knicks playoff runs during his time in New York.
When Willis Reed was injured for most of the 1971-72 season, Lucas stepped in to play center, scoring nearly 1,300 points and pounding the boards for over 1,000 rebounds—and was named team MVP. The Knicks lost in the Finals that year to the Lakers in five games.
Again in 1972-73, Lucas played more minutes at center than injury-plagued Willis Reed. Some say Lucas is directly responsible for "preserving" Reed for the playoffs, and helping the Knicks win their second championship.
4. Walt Bellamy (1965-1968)
In three full seasons for the Knicks, Walt Bellamy scored 1,668, 1,449 and 1,372 points, shooting over 50 percent each year.
During his time with New York (and over most of his career), Bellamy dominated the league, appearing all over the leaderboards in field goals, points, field goal percentage and rebounds.
He averaged 19 PPG and nearly 13 RPG as a Knick during the regular season. In his two Knicks playoff years, he played even better: 19.3 PPG and 16.2 RPG. Ri-donk-ulous.
Bellamy was inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame in 1993.
3. Harry Gallatin (1948-1957)
On paper, "Harry the Horse" was a forward-center, but in reality he split time at center with Nat Clifton.
Gallatin's numbers are simply dominant. The Hall of Famer played nine years for the Knicks and represented New York in the All-Star game and playoffs seven times. He was named to All-NBA teams twice.
Gallatin led the league in rebounds and rebounds per game in 1953-54. He was ranked in the top 10 in PER (efficiency) six times (four of those in the top five). Other than his rookie year, Gallatin had double-digit points and rebounds per game every year as a Knick.
He has the fourth-most rebounds in Knick history.
Gallatin entered the NBA Hall of Fame as a true New York Knick in 1991.
2. Willis Reed (1964-1974)
Where to begin? He's a monster.
Willis Reed is the only center in Knicks history to win two championships, playing a pivotal role in both series.
The captain played his entire 10-year career with the Knicks.
Reed was the 1964-65 Rookie of the Year, won the MVP in 1969-1970 and was the Finals MVP in '70 and '73. Reed was a seven-time All-Star and the All-Star Game MVP, too, in 1969-70. That's a lot of hardware right there.
Reed was All-Rookie, All-NBA five times and All-Defensive once.
He was consistently in the top 10 in rebounds and efficiency for the league.
And of course, don't forget his dramatic limp onto the floor in Game 7 of the 1970 Finals against the Lakers. By the way, Reed averaged 23.7 points and 13.8 rebounds per game in that series.
Reed's franchise rankings, amongst all positions:
Scoring Average: eighth
Field Goals: third
Free Throws: seventh
1. Patrick Ewing (1985-2000)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
Where to begin? Patrick Ewing is the best center in New York Knicks history.
It's close, thanks to Reed's championships, but Ewing's numbers make him No. 1.
Patrick Ewing played 15 years for the Knicks and is probably the face of the franchise. It's either Patrick or Clyde when you're talking about the greatest Knick ever.
Ewing almost single-handedly led the Knicks to the playoffs 13 times—in a row, including the Finals twice.
He was the 1985-86 Rookie of the Year and was named to the All-Star team that season (and 10 other times).
He was All-Rookie, All-NBA seven times and All-Defensive three times.
He ranked in the top 10 in field goals and points eight years in a row (six of those were top five), and in rebounds eight years in a row.
One of the greatest defensive players ever, Ewing led the league in defense twice (defensive rating) and was top 10 league-wide in blocks an astounding (and youthful) 11 years in a row.
Ewing is the franchise leader in games, minutes, points, field goals, free throws, rebounds, steals, blocks and even personal fouls. He has the third-highest scoring average.
If you liked this top 10, don't forget to check out the Top 10 Guards in Knicks History.
Rankings are from one (worst) to five (best).
For being in the Hall of Fame, player received five points.
"Level of Competition" is an effort to account for different eras.
Intangibles is somewhat subjective and includes clutch play, leadership and team impact, which are important parameters when discussing all-time play.
I broke the ties myself.
Feel free to provide input of your own or your opinions of this ranking and analysis in the comments section below.