New York Knicks - Greatest Sports Franchises

New York Knicks - Greatest Sports Franchises

VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton
Founded in 1946 as part of the Basketball Association of America, the New York Knickerbockers – or more simply, the Knicks – were competitive early on, but only managed to capture their first championship title in 1970 with help from Walt Frazier. A second title came in 1973, but following that the team struggled despite help from the legendary Patrick Ewing. Even with stellar regular season records, the Knicks could not prevail. Things turned around in 2010, when the team posted a winning record, and two years later, up-and-comer Jeremy Lin brought even more hope for the team's future. In this video, continues our series on the Greatest Sports Franchises of All Time with a look at the New York Knicks.

The History of the New York Knickerbockers

This was the first basketball club to sign an African-American player. Welcome to, and today we’ll be continuing our series of the most successful sports franchises with a look at the New York Knicks.

Early Years

The Knickerbockers – or simply the Knicks – were born in New York in 1946 when college basketball promoter and sportswriter Ned Irish was granted a Basketball Association of America franchise. Three years later, the BAA came together with the rival National Basketball League to form the National Basketball Association, or NBA. Today, the Knicks and the Boston Celtics are the only original BAA clubs that still play in their original cities.

Competitive from the Start

The Knicks quickly made history in 1950 when they were the first team to sign an African-American player: Sweetwater Clifton. Even from the get-go, they were a competitive team: the Knicks reached the finals three times in a row from 1951 to 1953, and showcased standout players like Harry Gallatin, Dick McGuire and Carl Braun.

Wrong Side of History

However, they were on the wrong side of history on March 2nd, 1962. That night, the Knicks lost 169–147 to the Philadelphia Warriors, due mostly to Wilt Chamberlain’s legendary 100-point effort.

Willis Reed and Walt Frazier

The Knicks’ fortunes began to change in 1964 when they drafted center Willis Reed, who won NBA Rookie of the Year honors. Then, in 1967, they selected point guard Walt Frazier. With these new pieces in place, the franchise won a record 18 consecutive games during the 1969-70 season on their way to a 60–22 record.

First Championship

The Knicks’ place in history was crystallized during the 1970 Finals versus the Los Angeles Lakers. Though an injury forced him out of game 6, Reed made it onto the court for the seventh and scored the first two baskets of the night. After that, Frazier took over. He scored 36 points, dished out 19 assists, and the Knicks ultimately won the game and captured their first title.

Second Championship

After acquiring Jerry Lucas and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe, the Knicks returned to the Finals in 1972. This time, however, they lost to the Lakers. The two teams clashed once again the following year and this resulted in the Knicks taking home their second championship in four years.

Patrick Ewing

After this impressive run, Reed retired in 1974. The franchise itself began to falter and languished in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The team’s struggles earned them the first overall pick in the 1985 draft, where they selected Georgetown Hoyas’ center Patrick Ewing. During his first season, Ewing’s average 20 points-per-game and nine rebounds helped him to win NBA Rookie of the Year honors. However, this success didn’t translate into wins as the Knicks finished with a 23–59 record.

Regular Season Success, Playoff Struggles

With the Knicks failing to advance past the conference semi-finals since the Reed era, they lured former Lakers’ coach Pat Riley to the team in 1991. He led the resurgent Knicks to a 51–31 record. The Knicks improved that record further to a staggering 60-22 during the following 1992-93 season. Unfortunately, both those years saw the Knicks matched up in the playoffs against Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls, who were in the midst of their first three-peat.

Another Post-Season Loss

The Knicks were given hope after Jordan retired prior to the 1993–94 season. In fact, they made it to the finals against the Houston Rockets that year. But the Knicks were denied another win when Hakeem Olajuwon led the Rockets to the championship.

Comings and Goings

Though he never led the Knicks to greatness, Ewing left the team as one of their all-time greatest players in 2000. In the years that followed, the club floundered and talented players like Latrell Sprewell and Stephon Marbury became lightning rods for controversy.

Back to Winning

Things appeared to turn around with the 2010 off-season acquisition of Amar’e Stoudemire and the mid-season trade for Carmelo Anthony. These additions helped push the Knicks to their first winning record since the 2000-2001 campaign.

Jeremy Lin

However, the biggest story to come out of Knicks basketball in recent memory arrived during the lockout shortened 2012 season. Jeremy Lin seemingly came out of nowhere to capture everyone’s imagination and brought hope back to the Knickerbockers.


With fierce rivalries with teams like the New Jersey Nets and a storied history that spans decades, the New York Knicks remain one of the greatest franchises of all-time.