In the sports world, certain team names carry a specific connotation. The New York Yankees, for example, spend money and win championships. The Los Angeles Lakers’ roster is usually full of stars. Not every association, however, is positive. Just ask any NBA fan about the modern New York Knicks.
Despite being one of the league’s historic franchises, the Knicks have become a perennial punchline. Could one bold move change all of that and bring winning basketball back to Madison Square Garden?
The New York Knicks fall from grace
When you think of basketball meccas, New York is near the top of the list. In recent years, however, the Knicks have barely been worth watching.
The club wasn’t always a laughing stock, though. The Knicks won two NBA titles in the early 1970s, with players like Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, and Dave DeBusschere running the show. The club returned to dominance in the 1990s, thanks to Patrick Ewing, but never could make it over the hump.
Since the turn of the new millennium, however, things have been different. The Knicks have only made the playoffs five times; four of those trips ended in the first round. Barring a brief period when Carmelo Anthony and A’mare Stoudemire brought optimism back to the Garden, the club has languished. Between the inability to sign a meaningful free agent, an unstable front office, and arguably the worst owner in professional sports, Knicks fans haven’t had much to cheer about.
Could a rebrand save the New York Knicks?
While the Knicks are a historic franchise, the club has apparently realized that they need some outside help. They’ve hired Steve Stoute as a special advisor, hoping to turn things around.
Although sports fans might not know Stoute’s name, they’re probably familiar with his work. His advertising agency, Translation, has worked with the NFL and Anheuser-Busch; he also helped the Brooklyn Nets during their rebranding efforts.
“We have a ways to go,” Stoute explained. “People can say what they want, but the world knows when you get it right—when the New York team is winning—basketball is better. When the New York Knicks are right, the NBA is a better place. That is the opportunity.”
Everything has to start on the court
While Stout stated that his goal is to help the Knicks brand that is “strong regardless of the final score,” everything needs to start on the basketball court. Not only is that an intuitive statement—fans want to see their team doing well—but it has been backed up by players.
After signing with the Brooklyn Nets, Kevin Durant said the Knicks were too reliant on their past; while the franchise may have a rich history, the current generation of fans and players associates the club with losing. Jared Dudley touched on a similar point. While he was specifically discussing the Knicks’ Westchester practice facility, he painted a picture of a franchise that fails to address the realities of the modern NBA.
In a vacuum, a rebranding effort can’t hurt; it the real world, however, it’s far from a magic bullet. New York Knicks fans are loyal, but they’re not stupid. They want a competently run organization, not a shiny coat of paint over the same old issues.