No NBA team invokes more schadenfreude for fans than the New York Knicks. They make it easy for us. The level of incompetence and futility over the past two decades has been staggering. Yet somehow, they stubbornly persist in the illusion that they are one of the league’s prestige organizations, in a similar class to the Lakers or Celtics, who are responsible for a combined 33 championships.
The Knicks, meanwhile, have won a total of two titles, the last of which was 46 years ago. They haven’t sniffed the NBA Finals since the bizarro lockout season of 1999, and they’ve missed the playoffs the last six seasons.
It’s difficult to chart the genesis of their disproportionate self-regard, but it’s at least partially rooted in an offhanded comment Michael Jordan once made about Madison Square Garden being the “Mecca of basketball,” which Knicks fans treated as a coronation and have repeated like gospel ever since.
It’s true that the Garden has a certain mythical allure, but that’s in no small part because it has ironically become a showcase for visiting superstars to put up the performances of their careers. Showing up the lowly Knicks on their own floor has become the NBA’s version of sport hunting, and plenty of stars have gleefully taken part.
But it’s almost as if just being consistently bad at basketball, not to mention generally inept at the machinations of the league, isn’t enough. No, the Knicks seem to have an insatiable desire to compound what often seems like a bumbling lack of foresight with ugly inter-organizational turmoil that invariably finds its way into the public sphere.
Case in point: We would’ve gladly forgiven the Knicks for striking out on Kevin Durant in free agency. It was difficult to imagine that he — or Kyrie Irving, for that matter — ever seriously considered them as an option. Durant himself tried to tell us as much.