Sports fans in the Big Apple haven’t had a lot to cheer for in recent years. With two miserable football teams and a pair of underachieving baseball clubs, it’s up to the New York Knicks (and Brooklyn Nets) to help restore faith.
So far, the Knicks are answering the call. New York is coming off of a surprise trip to the postseason and off to a hot start in 2021-22. While cheers fill the arena now, New York fans aren’t afraid to give their own players an earful if they fall below expectations. That type of environment, according to one former NBA All-Star, is the reason for 20+ years of disappointment at Madison Square Garden.
The New York Knicks have struggled for many years
A lot of time has passed between the Knicks’ Cinderella run to the 1999 NBA Finals and last season’s surprise finish as a four seed in the East. That time, unfortunately, has been spent losing a lot of basketball games.
Between the 1999-00 and 2019-20 seasons, the Knicks recorded a winning percentage of .410. Not only is it the lowest out of 30 teams, but it’s 12 points lower than the Washington Wizards, who sit 29th. During that stretch, the Knicks have more 50-loss seasons (10) than playoff appearances (7). They have also had more head coaches (14) than seasons at or above .500 (11).
As a franchise familiar with the lottery, New York has had a difficult time hitting on draft picks. The Knicks haven’t selected higher than third overall since Patrick Ewing’s first overall selection in the 1985 NBA Draft. And the picks they have made are hardly long-term contributors, either. Of those eligible, the Knicks have failed to re-sign their last 18 first-round picks to a second multi-year contract. Some of those wasted picks include Michael Sweetney in 2003, Jordan Hill in 2009, and Frank Ntilikina in 2017.
Gilbert Arenas believes the fans are largely to blame for the Knicks’ failures
New York’s awful run over the last 20 years can largely be attributed to wasted draft picks. Or striking out in free agency. Or bad coaching hires. However, Gilbert Arenas has a different theory.
The three-time All-Star was discussing the Knicks on his show No Chill with Gilbert Arenas. He went on to explain how New York’s passionate fans are actually doing more harm than good.
“I love the Knicks because they’re so confused about how to be a sports fan,” Arenas said. “They just don’t get it. And it’s hilarious to make fun of them because no matter what you say, they just don’t understand that the environment that you have is not actually helping winning.”
Arenas continued, mentioning how booing the team in an effort to motivate them is doing the opposite.
“No one wants to go into a building knowing if they miss three shots they’re going to get booed,” Agent Zero added. “You would never hear Golden State boo Steph Curry or Klay Thompson. If Klay misses four, five, six, seven, eight shots, they’re going to cheer louder to get him out of the funk. If someone’s in New York and he misses four or five shots, you put them in a funk. There’s no getting out of it.”
Fans have many reasons to cheer the New York Knicks this season
Many players on New York’s roster don’t have a plethora of experience suiting up for the NBA’s most valuable franchise. Cornerstone players Julius Randle and RJ Barrett are in their third season with the team, while veterans Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker were added during the offseason. So far, the Knicks’ core has been met with more “Bing Bongs” than boos.
New York has gone 5-3 through their first eight games in 2021-22. Its 39.3% clip from deep is second only to the Charlotte Hornets, while its 45.8% field-goal percentage cracks the top 10. After being a defensive juggernaut in 2020-21, the Knicks now boast the third-highest offensive rating in basketball.
The Knicks have already defeated Eastern Conference foes like the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, and Chicago Bulls. And the way things are looking, fans can start thinking about back-to-back trips to the playoffs. But should a losing streak break out, fans might want to be a little more hesitant about showering their team with a barrage of boos.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.