Robert Randolph and the Family Band have provided the Knicks with an anthem for Friday night games for years now. What games stick out with nine years in the books?
There’s something special about a Friday night. The anticipation of the weekend grows as the end of the day draws near, the minutes moving at a snail’s pace. Once responsibility eases its unrelenting grip, we move into our Friday night free to do how we please, with the exuberance that goes hand-in-hand with sovereignty.
That is, unless you care about the New York Knicks.
In 2009, Robert Randolph (a critically heralded pedal steel guitarist!) and the Family Band debuted a new song called “Get There.” Randolph wrote the song solely to welcome a Friday night on MSG Networks, although there is a studio version that differs from the one we hear every Friday. God bless the soul who stumbles upon that without the baggage of loving New York basketball.
On writing the song, Randolph said, “The song speaks of moving in that positive direction. As a longtime Knicks fan, I feel that is where the team is heading.” Nine years and one playoff series win later, “positive direction” may have been a stretch.
People hate this song so much that there was a petition to remove it from the face of the earth six years ago. Randolph even promised to write a new song for Friday Night Knicks in July 2012, but alas, we still had the same theme during the 2017–18 season. When the Knicks had hopes of playoff contention, there was a general belief that Friday Night Knicks was cursed. Listen, Rob, we’re not superstitious, but we’re just a little stitious.
friday night knicks theme song is triggering
— Desus Nice (@desusnice) February 3, 2018
Friday Night Knicks is a staple for fans who consume their share of New York basketball through the medium of MSG Networks. For nearly nine years, Robert Randolph’s tune has filled the crevices of our eardrums and sent us into the weekends with Knicks basketball on our television. The curse that reigned supreme over the Knicks lived on for a period, but recent trends suggests it may have subsided.
Curse or no curse, Friday nights have brought on some classic moments, both good and bad, over the last several seasons. Let’s find one game from each season and take a peek at some memorable Friday Night Knicks moments, shall we?
Knicks-Bobcats: October 30, 2009
From Randolph’s first appearance on October 30, 2009, as the Knicks faced off against the Charlotte Bobcats, our lives would never be the same. This, like many god-forsaken 21st century Knicks games, is nothing short of hilarious to look back upon given the benefit of hindsight. David Lee led the Knicks with 17 points and 18 rebounds, Jared Jeffries canned a trio of three-pointers, and Raymond Felton nearly had a triple-double for the Bobcats. Darko Milicic also played four minutes and 23 seconds for the Knicks, missing both of his attempts from the floor and recording the worst plus/minus on the team. The highlight video will lead you on an amazing journey, and I must insist that you watch.
Fittingly, the first Friday Night Knicks in the history of mankind ended in bitter disappointment. Al Harrington had what he believed to be a clean block on D.J. Augustin in double-overtime, only for the referees to call the foul. Augustin knocked down both attempts from the charity stripe, Gallinari’s heave at the buzzer was not close, and the game ended. The Knicks dropped to 0-2 and were well on their way to a 29-win campaign that would see the roster turn over drastically the next season.
More importantly, the curse of Robert Randolph was born.
Cavaliers-Knicks: March 4, 2011
Over the next few seasons, the Knicks would suffer through some absolutely brutal experiences at the hands of Randolph’s malice. In 2010–11, the Knicks won five straight Friday night games, tied for the longest stretch of Friday night wins ever, only to lose the next nine in a row. Nothing gold can stay. It’s hilarious that Baron Davis (OAKAAK) hit an enormous three in his first game as a Cavalier that would give the post-LeBron team the victory, so please enjoy.
Amar’e Stoudemire and Carmelo Anthony did combine to put up 70 points in this one, an encouraging performance from a duo that never quite got it right. If you’re looking for a silver lining, Anthony Carter played 22 minutes and made all three of his shots from the floor. LONG LIVE THE MELO TRADE!
Lakers-Knicks: February 10, 2012
I might be cheating a bit with this one since the highlights are on ESPN, but this game was also on MSG. I promise, I checked.
The birth of Linsanity had come just six days earlier at the hands of the New Jersey Nets. Less than one week later, Lin had taken the world by storm. The spin move against Derek Fisher where he almost falls down but then doesn’t because he had every deity in the universe on his side for the better part of two-plus weeks is timeless. This night doesn’t rank as high on the official Linsanity awesomeness chart for me, but god damn if it doesn’t bring me back.
Heat-Knicks: November 2, 2012
A brief anecdote, if you will allow me to indulge myself. When I was in high school, my friends and I used to get together every Friday night to watch the Knicks. It became something of a running tradition, an event we still reminisce about to this day. While their dedication to the Knicks has slowly tapered off over the years, mine has continued to grow. The first time we gathered as seniors in high school happened to be the first game of the season for everyone’s favorite Knicks team of the last decade, the 54-win, Pablo Prigioni-led 2012–13 Knicks. Coming into the season, there was just a flicker of optimism around the team on the heels of a playoff berth. Could Amar’e remain healthy? How could Tyson Chandler build upon his award-winning first campaign in New York? How far could Melo take the Knicks?
The first night of the season had us riding high.
Listen, fine, these higlights are on ESPN. But this game was also on MSG. Real ones always watch on MSG, unless it’s Mike Breen calling for ESPN. What’s that? Mike Breen called this game on ESPN? Fine. If you’d like one of the more snakebitten variety, how about James Johnson’s three-pointer at the buzzer—one of just two triples he would make all season—that handed the Knicks a loss? You asked for this!
This Knicks team, of course, would go on to set the (at the time) record for three-pointers made in a season and fall to the Pacers in the second round. For one night in November, however, the curse of Friday Night Knicks sure felt like it had gone by the wayside.
Bobcats-Knicks: January 24, 2014
The ’13–’14 Knicks were a perpetually disappointing bunch. Following their best season since Patrick Ewing roamed the corridors of MSG, there were expectations for another playoff appearance. This team was strange in that it started the season 3-13 only to play .500 ball for the rest of the year, finishing 34-32. Melo had his fair share of dispiriting Friday nights that season, including missing a potential game-winning shot against his former team on a in November and coughing up a drive to the hoop to lose a must-win game against the Wizards in April.
Despite the shortcomings, we love sports for the moments that will occupy the deepest nooks and crannies of our brains forever. Carmelo Anthony setting the scoring record for Madison Square Garden on a Friday night against Charlotte is a game I will never forget. Sitting in my college dorm room, drinking beers, enjoying one of the greatest scoring performances I had ever seen with friends. What more can we ask of from sports? (Winning. Winning is a legitimate answer.)
To this day, I’m not sure if I’ve been more confident that a halfcourt shot was going in than Carmelo’s to close the first half.
Whether you’re a fan of Melo or not, as a Knicks fan, this was a magical night. Randolph’s supposed stink couldn’t touch ‘Melo on one special eve in January 2014.
Jazz-Knicks: November 14, 2014
The 2014–15 Knicks were unique. When they traveled to London to play the Bucks in London in January (sporting a 5-35 record), I completely blanked on the game and only caught the fourth quarter. I vividly recall sitting and saying to myself, “my god, can it get any worse?”
Joke’s on me, because it had already been worse. It had reached that point because of jaw-dropping Friday night defeats. While Kemba Walker’s game-winner has a legitimate case here, there can only be one answer.
‘Melo put in 46 points and the Knicks still managed to lose this one thanks to our current buddy Trey Burke. The Knicks were 2-8 after this debacle, and the season pretty much already felt over, especially after the egregiously bad start the season prior. For the season, Cole Aldrich would go on to lead the Knicks in rebounds, Shane Larkin would lead the Knicks in assists, and ‘Melo would lead the Knicks in points despite missing more than half the season. At least it managed to produce our beloved young Latvian son that would come to highlight the next three seasons and (hopefully) beyond.
Knicks-Thunder: November 20, 2015
The best part about doing this little exercise was deciding whether to go with a high point or a low point. The high points were fleeting moments of glee, moments that didn’t last and ultimately left us crestfallen. The low points were visceral, a guttural yell into our eardrums that Friday nights will always be the 13th for the Knicks.
No Friday night game this season elicited any deep-seated anguish when I revisited the schedule, although a combination of irrelevance and frustration could have wiped it from memory. This game against the Thunder, which produced a 93-90 New York victory and put them above .500 for the first time since opening night, was important for the games that were the bread to this proverbial sandwich.
On Tuesday of that week, Porzingis nailed a deep trey in Charlotte that missed the buzzer by the length of his supremely long fingers. The following night in Houston, Porzingis put up 24 points, 14 rebounds, seven blocks, and two threes en route to a 107-102 Knicks dub. That shot against Charlotte displayed the impressive demeanor of Porzingis while the incredible outing in Houston allowed us a glimpse at his tantalizing upside. Beating the Thunder in OKC following Porzingis’ near-make was a great pick-me-up to bridge the gap between memorable KP performances.
The 2015–16 season ended much like the others of the 21st century, but Porzingis’ presence on the Knicks had us eagerly awaiting better days.
Knicks-Sixers: March 3, 2017
This season brought a surprising lack of heartbreak on Friday nights. Anthony had a clutch jumper in the waning moments to down the Hornets. The Knicks managed to squeeze out close victories over some decent competition. And a 6-5 record following Randolph’s tune was the first time the Knicks had a winning record on Friday Night Knick nights since 2012–13.
Whatever positive signs abounded on Friday nights did not lead to overarching success for this team. So how about this game against the Sixers, for your consideration?
The Knicks and Sixers had exchanged blows twice already during the ’16–’17 campaign, with T.J. McConnell canning a game-winner in January 2017 and ‘Melo doing the same just a week before this March showdown. Carmelo’s time with the Knicks was winding down. We felt it coming for a while, but contests like this solidified his eventual departure. Frustrated with both his own performance and the team’s, Anthony and Justin Anderson had some words throughout the game. Anderson would have the last laugh, scoring 19 points, including the runner that would win the game for Philly.
Another season that started with promise ended in utter disgust. There were no delusions of grandeur amongst the Knicks fans at that point, but nevertheless, the decent Octobers and Novembers followed by crushing Februarys and Marchs were getting old.
Let’s make the final entry a choose your own adventure. Behind door number one:
Suns-Knicks: November 3, 2017
You know what game this was:
Kristaps Porzingis with the nasty block and he follows it up with a dunk plus the foul 🦄🦄🦄 pic.twitter.com/WmWpkU94Pg
— Def Pen Hoops (@DefPenHoops) November 4, 2017
Ah, the early days of this past season. Visions of sugarplums and unicorns danced in our dreams, giving us hope for a leap from KP hitherto undreamt of. After a rough start, this game put the Knicks at an even 4-4. Porzingis was an early MVP candidate, the Garden was buzzing, and basketball was back.
And behind door number two:
Knicks-Bucks: February 2, 2018
Basically, take all of those hopes and dreams that once existed, and slice them out of our hearts with a Giannis Antetokounmpo-shaped cleaver.
The Knicks had already been on a downturn, going 5-11 in January, but this was the beginning of the end. The loss put New York at 23-30 and kicked off a seven-game losing streak, which included Porzingis tearing his ACL. This was the type of Friday Night Knicks game we had come to expect.
Robert Randolph and his steel guitar will presumably be back for a 10th season this fall. The question is, has the curse been lifted?
Since 2014–15, the Knicks have been better on Friday nights than non-Friday nights. For four consecutive seasons, they’ve outperformed their win percentage for the year when Randolph steps up to the mic. Although the Knicks have only won a total of 109 games over those four seasons, Friday night may be the kiss of death no longer. We will only know for sure when the Knicks are good again.
Until then, these moments allow us a window into the past. While Robert Randolph draws the ire of Knicks fans everywhere, no matter how you slice it, he’s an institution in the minds of the truest Knicks fans.