Abe Beame put stacks in the Prada knapsack, hit the door.
In 1996, Derek Harper left the New York Knicks for the Dallas Mavericks, ending a brief but significant reign as the greatest Knicks Point Guard I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness play. Derek came in as a defensive point substitute for an injured Doc Rivers in ’94, but he was so much more than that to me.
I’ve always loved watching great point guards play. It’s at once the most accessible position on the court to mere mortals and the furthest away in that you don’t have to be 6’5 to be a point guard for a living; however, the magic of playing the position well is more rare than height or athleticism. It takes intellect, insight, fast twitch reflexes, GPS mapping, minute attention to detail and the trust of your fellow men to run a fast break, drive and kick, or execute a backdoor. If basketball at its best is a beautiful game, there’s a great point guard at its core orchestrating that beauty.
I’m also from New York, and our great resource besides sediment-rich tap water, casual between-meal hot dogs and bodegas is point guards. People speak in hushed tones of Pee Wee, the Goat, Earl the Pearl, Clyde, the Marbury dynasty. The shit talking point from an outer borough with mad handle and no jumper is practically a cliche at this point. The product of growing up on asphalt and having to shoot on milk crate rims.
But for much of my conscious life, the team I love and hate and love to hate and hate to love, the New York Knicks, has had bad-to-terrible point guard play. I’ve watched from the sidelines as the position has become the most fascinating, most important, and deepest in terms of talent in the league. Year after year, draft after draft, free agency after free agency I’ve set my heart on some 1 guard or another I’ve anointed the savior of the boring brand of offense I had to watch every season, and every year my heart has been broken by poor decision making and the incomprehensible inability of people who watch basketball for a living to understand that Kyle Lowry is good and we should AT LEAST TRY KICKING THE FUCKING TIRES.
Maybe I’m ready to pick this scab because for the first time in my entire life the Knicks have taken steps towards investing in a legitimate youth culture. This season our lineup will be largely staffed by our own promising first round draft picks (AND THE GOD MITCHELL ROBINSON @23.savage23), complete with a backcourt of actual legitimate AT LEAST replacement level point guards with high ceilings and dare I say it, relatively high floors (Not to mention swirling Kyrie rumors, but when have elite prospective free agents not tortured us with faint hope?). And so, perhaps because part of me dares to dream that the nightmare is ending, and as an exercise of thought and an excuse to laugh at my pain, I’ve taken the recent history of Knick point guards and ranked them because the internet.
As I did this it ultimately became a meditation on fandom. Every year myself and 8 million other lost souls take our boulders out of storage and roll them uphill 82 times a season. We laugh and cry, bond with our fathers and sons, develop strange relationships with these random ass professional athletes and form bizarre attachments, be they affectionate or disdain for journeymen also-rans like Howard Eisley.
To set criteria, Basketball Reference has to qualify you as a PG on the Knicks in the last 22 years to be included here. (Apologies to old broken down Jalen Rose, Anfernee Hardaway, etc.)* (With the exception of Iman Shumpert, who is listed out of position as a PG even though he wasn’t and one other notable exception I’ll save for later). Player rankings will be assigned specifically for their contributions to the Knicks.
Also apologies to my man Chris Smith, J.R. Smith’s little brother who only played two games for the Knicks and somehow has no stats on Basketball Reference. A true New York City (via New Jerz) point guard who was a good college player and deserved better. He’s now playing in Israel. Yalla yalla brother it’s time to come home and take another shot.
And now, a complete history of the absolute horror show I’ve had to endure the last two decades.
37. Derrick Rose (2016-2017) Games: 64 Points: 18.0 Assists: 4.4 Steals 0.7
Derrick Rose very possibly has more talent than every player on this entire list. I was at the NCAA Final game in San Antonio where he blew it for a Calipari Memphis team against Kansas but I was still enamored by his game and would pray nightly in 2008 the Knicks would pull a miracle ping pong ball and get the first pick so we could draft him. Instead, we drafted 6th and ended up with The Rooster, Danilo Gallinari.
On the Bulls, and subsequently the Knicks, Rose was still one of the greatest finishers I’ve ever seen . Despite being a subpar distributor and bad shooter, he was a deserving MVP at 22 — a truly incredible offensive player.
And yet I hate Derrick Rose. There was his rape trial which didn’t get near the attention it deserved. Open a tab and do five minutes of Google research at your own risk, a revolting story that should’ve gotten him banned from basketball for life.
He has this dead eyed autistic quality that’s equal parts chilling and infuriating. He randomly disappeared from the team for several days in the middle of the season. He’s an unfriendly selfish weirdo. He brought out the worst instincts in Carmelo Anthony. Watching him and Melo trade gross inefficient Iso possessions while Porzingis languished under the basket or in a corner waving his arms was like watching prostate cancer and colon cancer take turns on an innocent, promising young 7’4 Latvian man child with his whole life ahead of him. Derrick, I’m sure you’re reading this right now: retire bitch
36. Scott Brooks (96-97) Games: 38 Points: 1.5 Assists: 0.8 Steals 0.6
Brooks wasn’t just a bad talentless white point guard who had no business in the NBA, he’s also now a bad talentless white coach with no business in the NBA. Thanks for the memories Scotty.
35. Brooks Thompson (97-98) Games: 17 Points: 1.9 Assists: 7 Steals 1.9
Your guess is as good as mine.
34. Toure’ Murry (2013-2014) Games: 51 Points: 2.7 Assists: 1.0 Steals 0.4
I liked Toure’ Murry on the most shallow possible level. It’s because his name is Toure’.
33. Erick Strickland (2000-2001) Games: 28 Points: 4.3 Assists: 1.0 Steals 0.8
I have a weird relationship with Erick Strickland. He was drafted in 96-97 which was my peak year as a basketball card collector and I remember being consistently disappointed that I got incredible amounts of Erick Strickland cards in my Topps Finest packs. I think they probably made more Erick Strickland basketball cards than every other player in the league combined that year. I don’t really remember him on the Knicks, I smoked a lot of blunts in 2000. Here’s a video of him getting a haircut or something.
32. Anthony Roberson (2008-2009) Games: 23 Points: 4.7 Assists: 0.5 Steals 0.4
Again, no idea. He’s ranked ahead of the other players on the list because to the best of my knowledge he didn’t rape anyone and he was part of the trade that finally got Jerome James out of New York.
31. Chasson Randle (2016-2017) Games: 18 Points: 5.3 Assists: 1.6 Steals 0.3
Chasson Randle is a G League legend. He never really got a shot with the team and now he plays for Real Madrid so I think it’s safe to say he’s living his best life.
30. Ramon Sessions (2017-2018) Games: 13 Points: 3.7 Assists: 2.1 Steals 0.5
I have a weird relationship with Ramon Sessions. He was the type of mid-tier point guard who would be floating around in free agency every off-season that I would punch the wall and tear at my hair and wonder “Why don’t we ever go after promising young mid-tier point guards like Ramon Sessions instead of these old washed big names?” So then of course we finally got Sessions when he was old and washed. He started three games and we lost all of them then we swapped him out for Jarett Jack and eventually waived him.
29. Mike Bibby (2011-2012) Games: 39 Points: 2.6 Assists: 2.1 Steals 0.5
Speaking of old washed guys. We once had a cup of coffee with Mike Bibby. It wasn’t great. You’ll see this multiple times on this list but shockingly, the last team Mike Bibby ever played for was the Knicks.
28. Anthony Carter (2010-2011) Games: 19 Points: 4.4 Assists: 2.3 Steals 0.9
I always liked Anthony Carter despite being a member of the Heat when they were still our arch nemesis. He was Tim Hardaway’s back up but he played a gritty style at point that the God Derek Harper himself would appreciate. He was a part of the Melo trade and along with Chauncey was good in limited minutes but probably was never going to mesh with D’Antoni as his coach. This article sums up all the things I appreciated about A.C. as a true disciple of the Riley Knicks.
27. Sergio Rodriguez (2009-2010) Games: 27 Points: 7.4 Assists: 3.4 Steals 0.8
We got S-Rod in a trade with washed T-Mac. He was fine idgaf.
26. Brandon Jennings (2016-2017) Games: 58 Points: 8.6 Assists: 4.9 Steals 0.9
I have a weird relationship with Brandon Jennings. In 2009, I badly wanted a point guard. The Knicks drafted 8th and wanted a shoot first kind-of point guard from a fringe school with questionable ankles I wasn’t really sold on. Picks 5-7 were all PGs including the guy we wanted, Steph Curry. So the Knicks did the obvious thing and drafted Jordan Hill. Demar Derozan went 9th, and the Bucks took the point I wanted, Brandon Jennings at 10th (Jrue Holiday, Ty Lawson and Jeff Teague went 17-19. Knicks!). Jennings took it personally and for years put on a show whenever he came to the Garden. Finally we picked him up and you’ll never believe this, but he was washed hated the Knicks and we waived him before the end of the season.
25. Jerian Grant (2015-2016) Games: 76 Points: 5.6 Assists: 2.3 Steals 0.7
The Knicks have a surprising recent history of making good to great savvy late first round and second round picks. Starting with Trevor Ariza, we’ve found ways of getting value out of the draft spots most teams take for granted. Jerian Grant seemed poised to become one of these guys. He was in the wings developing as a solid young backup PG and then was suddenly unceremoniously traded with Robin Lopez’s awesome contract and Jose Calderon for Derrick Rose, undoing a great offseason the year before because Phil also signed Joakim Noah to his holocaust of a contract no one was competing with us for. Yet another reason I hate Derrick Rose. Grant hasn’t become what I thought he could be but the Bulls aren’t exactly a model franchise and the roster has been a mess since Jerian got there so here’s hoping things get better in Orlando.
24. Shane Larkin (2014-2015) Games: 78 Points: 6.2 Assists: 3.0 Steals 1.2
We got Shane Larkin in yet another fucking stupid trade when we shipped Tyson Chandler and Ray Felton to the Mavericks (Several months later we sent J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert to the Cavs for chopped liver. Do you think a mega package of Chandler, Felton, Smith and in his prime Shump could’ve netted us something better than the island of misfit toys we got instead?). I always liked Larkin. He’s tough, a throwback we never truly appreciated. He bounced for Brooklyn the next year and played meaningful minutes for the Celtics last season. He’s apparently playing overseas now which is a shame (No idea how much a factor his recently reported OCD has affected his ability to be successful in the league). I can think of several teams who need a player like him.
23. Emmanuel Mudiay (2017-Present) Games: 22 Points: 8.8 Assists: 3.9 Steals 0.9
I’m taking a wait and see approach with Mudiay. After decades of having a deserted wasteland of a backcourt we made a kind of mind boggling trade for him with a suddenly crowded PG roster shipping out Dougie McBuckets, a tall wing who can shoot that I actually think is underrated and the exact type of wing we need right now. Mudiay has been somewhat disappointing and may not last on the squad but is part of our emerging “Low stakes gamble on three to four year deep once highly touted draft busts” strategy along with Noah Vonleh and Mario Hezonja.
22. Moochie Norris (2003-2005) Games: 68 Points: 3.5 Assists: 1.6 Steals 0.7
Wow. So many things to love about folk hero Mooch. He was the Glove’s back up, he had one of the most glorious afros in the history of professional basketball, he was once put on IR for insomnia, he played on the Knicks with Vin Baker. I could go on. Here’s a picture of the Moochie Norris bobblehead from his days in Houston. If you think it’s horrifically racist and looks like something Pierre Delacroix would have on his desk in Bamboozled, congratulations on having a functioning pair of eyes.
21. Jarrett Jack (2017-Present) Games: 62 Points: 7.5 Assists: 5.6 Steals 0.6
I actually like Jarrett Jack. He was on a really loveable Georgia Tech team that went to the NCAA Finals and I liked in spite of the fact that I also went to school in the ACC at Maryland. From all accounts, he’s a great veteran who helped guide the young Golden State Warriors through a seminal phase in their development and he was consistently fun and clutch for the Knicks last year.
However, through no fault of his own, I kind of hated him because he got so much burn over young talent like Franky Ntilikina and won us so many stupid games down the stretch that would have resulted in better draft position (Despite the fact that we fucking nailed this year’s draft). But the #1 thing that probably lead to one man human centipede Jeff Hornaceck getting fired was his stubborn insistence on playing Jack over Franky so I guess he had his use. Respect Jarrett but please move on to a good veteran team with actual stakes in this season who could properly utilize your talent and experience.
20. Howard Eisley (2001-2004) Games: 154 Points: 7.4 Assists: 4.5 Steals 0.8
Ah, the God Howard Eisley. Gonna take a second and pour one out for the career backup PGs, the minute eaters, the distributors, the journeymen, the solid everyday lunch pail guys who make this league work. Thanks for your blood sweat and tears Howard. I know it wasn’t easy.
19. Jose Calderon (2014-2015) Games: 114 Points: 8.1 Assists: 4.4 Steals 0.8
I have a weird relationship with Jose Calderon. I’ve always loved him because I once saw him go off and hit a crazy half court heat check for Spain against the U.S. in World basketball in 2006 or something but I can’t find any record of it online or on YouTube and yes this is journalism and you actually read this sentence. Calderon had a tough stint with us. Someone smarter than me can explain better than I can.
18. Toney Douglas (2009-2012) Games: 175 Points: 9.0 Assists: 2.5 Steals 0.9
I feel bad for Tone. Always liked him. He was a tweener at a time when that was still a thing. Kind of a 3 & D guy but he was small. We should’ve played him off ball and let him combo and see what happens but the Knicks had a ton of equally shitty options in the backcourt during this period and even when everyone was hurt D’Antoni can be overly stubborn about “his guys” in the rotation and who he’ll play and who he won’t play. But a good egg and a team guy I’d guess most Knick fans of this era remember fondly. Also never forget to Do What Toney Douglas do.
17. Baron Davis (2011-2012) Games: 29 Points: 6.1 Assists: 4.7 Steals 1.2
Baron Davis is one of my favorite players ever, full stop. His Warriors team upsetting the #1 seed Mavs was probably my favorite playoff series of all time. He was a GOAT NBA Live play on the New Orleans Hornets when that sort of thing still mattered. He was one of a handful of players of this generation that evolutionized the PG position.
You’ll never believe this but the last team he ever played for was the Knicks. He could’ve signed with the Heat who won the championship in 2011-2012 but he signed with us instead. Then his knee actually exploded in game 4 of a playoff series against the Heat. Please do not play this video.
16. Langston Galloway (2014-2016) Games: 127 Points: 9.1 Assists: 2.8 Steals 1.0
I love Langston Galloway. He went undrafted out of St. Joe’s and epitomized the gritty value buy types the Knicks propped up around Melo during this era. One of Phil’s rare actually good signings. He still has a heater and employs it for the Pistons. Every time I see him in game playing against us I raise a glass and smile.
15. Rick Brunson (98-2001) Games: 69 Points: 1.6 Assists: 1.1 Steals 0.3
Rick Brunson should absolutely not be this high on the list, but he is because he bares a striking resemblance to my cousin Jeff, a Jew from East Meadow Long Island. He joins Andy Pettite in the all time “New York athlete who is not Jewish but absolutely looks like he could be” Hall of Fame.
14. Mark Jackson (2000-2002) Games: 111 Points: 7.1 Assists: 0.8 Steals 1.2
Mark Jackson was drafted by the Knicks during a heyday of Knicks back courts when we had both Mark and ROD STRICKLAND and is probably the archetypal plus sized point with a big butt and an ill post game. He spent much of his career with the hated Pacers but came home for a late run. He was well past his prime but he’s a Knick lifer. He’s also one third of the greatest all time basketball announcer squad with the God Jeff Van Gundy and Mike Breen (Fight me) and has this playful folksy school yard aesthetic that some people find grating but I love. I also think his role in molding the Warriors dynasty and their underrated toughness has largely been erased from the history books so fuck that, you’re a real one Mark Jack.
13. Frank Williams (2002-2004) Games: 77 Points: 2.6 Assists: 1.9 Steals 0.4
I have a weird relationship with Frank Williams. I have no idea how this happened but I fell in love with him in 2002. It was an odd Knicks team that I was irrationally excited about and I actually bought a Frank Williams jersey, which is to say I made a custom Frank Williams jersey on NBA.com because obviously no one would make and try to sell a Frank Williams jersey. After we got Steph Frank bounced to Chicago but showed up to camp out of shape and fell out of the league. He was arrested with weed and a gun ten years ago but somewhere in my closet at home there’s a shitty replica Frank Williams jersey so some of us will continue to carry your light in the darkness Frank.
12. Pablo Prigioni (2012-2015) Games: 187 Points: 3.9 Assists: 3.0 Steals 1.0
Old man Pablo! What a joy it was to root for this guy. A true throwback to an era when the point guard was the equivalent to a shortstop in old school baseball. A pass first type Terrell Brandon would love. Incredibly, Pablo had a 22 year professional career beginning in his native Argentina and ending up at 35 as the oldest rookie in the history of the NBA. He played backup to Ray Felton on the magical 2012-2013 Knicks team, a squad we’ll be discussing further shortly. Here’s an entire video of Pablo being annoying on defense, which if you’re just tuning in is pornography for me.
11. Trey Burke (2017-Present) Games: 36 Points: 12.8 Assists: 4.7 Steals 0.7
Trey Burke is another low stakes gamble reclamation project. Small sample size in a zero pressure environment but he came on strong last season during our tankathon. All this guy does is get buckets. Burke washed out of Utah, which I’m actually surprised doesn’t happen more. I would imagine if I was a young wealthy talented black man the last thing I’d want to do is live in a weird conservative Mormon city. Anyways, we’re rooting for you Trey. Here’s a video of him going for 35 in Dyckman Park.
10. Chauncey Billups (2010-2011) Games: 21 Points: 17.5 Assists: 5.5 Steals 0.9
Chauncey came to the Knicks in the Melo deal. He was late in his career but great for us. Good guy and an all around class act. I always loved Chauncey’s game and the way he carried himself. Beyond the championship run those Detroit team of the mid aughts were my favorite to watch night in and night out. We amnestied him to make room for Tyson Chandler, which I’m conflicted about because I loved Tyson, but Chauncey was pissed about getting the boot and we ended up with a two headed monster of washed Mike Bibby and Toney Douglas at point. He ended up having a few injury riddled but nice years as a veteran presence/locker room guy for the Clippers where he played with my all time favorite point guard, Chris Paul.
9. Chris Duhon (2008-2010) Games: 146 Points: 9.4 Assists: 6.5 Steals 0.9
I had forgotten how long Duhon was with us and how not terrible he was. Duhon in many ways was the poor man’s version of the penetrate and finish strong or kick guy I’d wanted on the Knicks for years as I watched guys like Steve Nash change basketball from afar. He went to Duke so kind of fuck him but he also once set a Knicks record with 22 assists in a game. Here’s a grainy fan authored mixtape of his time with the Knicks I’m attaching mainly because it’s scored to “Therapy” by Cormega, which is quite possibly the most Knicks shit ever.
8. Raymond Felton (2010-2011, 2012-2014) Games: 187 Points: 13.4 Assists: 6.6 Steals 1.4
I can’t say I love Ray. He isn’t really good at any one thing, a serviceable point who can be average to good depending on what shape he’s in. He’s here because he did two tours of duty with the Knicks, played a lot of games including in 2012-2013 and put up respectable numbers. He’s also the eighth best point guard we’ve had in 22 years.
7. Nate Robinson (2005-2009) Games: 312 Points: 12.5 Assists: 2.8 Steals 0.9
Nate! Loved this guy. Another Knicks draft gem. Former two time dunk champion. Once dragged a badly beaten up Bulls team to a playoff series win over the world’s worst super team, the Brooklyn Nets. My all time favorite Nate memory is D’Antoni benched him for a month for shooting on the wrong basket, he came back in a road game against the Hawks on New Years Day and went the fuck off. He had 41 and basically was the entire offense and we won in overtime. By the end of the game the Atlanta crowd was cheering for him. It was like something out of a early 2000s Disney sports movie. How close can we get Dennis Quaid to looking like Mike D’Antoni?
6. Frank Ntilikina (2017-Present) Games: 78 Points: 5.9 Assists: 3.2 Steals 0.8
A complete list of my all time favorite Frenchmen:
1. Frank Ntilikina
2. Zinedine Zidane (Thierry Henry is from Guadeloupe)
3. Francois Truffant
4. Jean Paul Sartre (Camus was Algerian)
5. Paul Pogba
6. Jean Renoir
7. Kylian Mbappe
8. Vincent Cassel
Basically every other French person ever. Then all the Frenchmen who collaborated with the Nazis during WWII, then Frederic Weiss. This may strike you as a wildly optimistic homer pick, to which I’d respond you’re reading a meticulously detailed ranked list of every Knicks point guard over the course of the last 22 years. Have you been paying attention? Remember at #13 when I told you I own a Frank Williams jersey and that’s the main reasons Frank Williams was ranked at #13?
Hope springs eternal for Knicks fans but few players have ever done less to capture our imaginations while absolutely capturing our imaginations than Frank Ntilikina has. All last season we hungered for game minutes, scoured Youtube videos of individual possessions where Franky simply played competent defense and forced his man into a pass or bad shot, generally worshipped the ground he walked on. Why? Maybe because Franky is the first point guard we drafted in the first round since Charlie Ward in 94, and before him, Mark Jackson and Rod Strickland back to back in 87 and 88. In his extremely strong class of PGs, Dennis Smith Jr., Donovan Mitchell, Markelle Fultz and Lonzo Ball got the lion’s share of attention last season, and for good reason. They’re more polished players with more enticing, well rounded skill sets.
But Frank has shown glimpses of having the tools to be a great 15 year pro. The next link in the evolutionary chart following Gary Payton, like what if Gary Payton had the wingspan of a pterodactyl and a better than adequate jumper. The jumper is what wasn’t falling for the 19 year old last season. The Knicks want to take him off ball but they’re wrong. He was misused throughout his rookie campaign, taking a backseat to the likes of Jarrett Jack and Trey Burke.
His handle needs some work but he’s already a good passer and with a full off-season of NBA weight training, getting reps on his shot which is better than the 36% he put up as a rookie, and developing a to-the-rack instinct that matches his prenaturally aggressive, fuck you demeanor on the court, Frank has all the tools to develop into the French Prince who was promised. The good news for people who love old school New York basketball is we already have an elite 20 year old perimeter defender who is pretty obviously going to grow into a fucking rottweiler. A great glue guy for any young developing squad. Here’s a link for the bootleg ass sweatshirt I bought two months into his career.
5. Charlie Ward (1994-2003) Games: 580 Points: 6.5 Assists: 4.2 Steals 1.3
I’m putting Charlie Ward here out of respect for his long tenure as a Knick. The guy won a fucking Heisman and decided to be a just ok point guard. The only thing that stands out to me when I think back on Charlie Ward is he was an uncommonly good rebounder for a guard, even though the numbers don’t really back that up and my projection of his rebounding acumen could be plain wrong.
What I’ll say is I never loved Charlie Ward. I don’t even think Charlie Ward’s family loves him. I feel like when he comes home after a day of work doing whatever it is Charlie Ward now does for a living his wife makes eye contact at the door and gives him a firm solemn handshake. I think if Charlie Ward masturbates he looks at recent pictures of his wife fully clothed in like a photo album or something. I’m guessing at this point Charlie Ward’s wife is approaching menopausal but I bet he still fucks with a condom. I’m also going to leave open the possibility that despite having a son and a daughter Charlie Ward has never actually had an erection.
The entire reason this sad and absurd list exists is because for most of my teenage life I had to watch Charlie fucking Ward run an offense. I fell asleep three times writing this blurb about Charlie Ward and I wasn’t even tired. Enjoy this video of Charlie Ward making small talk with Dan Patrick that may cause your computer to melt and your eyes to bleed because it’s so fucking boring. But you know, I’m sure he’s reading this and he seems like a nice guy hope all is well Charlie Ward.
4. Jeremy Lin (2011-2012) Games: 35 Points: 14.6 Assists: 6.2 Steals 1.6
What more can you say about Jeremy Lin? The man who inspired 10,000 think pieces in the halcyon winter of 2012 and no Asian person from New York can be on a podcast without being questioned about. I will tell you as a person living in New York at the time, it was one of the most genuinely exciting things I ever experienced in this City. I was at the Buffalo Wild Wings at Atlantic Center the night of the Laker game and I think if 9-11 happened during a Super Bowl the Jets made where Jesus rose from the dead and played Quarterback for the Jets it couldn’t have been any crazier than how the crowd reacted.
Just a really electrifying, incredible, once in a generation moment that could only happen in New York, we didn’t end up encumbered with the too smart for his own good Morey contract he stole Lin away with, Lin never really regained his stature, he’s a constant injury risk and also seems like a weird religious guy but we’ll always have those couple of months.
3. Chris Childs (1996-2000) Games: 303 Points: 6.5 Assists: 4.6 Steals 0.8
The God Chris Childs. Here are a few incredible Chris Childs anecdotes. He went undrafted in 1989 and played 5 years in the CBA where he was the MVP of the league in 1994. He got checked into a rehab by GEORGE GERVIN that same year and then ended up signing with the Nets immediately after for the 1994-1995 season as a backup for Kenny Anderson. Chris Childs used to eat an onion before big games so he could breathe in opponent’s faces.
As Knicks, Chris Childs and Charles Oakley were best friends because they had an understanding that Oak would lock down the big men and Chris would take the guards because the day Chris and Oak met their souls recognized their counterpoints in another. Chris Childs never stayed out too late but once he did at the now closed Diddy soul food restaurant Justin’s in Harlem for a party the night former Giants LB Jessie Armstead got traded and he got robbed. He’s said his greatest regret as a professional basketball player was not beating Tim Hardaway’s ass and actually it’s also mine. Despite being from California Chris was a quintessential old school Knicks point guard and I’ll always love him,
Never forget when he stole on Kobe with a crazy combo and pegged Michael Jordan with a ball.
2. Stephon Marbury (2003-2008) Games: 287 Points: 18.2 Assists: 7 Steals 1.2
I have a weird relationship with Stephon Marbury.
In 2008 I was trying to spread my wings and write about different shit so I reached out to a website called Free Darko, which was my favorite place to read about basketball at the time to see if they had any interest in fielding submissions. Miraculously, this relatively popular niche website that was way out my league as a rookie culture writer with a few pieces under my belt liked my stuff and gave me the opportunity to submit. I responded the way any rational person would with what was at least a 10,000 word 20-page work of dramatic speculative fan fiction revolving around a depressed Stephon Marbury returning home to Coney Island on July 4th. I’ve been writing for 30 years and by a wide margin this was the worst thing I’ve ever written. Did I mention it was first person from Steph’s POV? You’ll never believe this but I never heard anything back.
The songs have been sung and the histories written at this point but something very few people of future generations will fully understand was the greatness of Stephon Marbury. I would on its face ridiculously compare him to a mini Lebron James in that there have been players stronger than Steph and there have been players faster than Steph but there have been very few players as strong and fast as he was in his prime. He was also a dead eye shooter, a great passer, there were no holes in his game but unfortunately there were several holes in his head. A truly tragic Achilles like hero and a great all time what if had he just found the right situation early in his maturation.
The Thomas-era Knicks were a mess but a beautiful mess. I’ll never forget the night I was in the Garden when Jamal Crawford dropped 50, the exploits of the Junkyard Dog, the Renaldo Balkman experience, Channing Frye, the pound for pound weirdest athlete I ever rooted for, and of course Steph himself. He was a kid from Mermaid Houses who made good and for a few brief years was received as a beloved hero by the sick, depraved die hard Knicks fans who continued to stick with the squad through this dark age.
It’s a shame when we talk about Steph his Starbury line of apparel isn’t in the first sentence. The noble clothing brand represented a radical attempt to make cool streetwear affordable, a plight that has caused much sadness and human misery in impoverished neighborhoods like Coney Island since the 80s when Nike turned sneakers into a rich man’s fetish. I still have a pair.
Here’s the lightning bolt moment from Darcy Frey’s brilliant tracing of Lincoln High School’s 91-92 season, The Last Shot: “It’s not just that Stephon is a great young player; he does things you simply cannot teach in this game. At point guard, setting up plays for his teammates, Stephon always keeps his head up and sees the court as if he had one eye in the usual spot and the other near the ceiling, looking down……. This sort of command one sees only among genuine child prodigies- Itzhak Perlman playing Pagani at the age of five- the ability to perform the easy and the difficult passages with the same fluid grace.”
Aside from a beautiful articulation of the prodigal PG and what the gifted are able to evoke, I could think of no better eulogy for the incredible talent of a great player who left his mark on his city, a franchise and the fans who had the pleasure of witnessing an artist ply his craft night in and night out for five years.
Here is an absolutely gorgeous, fucked up, antennaed VHS recording of a NY1 recap of Steph at Lincoln working Seton Hall legend Shaheen Holloway, then at St. Patrick’s in 1996. Steph’s center part fade is fucking perfect.
1. Jason Kidd (2012-2013) Games: 76 Points: 6.0 Assists: 3.3 Steals 1.6
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: A faded star well past his prime signs a final contract to come languish for a year as a Knick, then rides off into the sunset. (30 for 30 voice) Now what if I told you for one beautiful, fleeting season everything came together and it actually worked? Jason Kidd’s miraculous final year was breathtaking, the skeleton key to this entire list. He’s the best point guard on this list by a wide margin but to me the most impressive thing about his career was that he saved his best for last, as a 40 year old whose immense physical gifts had largely abandoned him.
The stat sheet won’t reflect his greatness. Kidd reminded me of a once unhittable ace whose stuff abandons him and has to survive on location, tempo and the element of surprise. A maestro digging deep and using every ounce of will, experience and savvy to survive innings and get out of jams. Technically, Kidd wasn’t the point guard, he started a majority of his possessions off ball with Felton walking it up and Basketball reference has him listed that season as a shooting guard but that’s fucking bullshit.
Kidd was the offense, his fingerprints on every possession. His unselfishness was infectious as career blackholes like J.R. Smith suddenly made the extra pass. He magically transformed into a dead eye shooter and the Knicks under Mike Woodson of all people shot 3s at a historic clip, an early draft of the revolutionary Warriors and Rockets squads. Kidd was the coach on the court, and crucially, he was the only Knick player or coach I ever saw really get to Carmelo. I believe due to Kidd’s pressure Melo would move without the ball, he’d pass up bad shots, I swear this is true, he would actually occasionally play defense, and he was good! Kidd was a floor general but also kind of an actual general, a true leader in every respect.
That year the Knicks won 54 games. A stunning 18 win improvement that rarely happens in basketball without a major superstar coming on board or a young group of talented kids meshing and making the leap. We had neither, but we had Jason Kidd (The next year we’d win 37. 37!) Kidd averaged 33 minutes a game and many people believe the 40 year old was burnt by the time we made the playoffs, and perhaps he was. But if you go back and watch that series with Indiana in the second round, we should’ve won. The way the league decided to officiate Roy Hibbert around the basket was completely fucked. Melo could’ve pressed criminal assault charges for several of the fouls Hibbert didn’t have called on him under the bullshit pretense that he was jumping straight- (deep breath) but I digress.
I waited my whole life for a great point guard to come play for the Knicks then I got it and it was everything I wanted it to be. It was a joy to watch Kidd perform his historic intellect on the court night in and night out. He was the heart and soul of his team, and that team played a remarkable, beautiful brand of basketball I’d only read about or watched other teams execute. Thank you Jason. It was almost worth the wait.