Two weeks ago the New York Knicks honored and paid tribute to the 1973 NBA Championship squad, then MSG Network aired the team’s highlight film from that year. Boy the memories that brought back. This team did not just win a championship but they captured the heart of one the toughest cities in the world.
New York is known as the melting pot of the world and this squad was a reflection of that. You had the cool and suave back court duo of Walt Clyde Frazier and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, combined with the blue collar combo of Dave DeBuschere and Willis Reed that epitomized the toughness of the city. The silky sooth Bill Bradley completed perhaps the best starting five in NBA history. Then, coming off of the bench, you had Dean Meminger, Henry Bibby, John Gianelli, Jerry Lucas, Dick Barnett, and one Phil Jackson.
Not only were they talented, but one could argue that they might have been the smartest team ever assembled. Frazier, Reed and DeBuschere all had basketball IQs that were off of the charts. Bradley was a Rhodes Scholar for God’s sake. Then consider what these guys did after they retired, it was a historic team.
DeBushere and Reed went on to take Coaching and General Manager positions, respectively, and Bradley became a Senator for New Jersey. Lucas was a certified genius who memorized the phone book for fun. Jackson went on to win 11 NBA titles as a coach for two different franchises. Bibby also went on to coach on the college level, and Barnett went on to earn a Ph.D.
Despite their rare combination of talent and intellect, the 1973 Knicks were just every day guys. Even though he owned a Rolls Royce, you could catch Frazier taking the 2 or A train to work. DeBuschere would never turn down a conversation with anyone, and Jackson was a fixture down in the Village hanging out with his fellow hippy friends. They were a part of this city as any carpenter, electrician, doctor, lawyer, utility worker or stockbroker. They blended in with the fabric of New York. Frazier wrote a book that taught you not only how to play the game, but how to dress and even catch a fly. That book became a best seller. I know, I wrote at least three different book reports based on it.
The season cumulated with them defeating the Los Angeles Lakers four games to one in the NBA Finals, but the lasting memory I have of that season is their game seven victory over the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals. No team had defeated the Celtics in a seventh game of a series in Boston, so the odds were stacked against our beloved Knicks. The Celtics put them in a locker room next to the main steam room and it was over 100 degrees in there. Despite these tactics, the Knicks still wiped the floor with Celtics.
It brought tears to my eyes to see that team brought together. Unfortunately, DeBuschere is no longer with us, but his legacy remains vividly in our minds.
I miss the way they played the game on both ends of the court. I miss Dancing Harry entertaining the crowd during timeouts. I just miss that era. For any Knick fan over 50, it was the best of times.
As the current squad starts their journey for their playoff legacy, we can look back with pride on how the 1973 squad accomplished their goals.