While New York sports may be floundering in most aspects, its basketball is thriving, thanks in no small part to the Knicks.
Sports have been woven into the fabric of the New York landscape for over a century. Even in America’s largest city, with miles of culture, sights, and activities to embark on, sports have always been at the forefront of relevance, with rabid fans and followers that are the most vocal and passionate around, despite wavering levels of success over the years.
Unfortunately, Big Apple sports teams overall have hit a bit of a snag the last decade-plus, with the last major sports championship coming with the Giants winning the Super Bowl in early 2012. Since that time, “rival” cities like Boston, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles have seen not only sustained success since that time, but some championships sprinkled in as well making it a tougher pill to swallow for your average New Yorker. Depending on who you route for, it’s brutal to see teams like the Red Sox, Eagles, Lakers, or Patriots reach the pinnacle of their respective league and hoist a trophy while your team is in a hole that could seem impossible to climb out of.
In the past year or so, it’s been more of the same dark times for a large portion of the New York sports teams, highlighted this summer by the Yankees and Mets, two teams with massive payrolls and World Series aspirations that have been irrelevant since July. Compound that with the 14-year Yankee championship drought and the 37-year one for the Mets, the constant underachievement of two big market organizations has been a dark cloud over the Bronx and Queens respectively for a long time.
Football-wise, the Jets and Giants also shared some optimism, heading into this year, but the devastating loss of Aaron Rodgers put a huge damper on one of the most exciting acquisitions in New York sports history. On the Giants front, although it’s early and they’re coming off a playoff win, they haven’t looked very impressive this year and in my estimation are a fringe playoff team that could be headed for another lost season if not turned around in the next month or so.
On the ice, there has been a bit more to cheer about with the Rangers consistently being in the playoffs and the Devils being a young, fast up-and-coming team, but neither has got over the hump yet. The Islanders are interesting, but inconsistency has plagued them for years.
It just so happens that the most optimism and electricity we currently have for any New York-area team both play on the hardwood and it doesn’t include the Nets, who had that magic briefly but are once again in a rebuild after selling off Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden, marking the most underwhelming results of a super team assembly we’ve seen in sports.
How about the Nets’ co-tenant at the ‘Clays, making tremendous noise in the last couple of years, highlighted by the drafting of point god, Sabrina Ionescu and the acquisition of New York’s own Breanna Stewart? The Liberty have been impressive this season and find themselves in the semifinals of the WNBA Playoffs, currently facing off against the Connecticut Sun, with their first trip to the WNBA Finals since 2002 on the line.
The buzz is real and ever-increasing surrounding the Liberty, and the W as a whole, just like we see with your New York Knickerbockers! With many teams scuffling, the Knicks are on the ascent, thanks to some intelligent financial and personnel decisions, which have resulted in refreshing optimism.
Prior to a few years ago, the Knicks were the worst-run, most atrociously performing New York sports team in the 2000s and were the poster boy of how not to operate as a franchise. Now, they are a threat in the East with good leadership, an owner who has done a better job of not meddling, and most importantly, some likable, talented stars like Jalen Brunson and Julius Randle, coupled with an exciting youth movement, making this team easy to route for.
The culture has completely been flipped and although the Knicks have yet to reach the top of the mountain, they are certainly headed in the right direction and are hopefully on their way to getting even better stars in the building and subsequently getting that Larry O’Brien hoisted for the first time in 50 years.