NBA: Top Shot-Blockers in New York Knicks Franchise History
Shot blockers have tremendous power.
They can turn an on-fire shooter cold, completely shift momentum or even decide a championship game.
Over the course of their 65-year history, the New York Knicks have had a fair share of players that could change a game with their shot-blocking ability.
The blocked shot didn’t become an official stat until 1973, so some of the franchise’s earlier players were excluded from this list.
Players who only spent a short amount of time with the franchise were also excluded, regardless of how great a shot-blocker they were during their NBA career (i.e. Dikembe Mutombo, who spent one season with the Knicks in 2003-04).
Here is my list of the best shot blockers in New York Knicks’ franchise history.
Patrick Ewing (1985-2000)
Ewing’s selection should come as a surprise to no one.
The Hall of Fame center was always an excellent shot blocker, dating back to his collegiate days at Georgetown. To say he might be the greatest shot blocker in New York Knicks franchise history would be like saying humans might need oxygen to survive.
Ewing’s 2,758 total blocks are good for first all-time in franchise history. Bill Cartwright holds the franchise’s second highest mark with 543—2,215 less than Ewing.
During his 15 seasons as a Knick, Ewing averaged about 2.7 blocks per game. He never led the league in total blocks for a single season, but he came extremely close on multiple occasions—finishing second in 1987-88, 1989-90 and 1990-91.
1989-90 was Ewing’s best shot-blocking season, statistically, as he averaged four per game and totaled 327.
Ewing’s ability to dominate around the basket on the defensive side of the ball helped him earn three NBA All-Defensive team selections. He also had the NBA’s best defensive rating in a season two times (1992-93, 1993-94) and led the league in defensive win shares in a season three times (1992-93, 1993-94, 1996-97).
In his last ever game as a Knick, Ewing had three blocks to go along with 18 points and 12 rebounds.
Bill Cartwright (1979-1988)
Bill Cartwright spent the first eight seasons of his 15-year NBA career with the New York Knicks.
While the 7’1” center out of the University of San Francisco was more of an offensively oriented big man, he did total 543 blocks as a Knick—the franchise’s second-highest career mark.
During his first five seasons in New York, Cartwright averaged about 1.3 blocks per game. In Season 6, the third overall selection of the 1979 NBA draft was limited to just two games because of injury.
Upon returning to action in his seventh season as a Knick, Cartwright played alongside then-second year stud Patrick Ewing. Unfortunately for Cartwright, injuries caused him to miss 24 games that season.
In his last season with the Big Apple’s basketball squad, Cartwright’s minutes were slashed in half as the team elected to bring him off the bench so that Ewing could start at center. The following offseason, he was traded to the Chicago Bulls and wound up winning three championships.
Marvin Webster (1978-1984)
Marvin Webster spent six seasons with the New York Knicks.
Nicknamed “The Human Eraser," Webster totaled 542 blocks as a Knick—the franchise’s third highest career mark—and averaged about 1.4 blocks per game.
Webster’s most impressive shot-blocking stat line was his 2.3 blocks per 36 minutes as a Knick. He wasn’t an overpowering shot blocker, but his 7’1” frame made it difficult for opponents to shoot around or over him.
Webster was drafted third overall in the 1975 NBA draft by the Atlanta Hawks. After playing a season with the Denver Nuggets in the ABA, he made his NBA debut after Larry Brown's Nuggets joined the league. The Knicks signed him as a free agent in 1978.
Marcus Camby (1998-2002)
Marcus Camby spent four seasons with the New York Knicks.
The 1996 Naismith Award recipient out of UMass has created a solid reputation on the defensive end of the floor during his 15 NBA seasons, highlighted by his 2006-2007 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award.
The four seasons he spent in New York from 1998-99 to 2001-02 were no different.
Camby averaged about 1.9 blocks per game during his time as a Knick. The 376 blocks he amassed while donning professional sports’ most notable blue and orange uniform put him at No. 5 all-time in Knicks’ franchise history.
While his shot-blocking numbers as a Knick were lower than what he typically put up on other teams, it’s important to note that Camby backed up Ewing during his two first seasons and dealt with some injury problems, resulting in just 11 starts. Still, he did average 2.8 blocks per 36 minutes playing primarily as Ewing’s back up.
In the 1999 playoffs, the Knicks made it to the NBA Finals—thanks in part to Camby’s strong defensive presence. He averaged a shade below two blocks per game during their postseason run, helping to somewhat offset Ewing’s injury struggles. In the postseason’s last two rounds, Camby averaged 2.6 blocks per game, highlighted by a six-block performance in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers and a three-block performance in just 16 minutes in Game 3 of the NBA Finals—the franchise’s last Finals victory—against the San Antonio Spurs.
In 2000-01, a lot of pressure was placed onto Camby to protect the Knicks’ interior, after an offseason trade sent Patrick Ewing to the Seattle Supersonics. Camby did well in his last fairly-healthy season as a Knick, averaging 2.2 blocks per game. His ability to protect the rim and provide weak-side help allowed Allan Houston, Latrell Sprewell and Charlie Ward to play aggressive perimeter defense by jumping passing lanes.
In 2001-02, Camby averaged 1.7 blocks per game. Unfortunately, he was hit by the injury bug and could only play in 27 games during the season.
In his last full game as a Knick, Camby had three blocks in 29 minutes of game time.
Kurt Thomas (1998-2005)
Kurt Thomas played a huge roll for the Chicago Bulls last season, filling in for Carlos Boozer and Joakim Noah as they each missed extended periods of time due to injury. The 16-year veteran played so well, Charles Barkley felt he deserved a spot on the Eastern Conference All-Star team.
Thomas spent seven seasons with the New York Knicks, ranking fourth on the franchise’s all-time blocks list with 463. While his blocks-per-game average of about 0.9 doesn’t exactly jump off the page, it should be noted that he wasn’t asked to place much focus into blocking shots his first two seasons in New York with Marcus Camby and Patrick Ewing around.
Over his last five seasons as a Knick, Thomas averaged one block per game, highlighted by his 2002-03 season average of 1.4 blocks per 36 minutes.
Some of you are probably still scratching your heads as to why Thomas, who led the league in fouls during the 2001-02 and 2002-03 seasons, is on this list. Well, he gets bonus points from me for fearlessly doing his best to hold down the paint on Knicks squads that seriously lacked interior size and skill from 2002-03 to 2004-05.
Thomas often had to go up against taller players (he was only 6’9”) during his last three seasons as a Knick. Besides Dikembe Mutombo in 2003-04, Thomas was the only solid interior option the Knicks had, especially after considering some of the alternatives—Vin Baker, Michael Doleac, Othella Harrington, Travis Knight, Lee Nailon, Clarence Weatherspoon.
In his last game as a Knick, Thomas put up two blocks to go along with 10 points and 10 rebounds.
Future Prediction: Jerome Jordan
Honestly; this might just be more wishful thinking than anything else.
Still, Jerome Jordan’s got the potential to become one of the franchise’s best shot-blockers down the road.
Yes, potential can be deceiving, but Jordan is as good a candidate among any current or soon-to-be Knick player that could join this list. He’s 7’1”, has a 7’6” wingspan and is athletic. He averaged 2.3 blocks per game in college, and in his sophomore year he put up 3.7 blocks per game.
Assuming the Knicks sign him onto the team once the lockout ends, Jordan will likely have an immediate opportunity to show what he’s capable of. The Knicks’ serious lack of interior depth could be alleviated by the 25-year-old’s presence, and he’ll mainly be needed to contribute on the defensive side of the ball.
Obviously, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens. Hopefully for Knicks’ fans, Jordan becomes a part of the roster and stays out of Mike D’Antoni’s dog house.