Since their last Championship in 1973, the New York Knicks have endured a torturous time in the NBA, producing underwhelming season after season. Their woes have been compounded in recent years, missing out on a number of free agents to turn the fortunes of the franchise around.
LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving all passed on the opportunity to join the Knicks, resulting in a cycle of failure of which the end seems nowhere in sight. The frustration is palpable among the fanbase, especially in one of the most publicized markets in the United States. New York supporters have been forced to suffer through heartbreak on a yearly basis. Here, we look back at five of the worst moments in the history of the team.
5. Disastrous Recent Seasons
The Knicks have been a team on the decline since the end of the 20th century. However, they were seemingly on the right path with a core of players under Mike Woodson in 2012-13 term, including Carmelo Anthony, Jr Smith and Iman Shumpert. The Knicks finished as the second seed in the Eastern Conference and defeated the Boston Celtics in the first round of the playoffs. Their success unraveled at the hands of the Indiana Pacers in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals. They parted company with Woodson the following season after a failure to reach the post-season. It proved to be a disastrous move by James Dolan as Woodson’s replacement Derek Fisher presided over the worst campaign in the history of the franchise.
The Knicks were downright awful in the 2014-15 season, winning only four games in the opening three months of the term. Smith and Shumpert were traded mid-season to the Cleveland Cavaliers, while Anthony’s season was shut down early after he suffered an injury. New York limped to the end of the campaign, losing 60 matches for the first time in the history of the team. Fisher was fired the following campaign, and while Jeff Hornacek kept their record respectable without succeeding for two years, he was also sacked in 2018.
David Fizdale was the new man on the sideline, being handed a tough hand given the ACL injury suffered by New York’s lone star Kristaps Porzingis earlier in the year. Fizdale was powerless to watch his team slump to another horrendous campaign. After winning nine of their opening 30 games, the team made a clear decision to rebuild and attempt to claim the number-one overall pick in the 2019 Draft. Porzingis and Tim Hardaway Jr were traded away to the Dallas Mavericks, which resulted in another 65-loss campaign.
4. Missing Out On Zion Williamson
It was clear that the Knicks made the decision to go all out to try to claim the number one overall pick in the 2019 Draft. Duke’s Zion Williamson was declared as the best prospect to emerge from the college game since LeBron James. Unlike the NFL, the NBA holds a draft lottery for the first selection to prevent teams from dropping games on purpose. The league did bring a new system in place to allow the three sides with the worst three records a 14% increased opportunity of earning the top spot. The Knicks moved into position into the top four after the first round of the ballot and breathed a huge sigh of relief when the Los Angeles Lakers were awarded the fourth-overall selection.
Only the New Orleans Pelicans and the Memphis Grizzlies remained in the battle for the number one pick. However, fate was not on the side of the Knicks, who were drawn in the third slot. The frustration from the fanbase could be heard after missing out on Williamson, who was taken by the New Orleans Pelicans. New York landed his college team-mate RJ Barrett, but as with all their moves in recent history, the cards did not fall for the Knicks.
3. Reggie Miller’s Heroics
The Knicks endured one of the most painful collapses in playoff history at the hands of Reggie Miller and the Pacers. New York reached the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals in 1995 after seeing off the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round. Pat Riley’s men were presented with the task of beating the Indiana Pacers, which they had defeated in the previous year to reach the NBA Finals. New York were in control of Game One in the fourth quarter, boasting a 105-99 lead with 18.7 seconds remaining. Miller would turn the tide with two decisive plays.
He notched a three-pointer from the left side of the court to put the pressure on the home team. From the restart, Miller immediately stole back possession and put another three-pointer through the net, erasing the deficit. John Starks had the opportunity to hit back after being fouled, only to miss from the free-throw line. Miller was then fouled in an attempt to gather the second rebound. Whereas Starks failed, the Pacers man succeeded to snatch the victory at Madison Square Garden.
2. Patrick Ewing’s Miss
Although Miller’s outstanding performance handed the Pacers Game One, Indiana would blow a 3-1 series lead as New York displayed fight and character to take the 1995 Eastern Conference Semi-Final clash into Game Seven. However, good things don’t usually happen to the Knicks in deciding games, as was the case at Madison Square Garden in front of their faithful supporters. The contest was a tight affair, but the Pacers managed to get a lead late in the fourth quarter. Patrick Ewing had netted a vital score in Game Five to keep his team alive.
Riley called on the All-Star once again to find the net again in the dying seconds to send Game Seven into overtime. Ewing turned his way from two Pacers defenders, and he was presented with the opportunity to complete a slam shot. However, he opted against the charge to the rim, instead deciding to float the ball towards the basket. Ewing’s shot hit the back of the rim and bounced away to safety, allowing the Pacers to edge their way into the Conference Finals. Indiana were beaten by the Orlando Magic, who then lost in the Finals to the Houston Rockets.
1. 1994 NBA Finals Defeat To Houston Rockets
The Knicks capitalized on the absence of Michael Jordan to take control of the Eastern Conference in the 1993-94 campaign. Pat Riley’s men surged their way through to the NBA Finals for the first time in 21 years. They faced off against the Houston Rockets, who were without a title to their name. The two sides exchanged blows in the opening four games of the Finals. New York were able to snatch a game on the road, only for Houston to fight back immediately at Madison Square Garden. However, back-to-back wins on home court put the Knicks in command of the series heading back to Texas courtesy of fine performances from Derek Harper and Patrick Ewing. Game Six was a tense affair as momentum swung one way then the other.
With time ticking away in the fourth quarter, the Knicks engineered a Championship-winning situation. John Starks had been on form in the contest, scoring 27 points. He had the opportunity to end the team’s title drought with a three-point attempt from the corner. However, Hakeem Olajuwon came up with a huge play for the Rockets, getting a hand on the shot to take the pace off the attempt. The ball fell short, allowing Houston to claim the victory to set up a decider. Starks was affected by his miss, enduring a horror show in Game Seven. He made only two of his 18 attempts as the Knicks slumped to 90-84 defeat, losing out on the title. It remains one of the most galling defeats in NBA Finals’ history.