This is the latest in a series of examinations into different games, events and decisions that impacted Knicks history in some way, shape or form. Stories that are not as famous as, say, “The Dunk” or Willis Reed playing Game 7, but still have a place in Knicks history, especially for die-hard fans. Here is an archive of all the stories featured so far.
As Black History Month comes to a close, I thought it would be nice to take a look at a nearly forgotten piece of NBA racial history. Earlier in the season, the Los Angeles Clippers held off the Miami Heat in a thrilling 95-89 overtime victory in Los Angeles. While the nationally televised game certainly drew a lot of attention, what drew no attention was the group of players that competed in the game. All eighteen players in the game were African-American. This is not necessarily a common occurrence in the National Basketball Association (NBA) nowadays (particularly with the influx of talented players from Europe and the rest of the world), but it is common enough that I bet no one even noticed the fact during the Heat/Clippers game. Everyone just enjoyed an exciting basketball game, which is how it should be. However, like all instances of racial progress, before things can be accepted as simply “normal” there first has to be someone willing to be the trailblazer. In this case, it was the 1979-80 New York Knicks and a match-up against the Detroit Pistons on October 18, 1979 that changed the game for African-American players for years to come.