Carmelo Anthony and the rest of the Knicks face a huge challenge—bringing an NBA Championship back to New York.
Nearly 40 years ago, the New York Knicks made one of the biggest trades in their history when they acquired Hall of Fame guard Earl Monroe from the Baltimore Bullets for Mike Riordan, Dave Stallworth and cash.
The Pearl teamed with Walt Frazier to give the Knicks one of the best back courts in NBA history, and helped lead to New York to its second NBA title in 1973. They haven’t won one since.
This week the Knicks made another reach for that elusive ring when they acquired four-time NBA All-Star Carmelo Anthony from the Denver Nuggets. In a blockbuster deal, the Knicks traded away nearly half their roster, plus draft picks, in order to bring Melo to New York.
Anthony will join Amar’e Stoudemire to give the Knicks two superstars on the roster for the first time since….well since they last won a championship. Not suggesting New York is going to the NBA Finals this year, but they are heading in the right direction.
Lord knows the Knicks have tried to build a winner in the two decades since their title runs. Tried and failed. Repeatedly
McAdoo in 1976
For example, in December of 1976, the Knicks sent John Gianelli and cash to the Buffalo Braves for Bob McAdoo—a three-time NBA scoring leader and MVP in 1975—and Tom McMillen. The feeling was that McAdoo would join four regulars from the championship days—Monroe, Frazier, Bill Bradley and Phil Jackson—along with newcomer Spencer Haywood to bring another winner to Madison Square Garden.
Well not quite. These Knicks never advanced past the Eastern Conference semifinals, where they lost to the Philadelphia 76ers in 1978. McAdoo was sent to the Celtics during the 1978-79 season for three number one draft picks, one of whom was center Bill Cartwright.
Three years later, the Knicks acquired Bernard King from the Golden State Warriors for Micheal Ray Richardson and a 1984 fifth round pick. King had a spectacular but brief career in New York, and in 1984-85 became the only Knick in history to lead the NBA in scoring, at 32.9 points per game. Unfortunately he blew out his knee that season and later signed as a free agent with the Washington Wizards.
With King leading the charge, the Knicks advanced to the Eastern Conference semifinals in both 1983 and 1984 before losing to the eventual NBA champion 76ers and Celtics respectively.
It seemed like Knicks were bound for more championships after they won the 1986 NBA draft lottery and drafted center Patrick Ewing of Georgetown. But despite repeated efforts to firm up the roster, the Knicks failed to bring in a second superstar to help Ewing.
In 1988, seeking help on the boards, the Knicks traded Cartwright and first and third round picks to the Chicago Bills for Charles Oakley and a first-round pick. Oakley was the NBA’s top rebounder in both 1987 and 1988, but it was Cartwright who won three championships with Michael Jordan and the Bulls while the Knicks were shut out
The Knicks kept on trying, and although the deals highlighted below made them competitive, they could never quite get over that championship hump.
Ewing Era Deals
1990–Knicks sign free agent John Starks, left, released by Golden State
1992—As part of a three-team trade with the Los Angeles Clippers and Orlando Magic, Knicks acquire forward Charles Smith
1994—New York gets guard Derek Harper from Dallas for Tony Campbell and a first- round draft pick
1996—On Bastille Day the Knicks make two moves, signing free agent guard Allan Houston from Detroit and acquiring Larry Johnson from Charlotte in a deal for Brad Lohaus and Anthony Mason.
1998—Knicks trade Oakley and Sean Marks to Toronto Raptors for center/forward Marcus Camby.
1999—In a mid-season deal, Knicks trade Starks, Terry Cummings and Chris Mills to Golden State for Latrell Sprewell.
The Knicks were competitive throughout the Ewing era. They advanced to the NBA Finals twice, losing to the Houston Rockets in a seven-game series in 1994 and the San Antonio Spurs in five games in 1999.
In the past 10 seasons, the Knicks have made the playoffs just once, where they were promptly swept by their cross-river rivals the New Jersey Nets in 2004.
Are the Knicks on the championship track at last? Only time will tell, but the pieces are starting to fall into place. And the electricity is back at Madison Square Garden.