Beyond the Hype: The 10 Most Underrated New York Knicks
Here in New York, we live for the big names.
Glancing up at the Madison Square Garden rafters is a history lesson in itself. Patrick Ewing, Willis Reed, Earl Monroe, Walt Frazier and the names go on. We thrive on the big acquisitions and more often than not, their big contracts too.
What Knicks fans sometimes forget are the names of those caught between the superstars, the role players. With the arrival of superstar Carmelo Anthony still fresh in the minds of all Knicks fans, let's take a trip down memory lane and try to remember some of those in-between guys. These are 10 of those most underrated Knicks of all time, key pieces on a lot of good teams but largely forgotten after their tenures.
10. David Lee
Unfortunately for David Lee, he became a Knickerbocker during the worst stretch of the franchise's history.
From 2005-2010, Lee consistently showed up each night and banged bodies as a member of the lowly Knicks. He silently put up strong numbers throughout his Knick tenure, getting seemingly better each year.
It's an obsolete thought given that Lee was traded to the Golden State Warriors for a package that included Anthony Randolph, who turned out to be an essential piece of the Carmelo Anthony deal, but Knicks fans have to wonder what David Lee would be able to do on their current star-studded roster.
9. Bernard King
It may be a stretch to call Bernard King underrated. Any Knicks fan who remembers the drafting of Patrick Ewing will most definitely also remember the last star before him to wear a Knick uniform.
But see, that's the thing. Ewing's arrival was so hyped that it pretty much negated all Knicks history in between the 1972-73 NBA Championship team and the 1985 NBA Draft.
Prior to Ewing's arrival, King posted some eye-popping performances, specifically in 1984. The Brooklyn native dropped 60 points on Christmas Day against the Nets and posted consecutive 50-point games, against San Antonio and Dallas.
8. Mark Jackson
While Mark Jackson's Knicks career was a series of short-lived spurts, it's safe to say the Brooklyn native and St. John's alum is always welcome at the Garden.
Drafted by the Knicks in 1987 with the 18th pick, Jackson was an essential piece in the franchise's turnaround from the dormant mid-1980's. But before he could reap the benefits and play in the 1994 Finals, Jackson was shipped out to the Los Angeles Clippers in 1992.
Jackson also served a second stint as a Knick later in his career, as he was traded back to New York from Toronto during the 2000-2001 campaign, this time just a couple years after the other NBA Finals appearance for the Knicks during Jackson's career. Timing was just never his thing.
7. Larry Johnson
Simply put, there will never be a cooler moment in the history of the New York Knickerbockers than Larry Johnson's four-point play against the Indiana Pacers. That's a strong statement, I know, but every Knicks fan should remember exactly where they were and what they were doing when that happened. Reliving the moment through YouTube and hearing Tom Hammond's call (back when the NBA was fun to watch on NBC) still gives me the chills.
While Johnson was never able to have the same success with the Knicks that he had with the Hornets, he was a stellar Knick who provided the toughness that defined the 1999 Knicks' memorable run. His number will never go up in the MSG rafters, but "Grandmama" will always be remembered as an essential piece to the Knicks of the late 90's.
6. Xavier McDaniel
Drafted by the SuperSonics in the 1985 NBA draft, Xavier McDaniel would have more than likely been Rookie of the Year if it weren't for a fellow by the name of Patrick Ewing.
McDaniel was traded to the Knicks in 1991 and became one of Pat Riley's key role players. McDaniel provided a toughness on the court for the Knicks, proving to be an important asset in the 1992 NBA Playoffs series against Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the Chicago Bulls.
5. Chris Childs
After spending his first two seasons with the New Jersey Nets, Chris Childs crossed the Hudson and became a valuable role player for the New York Knicks in 1996.
Childs was a tough-nosed defensive player and an occasional three-point threat. He led the Knicks in assists during the 1996-1997 season and was a perennial force in New York's late 90's playoff runs, especially against the rival Miami Heat. Childs was traded to the Toronto Raptors in 2001 in a deal which included Mark Jackson's return to the Big Apple.
4. Derek Harper
After 10 seasons with the Dallas Mavericks, the Knicks traded for Derek Harper to run their point, and he helped lead them to the 1994 NBA Finals.
Harper took over for the injured Doc Rivers and proved to be a strong point guard for the Knicks. He stayed on as a Knickerbocker up until 1996, when he returned to Dallas the next season.
Although Harper is 11th on the all-time NBA steals list and 17th in all-time assists, he somehow never made it to an All-Star Game.
3. Charlie Ward
Charlie Ward might just have been the greatest athlete to ever play for the Knicks. Besides serving as an active force on some of the best Knicks teams of the 90's, Ward was a Heisman Trophy winner and an MLB draft pick. He is also a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.
Ward was the Knicks' backup point guard for most of his 10 seasons with the team (1994-2004), helping lead them to the 1999 NBA Finals. Ward is also known for his role in the Heat-Knicks rivalry of the late 90's, and he was a participant in the 1997 bench-clearing brawl. He was a fan favorite for his constant hustle and dedicated work ethic.
2. Kurt Thomas
The only active player on this list, Kurt Thomas was one of the hardest-playing Knicks of all time. He spent seven seasons in New York and was a member of some of the best and worst Knick teams of the past two decades.
Thomas had an uncanny ability to pull down rebounds and showed off a consistent mid-range jump shot. He was never a feature player nor did he possess superstar tendencies, but Thomas always came to play and few can dispute that.
1. Herb Williams
Despite never winning an NBA title, Patrick Ewing is widely regarded as the greatest New York Knick to ever live. But for every superstar, there needs to be a supporting cast. Herb Williams was Patrick Ewing's backup for seven seasons.
On the court, Williams' role was mostly minimal, but if was in the locker room in which Williams' natural leadership abilities shined. It takes guts to be a superstar's backup, and it takes even more to do it well. Williams was a member of both the 1994 and 1999 NBA Finals teams.
He has served on the Knicks' coaching staff since 2003, even serving as interim head coach after Lenny Wilkens' resignation in 2005.