By Lorenzo Tanos
Among the 11 BAA teams that played the league's inaugural 1946-47 season, only three remain, and two of those teams (Boston Celtics and New York Knicks) have stuck to the same name in the same city in all the years that followed thereafter. After a long stretch of mediocrity, the Knicks are finally back in playoff contention, and while they're still a bit of a dark horse, it's refreshing to see the team doing what they do best – playing defense. It's hard to limit the Knicks' history to just nine trivia questions, but here they are, covering the difficult early days, the Holzman era, the Pat Riley/Jeff Van Gundy "Uglyball" era, and most everything in between.
1. Who were the New York Knicks' opponents in the first-ever official NBA/BAA game?
On November 1, 1946, the Knicks and the Toronto Huskies played the first-ever BAA game in Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens. The Knicks (then known more formally as the Knickerbockers) won 68-66.
2. True or False – Nat Clifton was the first non-white to sign an NBA contract.
False. The Knicks' Clifton may have been the first African-American to be signed to an NBA contract, but he was not the first non-Caucasian. That honor went to Japanese-American Wataru "Wat" Misaka, a 5'7" guard from Utah who played three games for the Knicks in the 1947-48 season.
3. When the Knicks famously (or infamously) allowed the Philadelphia Warriors' Wilt Chamberlain to score 100 points, who was the Knicks' second-leading scorer in that game, behind Richie Guerin?
Reserve forward/center Cleveland Buckner had the game of his life on March 2, 1962, when the Warriors, behind Chamberlain's 100-point game, defeated the Knicks 169-147 in Hershey, Pa. With the Knicks' primary big men in foul trouble, the 6'9" Buckner came off the bench for 33 points, second on the team behind upcoming 2013 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee Guerin's 39-point effort. For the entire 1961-62 season, Buckner averaged only 6.4 ppg. And in the Knicks' next game, also against the Warriors, Buckner could only manage 6 points. So much for his "15 minutes of fame."
4. True or False – Hall of Famer and 1965 Rookie of the Year Willis Reed was selected by the Knicks in the first round of the 1964 Draft.
False. The Knicks went with big men in the first two rounds of the 1964 NBA Draft, and with the first overall pick, they selected Jim Barnes, a 6'8" forward/center from Texas Western (now UTEP) who was "Bad News" before the unrelated Marvin Barnes had the nickname attached to him. Barnes had a solid rookie year (15.5 ppg, 9.7 rpg) but spent most of his NBA career as a journeyman-caliber player. Reed, on the other hand, was chosen by the Knicks with the first pick of the second round, out of Grambling State. Despite second-round status, Reed was a contributor from day one, and would go on to win All-Star Game, regular season and Finals MVP honors in 1970, five years after winning Rookie of the Year.
5. How many games in a row did the Knicks win in 1969-70 to set what was then a record number of consecutive victories?
18. That helped the Knicks, once regular NBA doormats, to a best-ever 60-22 record and their first-ever NBA championship. Two seasons later, the Los Angeles Lakers (ironically, the team the Knicks beat in the 1970 Finals) won 33 straight, a record that has yet to be broken after over four decades. (As we all know, this season's Miami Heat came pretty close to doing that.)
6. When was the last season the legendary Red Holzman coached the New York Knicks?
Except for the 1977-78 season, where Willis Reed was the Knicks' coach, Holzman was leading the way from the bench from 1967 to 1982. Holzman could only coax a 33-49 record out of the Knicks in that 1981-82 swan song of his; aside from Micheal Ray Richardson, Mo Lucas and Bill Cartwright, the Knicks' players that season were either young and inexperienced or old and washed-up.Holzman retired with a coaching record of 696-604, or a winning percentage of 53.5%.
7. Which successful college coach played for the Knicks in 1987-88 in Rick Pitino's first year with the team?
In the NBA, Billy Donovan is most notorious for being the Orlando Magic head coach that "never was", but the present Florida Gators head coach was briefly a Knick as an NBA player. Playing for his former coach at Providence, Rick Pitino, Donovan averaged 2.4 ppg in 8.3 minutes a game in his only NBA season.
8. Which former grocery bagger would sign with the Knicks in the early ‘90s and play a key role in the team's successful run as a perennial Playoffs-bound team in that decade?
After playing for four different schools in college, John Starks went undrafted in 1988 and had an undistinguished rookie year in 1988-89 for the Golden State Warriors. Two years later, he signed with the Knicks, and would soon distinguish himself as one of the NBA's best outside shooters, a valuable skill indeed in many an "Uglyball" team of the ‘90s.
9. Which Knicks off-guard has a namesake rule that only allows tip-ins or dunks with less than 0:00.3 remaining in the game? And which former Knick notably took advantage of this in a 2006 double-overtime game?
The Trent Tucker rule (named after the former Knicks long bomber) was implemented after a 1990 game against the Bulls, where Tucker's buzzer-beating three that gave the Knicks the win was put under protest, albeit unsuccessfully. On December 20, 2006, an alley-oopplay from Jamal Crawford to David Lee with just 0:00.1 remaining helped the Knicks edge the Charlotte Bobcats in a double-overtime encounter.
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