It was June 1999. I begged my grandpa to take me to the NBA Finals where my beloved Knicks would face the San Antonio Spurs. The Kncks were an 8th seed heading into the playoffs of the lockout-shortened season. They made a gallant run to become the first 8th seed to make the Finals.
Grandpa wouldn't get the tickets. I thought it might be a money problem, so I asked my mom if she would pay for at least my ticket and she said yes. Still, Grandpa wouldn't do it. "They have a good young team. They'll be back next year. We can go then." I just didn't understand. We both knew there were no sure-shots in sports. Why take the chance? This would be a great memory, me and my grandpa at the NBA Finals, rooting for my team after they made the most improbable run in NBA history.
I didn't get to go. The Knicks lost four games to one. In late October, my grandpa died. We would never go.
The Knicks made it to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2000. I skipped the prom to watch Game 6 on TV. The Knicks lost and were eliminated from the playoffs that night. The Knicks lost in the first round in 2001, the last time the team the won a playoff game. Early next season, Jeff Van Gundy walked away. An era ended.
Perhaps Grandpa and Jeff Van Gundy knew something and that's why both left when they did. It has been a disastrous run since. The Knicks have made the playoffs once in that time, losing in four games and winning none against the New Jersey Nets in 2003. High priced so-called stars have come and gone. They all epitomized the stereotype of the modern athlete, selfish, arrogant, and paid. Of course, there was that period where the Knicks had about eight power forwards on the roster, all with similar skills. They haven't had a point guard worth a damn in that time, except for Isiah Thomas. Unfortunately, Thomas hasn't played. Instead he's tied up the franchise and hid it in the basement. it almost makes you miss Scott Layden. Did I just say that?
From Larry Johnson, Allan Houston, Marcus Camby, and Patrick Ewing, the Knicks now feature, some overweight center who can't rebound, a power forward who may never have thrown an intentional pass in his life, a small forward who taunts teams that are much better than his, and a point guard who would rather be somewhere else and has actually gone there before. These aren't the Knicks that I remember. These are an unlikable bunch of losers.
The lowest point came Thursday night against the Boston Celtics. It's been coming, but the 104-59 finish cemented the descent. The Knicks actually managed to win Friday night, coming back from down 16 at home to the juggernaut that is the Milwaukee Bucks. Some wondered if they had been too presumptuous in canning the Knicks after the Boston performance. Make no mistake, Friday night's win was like spraying air freshener over a big pile of shit.
Grandpa, Jeff Van Gundy, please help!