It has been a long time coming. Professional and college basketball in New York City has been non existent for almost a decade. The last time the New York Knicks won a playoff series was in 1999, when they made a magical run to the NBA finals as the #8 seed.
The last time New York’s top college program, St John’s was in the NCAA tournament was in 2002. They were a #9 seed and lost to Wisconsin in the first round by a score of 80-70. The last time both of these teams were in the postseason was in 2000. That year the Knicks defeated the Miami Heat in a dramatic Game 7, but would lose to the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals. St John’s would be eliminated in the second round by Gonzaga.
New York is a basketball town, producing NBA stars such as Bob Cousy, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Billy Cunningham, Nate Archibald, Chris Mullin, Bernard King, and many others. The city consistently has high nationally ranked high school programs. The down years from 2000-2010 were an embarrassment to the city. The Isaiah Thomas era of the Knicks was laughable. From 2004-2008 they went 151-258, their only playoff appearance being in 2004 where they got swept in the first round by the Nets. These years were scarred with turmoil, lawsuits, brawls, bad signings, and overall failure. St John’s did not fare much better as the reigns of Mike Jarvis and Norm Roberts did not achieve any success for a program that was once a perennial powerhouse.
Now in 2011 almost like a lightning bolt from the sky, both teams are now relevant, headed for the postseason, and could be major factors. Donnie Walsh took over as the Knicks GM in 2008 and began getting rid of bad contracts, and clearing cap space. This allowed the Knicks to be able to sign Amar’e Stoudemire last year, which gave the Knicks a young star in his prime, something they haven’t had for years. Now with the acquisition of Chauncey Billups and Carmelo Anthony, the Knicks now have two superstars in their primes and a veteran leader at point guard, who has been a five-time all star and a finals MVP. The Knicks are destined to make the playoffs, and now have the best small forward/ power forward tandem in the league, and one of the best clutch point guards. Now when New York faces one of the elite teams, you don’t hide the women and children. You watch the game with a strong belief that the Knicks have a chance to win. The city is talking about making the finals, either this year or in years to come. This past decade, if someone mentioned the NBA finals and Knicks in the same sentence, they would have been sent to a psychiatric ward.
This year St John’s has come out of nowhere, to become a giant killer, scalping top 10 teams. The hiring of Steve Lavin seems to have done the trick, as the Johnnies now are ranked in the top 25 for the first time in a decade. The last time St. Johns was ranked in the AP Poll was in the final poll of the 1999-2000 season, when they finished 18th in the nation. This year they have defeated #4 Pittsburgh, #3 Duke, # 9 Notre Dame, #10 Connecticut, and #13 Georgetown. They are currently tied for third in the monster Big East conference. An NCAA spot is pretty much guaranteed, and they are poised for a run, as they have proven they can compete with anybody.
The Knicks and the Red Storm are back in the building, with the building being Madison Square Garden. New York basketball fans have waited for this for a long time. It is good for basketball in general to have the Garden buzzing again, and every night when the Knicks or St John’s steps on to the floor, a victory is expected. This will be an exciting post season and the rest of the basketball world should be forewarned: New York City basketball has returned!