For decades, the New York Knicks have been a joke across not just the NBA, but the country. Given their inability to win games in recent years, the team has been mocked about by big-name players like Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.
As a commuter student, I often pass Madison Square Garden, the home court of the Knicks, as I travel from my home in Long Island to Penn Station. The significance of the stadium seems to have waned in recent years, especially with the pandemic preventing fans from seeing their team in person.
The Knicks have not been a team that generates excitement. Compare that to the Yankees in the Bronx, who have even attributed some of their wins to fans.
Madison Square Garden often fails to impress, despite its self-awarded moniker of “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”
Throughout the history of sports, the morale of many communities has been correlated with the success of their sports teams. This point is echoed throughout Playing the Field by Charles Euchner. Euchner speaks on how local officials encourage the opening of new arena due to the positive impact that sports teams have on the community. Arenas and teams also have a positive economic impact on local communities.
This season has been atypical for the Knicks. We’re reaching the midway point of the season, and the Knicks actually have a winning record. Their best player, Julius Randle, represented them in the All-Star Game in March, the first time the Knicks have had an All-Star since 2018.
The Knicks’ recent success has had a positive impact on a personal level, especially during the pandemic. As assignments pile up and midterms go by, I have scavenged for something to look forward to when times are tough. Recently, a friend surprised me with tickets to the Knicks game against the New Orleans Pelicans. During most seasons, those tickets might as well have been empty MetroCards, but given the team’s recent success, I found myself looking forward to watching competitive basketball. Randle ended up leading the Knicks to win in overtime.
A quick look at the videos of fans dressed in their Knicks gear all over social media will give you an idea of how New Yorkers have reacted to the recent upswing for their team. New Yorkers are Knicks culture. The excitement and pride permeating the ranks of once-disillusioned Knicks fans is a display of hope in a city that many critics have deemed dead due to the pandemic. It is evident that this excitement has affected everyday New Yorkers. Though we often see those videos of fans dressed in Knicks gear, even New Yorkers in everyday clothes seem to be sharing in the joy of the team’s success, despite not attending the games.
It’s great to see New Yorkers smiling, given the pandemic and closure of small businesses. Given the busy location of the Madison Square Garden, it attracts people to the neighborhood.
While the Knicks have been successful this season, their success is nowhere near that of a championship team. The Knicks are in a position to make the playoffs, but they will possibly have an early round exit. New Yorkers don’t need a championship team; they just need a sense of hope.
The Knicks did not need to be the best to make us happy – they just needed to be presentable. They showed a sense of direction, one that takes them out of the shadows of their unfortunate past and toward a brighter future. For example, the Knicks defense this season has improved compared to their defense in past years – they currently have the best-rated defense in the entire league. These statistics have all contributed to the Knicks’ winning record.
The same can be said for New Yorkers during the pandemic: we don’t need all the answers now, but we’ve gained hope. The light at the end of the tunnel is the vaccine rollout. It is just another obstacle for us to get over, but I have faith that this city is built to figure it out. It is what we’ve done in the past, and what we will continue to do. New York sports have always affected the city as a whole, whether it was a singular moment such as Mike Piazza’s home run after 9/11, or the Knicks’ success translating into higher morale among New Yorkers.
It’s what makes us New York Tough.
Contact Ethan Hourizadeh at [email protected]