Wednesday, May 2, 2012

How Long It's Been: The Knicks Won a Playoff Game

And now, I return to an occasional feature of this blog, "How Long It's Been."

On April 29, 2001, the New York Knicks defeated the Toronto Raptors, 97-89, at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto. This gave the Knicks a 2-games-to-1 lead in a Playoff series.

The Raptors won the next 2 games, including the deciding Game 5 at Madison Square Garden.

Okay, that’s bad, but, hey, these are the Knicks, right? They’re in the Playoffs every year.

That was 11 years and 3 days ago. Since then, in those 11 seasons (counting this one), the Knicks have appeared in the Playoffs 3 times, in a grand total of 10 Playoff games, and won exactly none of them.

How long has it been? Not long, you say? Certainly not as long as the 39 years it’s been since they last won a title?

How about this...

Since then, 3 NBA teams have moved: The Vancouver Grizzlies were in the process of moving to Memphis, the Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans, and the Seattle SuperSonics moved to become the Oklahoma City Thunder.

There is an NBA team that has been founded since then, the Charlotte Bobcats, and in 3 fewer seasons they are the only team besides the Knicks to have not won at least one Playoff game.

The Los Angeles Lakers have won 4 NBA Championships, the San Antonio Spurs 3, and 1 each has been won by the Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat, Boston Celtics and Dallas Mavericks. Keeping in mind that the Heat and Mavs had never won one before.

The New Jersey Nets, who are moving within the Tri-State Area to become the Brooklyn Nets, were a joke franchise, having won just 1 Playoff series in their 24 NBA seasons, after being the signature franchise of the ABA. The Nets won the Eastern Conference Championship the next 2 seasons and won 4 Atlantic Division titles, before being broken up. Still... The Nets? The biggest joke franchise in the history of New York area sports? More so even than the Mets? They reached 2 NBA Finals? And the Knicks couldn't win one single solitary Playoff GAME?

The Philadelphia 76ers also reached the Finals -- something they hadn't done in 18 years. The Heat and Mavericks had never reached the Finals before, and each has now done so twice (each time, against each other). The Cleveland Cavaliers had never reached the Finals before, but did. The Orlando Magic also reached the Finals.

Since the Knicks last won a Playoff game, the following franchises in the other 3 major league sports all won their first World Championship: The Arizona Diamondbacks, the team currently known as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, the New England Patriots, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the New Orleans Saints, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Carolina Hurricanes and the Anaheim Ducks.

The Diamondbacks, the Houston Astros, the Colorado Rockies, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Texas Rangers each won their first Pennant. The Bucs, the Saints, the Carolina Panthers, the Seattle Seahawks and the Arizona Cardinals advanced to their first Super Bowl. The Hurricanes, the Ducks, the Lightning, advanced to their first Stanley Cup Finals.

The Boston Red Sox won their first World Series in 86 years, the Chicago White Sox their first in 88, and the Giants their first in 56, or their first since moving to San Francisco. The Colts won their first Super Bowl in 36 years, or their first since moving to Indianapolis. The Chicago Blackhawks won their first Stanley Cup in 49 years, and the Boston Bruins their first in 39.

The Olympic Games have been held in America, Greece, Italy, China and Canada. The World Cup has been held in Japan, Korea, Germany and South Africa -- and had never previously been held in Asia and Africa, or in a joint venture (2002 in Japan and Korea).

The European Cup/Champions League soccer tournament has been won by Bayern Munich (who are in this year’s final as well, against London’s Chelsea), Real Madrid, AC Milan (twice), Porto, Liverpool, Barcelona (3 times), Manchester United and Internazionale Milano.

George W. Bush had just been inaugurated as President. Bill Clinton had just left the office. George H.W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Gerald Ford and their wives, and Lady Bird Johnson were all still alive. (Reagan, Mrs. Johnson, and Mr. and Mrs. Ford have since died.) Barack Obama was a State Senator, and Mitt Romney was a failed one-time U.S. Senate candidate who busy trying to keep the next year's Winter Olympics from falling apart.

The Governor of New York was George Pataki. The Mayor of New York City was Rudy Giuliani, and running to replace him were a dedicated Democratic public servant, Mark Green, and a playboy Republican billionaire, Michael Bloomberg. The Governor of New Jersey was Donald DiFrancesco, and running to replace him were former Jersey City Mayor Bret Schundler, who was so conservative he made the new "president" look like George McGovern, and Woodbridge Mayor and former State Senator Jim McGreevey, who seemed very popular with the ladies, and he seemed to reciprocate their feelings. If we only knew...

We had the Internet, but no Facebook, no YouTube, no Twitter, no Instagram and no Pinterest. DVDs hadn't yet replaced VHS videotapes as the home entertainment of choice. And a "smart phone" would have been one that fit in your pocket.

Major films of the spring of 2001 included Blow, about a 1970s cocaine trafficker; the film version of Bridget Jones’ Diary, the live-action version of Josie and the Pussycats, the first Shrek film, the first Spy Kids film, A Knight’s Tale (in which Heath Ledger plays someone decidedly less creepy than the Joker), the Ben Affleck telling of Pearl Harbor, and the Nicole Kidman-starring not-quite-remake of Moulin Rouge. Those films were your choices in the spring of 2001? What’s the Worst That Could Happen? Oh yeah, there was also a very bad buddy picture with that title. Why was it bad? Because the “buddies” were Danny DeVito and Martin Lawrence.

Television shows that were about to air their final first-run episodes were Nash Bridges, Diagnosis: Murder, Walker: Texas Ranger (starring the incredibly overrated Chuck Norris), 3rd Rock From the Sun, Star Trek: Voyager, Moesha, and, after 33 years, Mister Rogers Neighborhood. Debuting were The Fairly OddParents, Braceface, Six Feet Under, and Fear Factor. Not sure if there’s a pattern there.

Nathan Fillion was best known as Joey Buchanan on One Life to Live. He had not yet appeared in Firefly, let alone Castle. Stana Katic had been in exactly one role, as Annie in the film Acid Freaks. Mark Harmon was best known as Dr. Jack McNeil on Chicago Hope; David McCallum as Agent Illya Kuryakin on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., Michael Weatherly as Logan "Eyes Only" Cale on Dark Angel (with his then-girlfriend, Jessica Alba); Sasha Alexander as Gretchen Witter on Dawson's Creek; Sean Murray as Zane Grey Hart on Harts of the West; Lauren Holly as Deputy Sheriff Maxine Stewart on Picket Fences; Rocky Carroll as Joey Emerson on Roc; Pauley Perrette was still a blonde and mostly making commercials, but had recently begun to appear as Alice Cramer on Special Unit 2; and Cote de Pablo had yet to appear on English-language television at all. Most Americans had never heard of NCIS, much less expected to ever watch a TV show based on it.

The Number 1 song in America was "All For You" by Janet Jackson. It succeeded "Angel," which Shaggy (not the Scooby-Doo character, this guy smoked even more marijuana) had ripped off the Merrilee Rush song "Angel of the Morning." It would be succeeded by the Moulin Rouge-inspired remake of Patti LaBelle's "Lady Marmalade," sung by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa and Pink.

Back to basketball: Of the men who were named in 1997 to the NBA’s 50th Anniversary 50 Greatest Players, Scottie Pippen, Charles Barkley, Hakeem Olajuwon, Karl Malone, John Stockton, David Robinson, Shaquille O’Neal and (barely) Patrick Ewing were still active in the spring of 2001. Michael Jordan was just about to make his ill-advised 2nd comeback. With Shaq’s retirement a few weeks ago, now all 50 are retired; and Wilt Chamberlain, Paul Arizin and George Mikan have died (along with the one man who was already dead when selected, Pete Maravich).

In the spring of 2001, the Russian space station Mir fell from orbit. A U.S. spy plane and a Chinese fighter jet collided, forcing the American plane to make an emergency landing and be detained for 10 days. The Netherlands became the first nation to legalize gay marriage. Temba Tsheri, age 16, became the youngest person to climb Mount Everest, which is half in China and half in Nepal. Just 1 week later, the Crown Prince of Nepal killed his father (the King), his mother (the Queen) and several other members of the royal family, before shooting himself. Although brain-dead, he is King for 3 days. His uncle becomes King Gyanendra, but has since been deposed and the monarchy abolished. Timothy McVeigh was executed. And the World Trade Center still stood.

Robert Ludlum, and Anthony Quinn, and Perry Como died. So did John Lee Hooker, and “Papa” John Phillips, and Joey Ramone. While people born in the spring of 2001 would now be 11, and are unlikely to be famous, at the time of the Knicks’ last Playoff win, there was a now-famous child about to be born: Natasha, a.k.a. Sasha, Obama. Willow Smith was 6 months old, Frankie Jonas (one of the younger Jonas brothers) was 7 months old, Dylan Michael Douglas (son of Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta-Jones) was 8 months old, Noah Cyrus (sister of Miley and daughter of Billy Ray) was 16 months old, Malia Obama and Jaden Smith were 2 ½ years old, Kylie Jenner was 3, Kendall Jenner was 5.

April 29, 2001. The New York Knickerbockers won a Playoff game. They have not done so since. Surely, they will again someday. After all, they have quite a bit of talent now. Of course, much of that talent is injured...

The Knicks. You never know what's going to happen next.

UPDATE: On May 6, 2012, the Knicks beat the Miami Heat, 89-87 at the Garden, to stave off elimination and end their 11-year drought of not having won a Playoff game. They would lose Game 5.

They have still not won a Playoff series since May 21, 2000, also against the Heat, 83-82 at the American Airlines Arena in Miami.


capt paul said...

A few other observations--in regard to politics, DiFrancesco was actually an interim Governor, serving out the final year of Governess Twit-man's term after she resigned to become W's EPA Chief (the worst of that legacy yet to come...)-Hilary Clinton was in her first year as a US Senator, and Charles Schumer was NY's Senior Senator...John Corzine was serving his first year as US Senator from NJ, while Frank Lautenberg was retired from the Senate and NJ's Senior Senator Bob Toricelli was seen as an odds on favorite for re-election the following year...The Yankees still played at the original Yankee Stadium, and Mets at Shea, though both were already making rumblings about their future homes...The Devils and Nets played in East Rutherford at The Meadowland in what was then known as Continental Airlines Arena (the Devils were actually a month away from unveiling plans for the new arena in Newark that would become known as the Prudential Center)...The Giants and Jets played at Giants Stadium, and there were no public hints about a replacement for the venue...Giants Stadium's third primary tennant (unless you count the XFL's Hitmen who played their one and only season that spring), was the area's MLS team, known as the MetroStars, not the Red Bulls...

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