New York Knicks: 8 Most Embarrassing Players in History

Paul Knepper@@paulieknepContributor IIIAugust 24, 2012

New York Knicks: 8 Most Embarrassing Players in History

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    The New York Knicks have a proud and rich history highlighted by outstanding performances and the inspiring character of players such as Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley.

    The team has also endured lean periods and its share of disappointing players and unsavory characters, some of whom have brought shame upon themselves, the franchise and the city of New York with their antics or poor play.

    Whether it was a heartbreaking error or a general character trait, these blemishes on the team's history are seared into the collective memory of the Garden faithful just as much as Willis Reed taking the court in Game 7 of the 1970 Finals or Charles Oakley's relentless determination. Knicks fans cringe every time they hear the perpetrators' names.

    Here are the eight most embarrassing players in New York Knicks history.

8. Travis Knight

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    From Greg Butler to Brian Quinnett to Eric Anderson, the Knicks have had several token white guys who rode the pine at the end of the bench. What made Travis Knight different was that the goofy seven-footer was paid a lot of money to do it.

    After a rookie season in which Knight averaged 4.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, in the summer of 1997, Boston Celtics coach and general manager Rick Pitino inexplicably signed Knight to a seven-year, $22 million contract—still a hefty some of money in those days.

    One year later, the former UConn Husky was traded back to the Lakers, and in September of 2000, he was shipped to the Knicks as part of a four-team deal that sent Patrick Ewing to the SuperSonics.

    The trade kicked off a decade of horrendous transactions by the Knicks, and Knight averaged less than two points per game while collecting just over $11 million during his three seasons in New York.

7. Howard Eisley and Shandon Anderson

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    The Isiah Thomas era in New York was so disastrous that it's easy to forget that his predecessor as president and general manager of the Knicks, Scott Layden, had left the franchise in shambles.

    Layden's most notorious moves were trading Patrick Ewing and signing Allan Houston to an outrageous six-year, $100 contract, though it was the acquisition of Shandon Anderson and Howard Eisley that truly epitomized his incompetence.

    Anderson and Eisley had developed into decent role players for the Jazz when Layden was the team's director of player personnel, but both had signed exorbitant contracts shortly before the Knicks acquired them in a three-team deal in August 2001.

    Eisley, who was nothing more than a backup point guard, was entering the second year of a seven-year $41 million deal with the Mavericks, and Anderson had just agreed to a six-year $42 million contract with the Houston Rockets.

    Anderson was so dismal in New York that the Knicks cut the forward after he appeared in one game during the 2004-2005 season and ate the $20+ million remaining on his contract. Eisley shot under 40 percent during his two-and-a-half seasons in New York before the team sent him to Phoenix as part of a package for Stephon Marbury.

6. Darrall Imhoff

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    On March 2, 1962, Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points for the Philadelphia Warriors in a 169-147 victory over the New York Knicks. The Knicks' starting center that night was Darrall Imhoff.

    The Knicks had expected big things from Imhoff when they selected him with the third pick in the first round of the 1960 draft. The 6'10'' center was an All-American at the University of California, Berkeley, and a member of the gold medal–winning team at the 1960 Olympics in Rome.

    The big man ended up being a huge disappointment and had been relegated to backup duty by the time of Wilt's 100-point onslaught in Hershey, Pennsylvania. He only started that night because the usual starting center, Phil Jordan, was out with the flu.

    Imhoff was not solely to blame for the Stilt's historic outburst. He covered Chamberlain for just 20 minutes before fouling out. Cleveland Buckner and Willie Naulls took turns on the 7'1'' Chamberlain as well. But Imhoff is the man who jumped center opposite Wilt on that historic night.

5. Frederic Weis

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    Knicks fans were furious when their team passed on local product Ron Artest in favor of a French center they had never heard of with the 15th pick in the 1999 draft. A year later, the entire basketball world knew the name Frederic Weis after Vince Carter posterized him during the United States' 106-94 victory over France in the 2000 Olympics.

    The 6'6'' Carter stole a pass in the backcourt and soared over the 7'2'' Weis on his way to an emphatic slam. Television networks replayed the dunk repeatedly from various angles and the French press dubbed it "le dunk de la mort," translated as "the dunk of death."

    Weis did not work out for the Knicks and never played in the NBA. Artest, on the other, was selected to an all-star team, named Defensive Player of the Year in 2004 and was a starter on the Lakers' 2010 championship team. 

4. Charles Smith

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    Charles Smith averaged 14.4 points per game during his nine-year career, but he never fit in with Pat Riley's rugged Knicks teams. The 6'10'' forward was soft, and his passivity was never more evident than in the closing seconds of Game 5 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals between the Knicks and the Bulls.

    New York took the first two games of the series. Then the Bulls evened things up at home. If the Knicks could win Game 5, they would be in great shape to wrap up the series, with Game 7 scheduled to be played in the Garden.

    Chicago scored to take a 95-94 lead with 27 seconds remaining. The Knicks brought the ball into the frontcourt and got it to Smith a few feet from the basket with 14 seconds left in the game.

    Instead of dunking the ball, Smith tried to lay it in and had his shot blocked. He went up a second time and Jordan swatted the ball out of his hands. A third time. His shot was blocked. And a fourth time. The shot was blocked once again. The Bulls recovered the ball and ran out the clock.

    The Garden faithful were in disbelief. Fans were outraged that Smith did not dunk the ball. The Bulls won Game 6 in Chicago and Charles Smith remains persona non grata in bars throughout New York City to this day.

3. Stephon Marbury

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    When the Knicks traded for Stephon Marbury in January 2004, New Yorkers welcomed him to the Garden as the prodigal son who came home to return his childhood team to its rightful place among the NBA's elite. How quickly the script changed.

    During the 2005-2006 season, Marbury feuded with coach Larry Brown, and the Knicks finished with a dismal 23-59 record. Isiah Thomas replaced Brown on the bench, but the losing continued.

    "Starbury" alienated his teammates with his selfish play and eventually directed his ire towards Thomas. The two reportedly came to blows during a team flight and rumors circulated that Marbury had threatened to blackmail Thomas if the coach did not play him.

    By the 2008-2009 season, the kid from Coney Island had wore out his welcome. Coach Mike D'Antoni benched the former all-star and eventually banished him from the team after Marbury refused to play one night. The Knicks eventually bought out the remainder of his contract in February 2009.

2. Jerome James

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    Jerome James earned a reputation as a chronic underachiever during his first several seasons in the NBA. So when the big man posted 12.5 points and 6.8 rebounds in 11 playoff games for the SuperSonics in the spring of 2005, most NBA insiders saw it for what it was: a money grab by a player in a contract year.

    I say "most" because Knicks general manager Isiah Thomas disregarded James' lackluster play over seven seasons as a professional, guaranteeing the lazy big man $30 million over five years. Not surprisingly, the man known as "Big Snacks" showed up for his first Knicks' training camp woefully out of shape.

    James never got his weight under control and averaged 3.0 and 1.9 points per game during his first two seasons in New York. He made $5.8 million for playing in just two games for five total minutes during the entire 2007-2008 season and suffered a season-ending Achilles tendon injury after appearing in just two contests the following season.

    The Knicks traded James to the Bulls in February of 2009. "Big Snacks'" $30 million contract is widely considered one of the worst signings in the history of the league.

1. Eddy Curry

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    More than any other player, Eddy Curry represented the overpaid, lazy, underachieving Knicks of the dreadful Isiah Thomas era. Curry was so apathetic on the court that when his coach with the Bulls, Scott Skiles, was asked what his center could do to become a better rebounder, Skiles simply replied, "Jump."

    Isiah Thomas surrendered two unprotected first-round draft picks and a handful of players for Curry in October 2005 and the massive center proceeded to eat his way through the $45 million the Knicks paid him over the next five years.

    His career-high 19.5 points per game during the 2006-2007 only aggravated Knicks fans further by showing them what he was capable of doing offensively when he dedicated himself.

    The center's weight continued to balloon during his tenure with the Knicks, and he appeared in just 10 games over his final two-and-a-half seasons with the team. As if that was not embarrassing enough, Curry was sued in January 2009, for allegedly soliciting sex from his former chauffeur. 

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