It started innocently enough. Two words that are as New York as hot dog stands and the Empire State Building became a rallying cry for the New York Knicks early in the 2021–22 NBA season. “Bing bong,” the sound before the subway doors are closed. But a funny thing happened on the way to celebrating the Knicks and their 5–1 start to the season.
The team co-opted the “bing bong” craze. It started showing up on the Madison Square Garden Jumbotron. What began as a fun fad became something done by rote. Did the Knicks make a 3-pointer? “Bing bong.” See, it’s right up on the scoreboard. And just like that, the magic began to fade.
The New York Knicks have struggled a bit of late
Since that blazing 5–1 start, the New York Knicks fell back to the pack in the Eastern Conference. A 103–96 road win over the short-handed Philadelphia 76ers on Nov. 8 was just New York’s second victory in its last five games.
The win improved the Knicks to 7–4, still the franchise’s best after 11 games since they were 8–3 in 2012–13. In their first year under coach Tom Thibodeau, New York snapped a seven-year playoff drought last season. It was 41–31, enough to get Thibodeau his second Coach of the Year Award. But the Knicks fell flat in the playoffs, losing in five games to the Atlanta Hawks despite having home-court advantage.
But after adding Evan Fournier and Kemba Walker in the offseason, New York has expectations of going further this year. Walker and Derrick Rose are forming an experienced but effective combination at the point guard spot. Walker, an All-NBA player with the Charlotte Hornets three seasons ago, is knocking down 45.0% from 3-point range, by far the best of his career. Rose, the 2010–11 NBA MVP, hits 43.2% from deep.
Julius Randle isn’t shooting well yet, but the offense runs through him, and he’s leading the club with 5.5 assists per game. But some of the air has gone out of the balloon of late.
Taking control of the ‘bing bong’ has been bad luck for the Knicks
As Ian Begley of Sports New York reported via Twitter after the New York Knicks were pounded at home by the upstart Cleveland Cavaliers on Nov. 7, some of the bing-bong magic has faded.
Since the Madison Square Garden Jumbotron started displaying the magic words, the Knicks have lost two straight at home. Before the debacle against the Cavaliers, the Toronto Raptors posted a 113–104 victory at MSG on Nov. 1.
Fans are superstitious creatures. When they believed they were behind the bing bong mojo, the Knicks were winning. But now that it became an establishment thing, New York hasn’t fared as well.
The truth is that the sound probably had very little to do with winning or losing NBA games. But if you want to suck the fun out of anything in a sports arena, take the spontaneity away. What was the coolest thing in the world becomes an eye-rolling bother. And fans of the Knicks need all the fun they can get.
New York Knicks fans have persevered through some rough times
Madison Square Garden may be the Mecca of basketball, but it’s been decades since an NBA championship made a pilgrimage there. The New York Knicks have won just two titles in their 75-year history, the last coming back in 1973.
If the last time a championship happened for your franchise occurred when Richard Nixon was president and John Lindsay was mayor, it was a long, long time ago.
Some theorize that the obsessive fan base of the Knicks is as much a hindrance to the team’s success as it is a help. Even a bit of success last season had the Garden rocking. But considering New York last reached the NBA Finals in 1999, it’s understandable that any good news would make the fans shift into overdrive.
After all, they lived through the “let’s let Phil Jackson build a team” era. That turned out to be a trauma one wouldn’t wish on their worst enemy. Before that, there was the particular circle of whatever underworld you happen to believe in that was Isiah Thomas’ time running the franchise. And, yes, James Dolan still owns the team, so the karmic forces have not smiled often upon Knicks fans.
Under Thibodeau, the Knicks are no longer pushovers. Visiting teams must worry about more than just enjoying the nightlife when they come to Manhattan. But maybe the New York Knicks can do their fans a solid and give the bing bong back to them. Fads are more fun when they’re organic. Putting it on the Jumbotron makes it a corporate thing, and those have a long history of sucking the joy out of a room.
Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.