Tag Archives: Frank Ntilikina

The 2017-18 Knicks are the Epitome of New York

New York. The Big Apple. The city founded in 1624 by Dutch immigrants who initially named the city New Amsterdam before the English took it over forty years later.

The city of dreams and street corners filled with gyros, pizza, and falafel. A city that quite literally welcomed those with no option and no hope into their harbor, into their island with nothing more than a statue and a statement of, “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” The greatest city in the world was built upon the staple and belief that “immigrants built us, they made us who we are.”

It is only fitting now that after twenty years of fading in and out of the public spotlight that the Knicks are once again on the precipice of relevance. Even more fitting, it’s on the backs of a Frenchmen, a Turk and a Unicorn built in a Latvian laboratory.

When looking at the cultural importance of the city of New York, people should never forget that this city gave the world everything from the Beastie Boys to Velvet Underground to Patti Smith, the Talking Heads, the Notorious B.I.G. and everything in between. This was a city that Jay-Z once referred to as the “concrete jungle where dreams are made of,” a place of refuge for those searching for something greater. The concept of “If you can make it here, you can make it anywhere” was born upon the winding maze that built that city.

There is a claim to New York being the Mecca of basketball, the home of some of the greatest basketball players of all time. Among the list of these players they tout – Kareem, Cousy, Tiny Archibald, Lamar Odom and Stephon Marbury among a litany of others hailing from the city and state.

Beyond giving the NBA some all-time greats, this is a city that boasts the legendary Rucker Park – the pinnacle of all streetballers. This is a court so well known that players who were of the NBA caliber honed their skills here while hustling in games but never going to the League. Joe “The Destroyer” Hammond set a single-game record here with 82 points in a single game, he was so well-known, he had the Lakers knocking on his door to play for them but turned them down because he made more money playing street ball. Joe is just the tip of the iceberg though. This is a city that gave the world Earl “the Goat” Manigault and Pee Wee Kirkland, two players who by all accounts were better than many of their NBA contemporaries, but due to their various troubles, never quite got to where they could have made it.

Despite all of these legends and tales of greatness, nothing stands out for New York basketball quite like the Knicks teams of the early nineties. If basketball were to be defined in this small fraction of time (’91-’95) it would be defined with three things:

  1. Jordan
  2. Balls-to-the-wall defense.
  3. The three-point revolution.

Now, all three of these had a major impact on how the game was beginning to evolve, but none of them quite encapsulated the changes the NBA was undergoing as well as the Knicks during this era.

This New York team had Oakley and Ewing, one of the best down low, “Just try and drive” combinations to ever exist in basketball. Although, certainly aided by the lack of hand-checking rules instituted by the league after their time had passed. They had the underdog story in John Starks’ career of going from bagging groceries in college to starting guard for the Knicks. This is a city — a team — built upon being the greatest you could possibly become. A quest to fulfill your potential.

All of this is what makes this 2018 team so special. This is not a team that was designed to win. By all accounts, this team should be trying to lose (with as much grace as possible). Hornacek is in a place to take a very unlikely and almost rag-tag “Big Three” on a run in the Eastern Conference that no basketball fan was expecting.

The current Knicks roster gravitates around three men whom for all intents and purposes were believed to be expendable, the types of characters who were booed when drafted (Kristaps Porzingis number four overall in 2015), traded for better propositions, (Kanter, traded after two seasons with Utah to OKC) and Frank Ntilikina, the man who had three selections at the same position ahead of him in his draft.

These three misfits were banded together to try and revive a franchise that had gone dormant with the Melo Years. The Knicks have not been to a playoff series since 2013 and before that hadn’t made it out of the first round since 2000.

So what makes this group so special? What makes them so “New York?” Why are these three more special than those who preceded or those that shall succeed them? It isn’t the flashiness of their style of play, it isn’t the fact that they were heralded as the greatest of their generation in their drafts or even as those that would change a game. No, they all carried something beyond that, something greater than themselves.

Enes Kanter is a 25-year-old Turkish nationalist born in Switzerland. Despite his attempts at playing college basketball and denial by the NCAA for “too much” compensation by his national team, Kanter was still selected third overall in 2011 by the Utah Jazz. Kanter, hailing from Turkish parents, has been very outspoken against President Erdogan, and his rule over Turkey. Enes has caused so much controversy against the dictator that his own family has had to disown his political views. They also implored him to change his last name because of his antagonistic stance towards Erdogan. He caused so much controversy that in 2017, his passport was revoked by Turkey and he was stranded in Romania until the U.S. helped get him back to the states.

If speaking out against a government regime and how much you disagree with a political view isn’t American, then who knows what truly is anymore.

None of these three Knicks are without controversy, on his draft day, Kristaps was selected with the number four overall pick and was promptly booed by every member of the crowd. He was an entirely unknown being tossed into the teeth of the New York media alongside long-time hero Carmelo Anthony.

Even poor Frank was met with question marks, as most fans would have preferred the Knicks to have taken Malik Monk or Dennis Smith Jr.

So maybe that’s what makes these three so fantastic, it has to be the disrespect, this feeling of “well you’re not New York, you don’t get us.”

If Scorsese and Brando taught all of us anything, it is that New York will always be the hardest and most critical place in all of the U.S. of A. It is a city that was built upon the backs of those dreaming for a greater life than what they had been given; striving for the greatness they knew existed inside of them all along.

It is only fitting that now, some 20 years later, after the Knicks last major run that three immigrants from three entirely different situations would lead them toward the path of excitement and resurgence. Even if they don’t make the playoffs; even if this car careens off of the road and into the proverbial ditch, three foreign guys saving the Knicks and basketball in New York, well that is just the most New York thing we could imagine.