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While the results haven’t always been there, especially since the turn of the new millennium, the New York Knicks are a key part of the NBA landscape. The franchise has boasted some legendary players, wears iconic uniforms, and plays in basketball’s mecca. But, as much as they’ve figured into Association history, the club’s name remains something of a mystery. What actually is a Knick? And what does it have to do with sports?

If you’ve ever asked yourself those questions, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered. As it turns out, the New York Knicks are called the Knicks because of a bit of local history.

Let’s break it down.

The New York Knicks get their name from the word ‘Knickerbocker,’ which means someone from New York

At the risk of taking you back to history class, New York was first colonized by the Dutch. While things have changed since then, there’s still a good deal of Dutch influence on the city. Beyond names like the Bronx and Broadway, the Knicks also represent a link to the past.

As laid out on the club’s website, the name “Knicks” is short for “Knickerbockers.” That, however, still leaves some questions. What exactly is a Knickerbocker?

The term initially referred to the Dutch colonists who wore their knickers rolled above their knees. Washington Irving further linked the term to New York when he penned a satire titled A History of New York from the Beginning of the World to the End of the Dutch Dynasty under the pseudonym Diedrich Knickerbocker.

Over time, though, the term lost its Dutch connotation and came to generally represent the Big Apple. Everything from beer to Broadway shows took the Knickerbocker name. There was even a sports team, albeit on the baseball diamond, known as the New York Knickerbockers as early as 1845.

So, when NYC secured a professional basketball team, the name was an obvious choice.

“The name came out of a hat. We were all sitting in the office one day – Irish, [publicity man] Lester Scott and a few others on the staff. We each put a name in the hat, and when we pulled them out, most of them said Knickerbockers, after Father Knickerbocker, the symbol of New York City,” longtime executive Fred Podesta recalled. “It soon was shortened to Knicks.”

The New York Knicks also have another nod to the Big Apple in their identity

The Knicks’ ties to New York City don’t end there, though. While the club doesn’t have a mascot, and its primary logo has evolved from an actual Knickerbocker into some text and a basketball, the brand does contain another connection to home.

As you surely know, the club (largely) takes the court in a combination of blue, orange, and white. If you’re a fan of sports beyond basketball, you’ll know that the New York Mets and New York Islanders also wear those colors. Just a fun coincidence, right?

Well, it’s a bit more than that. Those are the official colors of New York City and make up the city’s flag. And where does that visual identity come from? It’s the same (barring a central seal) as the United Netherlands flag from 1625, the year the city was founded.


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