Unsung Knick History – The 1996 Draft of No Return(s)

This is the eleventh in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) 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.

So many people have written in to me to suggest that I feature a story on the Knicks’ 1996 draft that I almost wonder if that inherently disqualifies it from being considered “unsung,” but then I figure, “Hey, if the people want to hear about, let’s talk about it!”

In June of 1996, the New York Knicks were getting ready for a Summer shopping spree. The team had cleared out significant salary cap space during the 1995-96 season through trading Charles Smith and Doug Christie. Once they renounced their free agent point guard, Derek Harper (and six other players, including J.R. Reid, who they had received for Smith) the Knicks were far enough under the cap to make a number of aggressive moves to re-shape their roster for the 1996-97 season.

Before that happened, the Knicks would have to participate in the 1996 NBA Draft, which was one of the most talent-rich NBA drafts in recent memory. This draft was notable for the Knicks in that they had three first round draft picks, numbers 18, 19 and 21. The top end of the draft was remarkable, with a top five of Allen Iverson, Marcus Camby, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Stephon Marbury and Ray Allen. However, the players drafted from #10-21 have combined for thirty All Star appearances (and counting)! And the Knicks had three picks in that #10-21 section.

And yet somehow, they ended up with effectively nothing.

Read on to find out what happened!
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Unsung Knick History – The Italian Job That Luckily Never Came About

This is the tenth in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) 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.

In the history of the National Basketball Association’s (NBA) Sixth Man of the Year Award, the award given out to the best player in the league who did not start for his team, only two New York Knicks have ever been given the honor. Those two Knicks are John Starks and Anthony Mason (in the 1996-97 season and the 1994-95 season, respectively). Besides having that award in common, Starks and Mason also have in common long, circuitous paths to NBA stardom, with stopovers in places rarely frequented by players who would later play in NBA All-Star Games (heck, Mason even started an All-Star Game!).

I detailed Starks’ journey in a piece here, but Mason’s journey was even stranger, and amazingly enough, when he finally got his big break, it came while his agent was trying to get him a spot in the Italian Leagues!

Let’s take a look at how Anthony Mason became a Knick…
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Unsung Knick History – For Want of $2,500, a Hall of Famer Was Lost

This is the ninth in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) 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.

Throughout New York Knickerbocker history, if any one thing seems to have been consistent, it has been that the Knicks are quite willing to pay for good players. Heck, before David Lee was signed and traded this offseason, it had been quite a long time since the Knicks were outbid on one of their own free agents (and even there, that was only because the Knicks spent even more money on another player at the same position as Lee). This is a team that gave Allan Houston a six-year/$100 million contract extension in 2001! When other teams were worried about how to afford their star players during the 1970s, the Knicks were willing to take whoever was offered.

However, in 1948, the Knicks actually lost out on their #1 draft pick, a future Hall of Famer (who was a native New Yorker, no less!) over a $2,500 disagreement!

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Unsung Knick History – The Curse of Dancing Harry?

This is the eighth in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) 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.

In 1945, a Cubs fan by the name of Billy Sianis was not allowed to bring his pet goat into a Cubs World Series game. The outraged Sianis supposedly cursed the Cubs, and the team has not made the World Series since then.

In 1958, the Detroit Lions traded away star quarterback Bobby Layne, who supposedly angrily remarked that the Lions would “not win for 50 years.” It has been over 50 years now, and the Lions have never made the Super Bowl and have the worst winning percentage of any team over that stretch (winning only a single playoff game in the last 52 seasons).

In 1983, upon the death of her father, George Halas, new Chicago Bears owner, Virginia McCaskey (Halas’ daughter), decided to get rid of the Bears’ cheerleading squad known as the “Honey Bears.” They had a contract through 1985, however, so she had to wait until after that season to get rid of them. That season, of course, included a Bears Super Bowl victory. McCaskey still got rid of the squad, and the Bears have not won a Super Bowl since (they lost in the Super Bowl once in that timespan).

Can you add the New York Knicks and Dancing Harry to that list? Read on and find out more (including just who the heck is “Dancing Harry”?)

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Unsung Knick History – Precursor to the Lebron Saga?

This is the seventh in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) 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.

Let me know if this sounds familiar. A young twenty-five-year-old player in his prime has been having success starring for his hometown basketball team, but he clearly wants out of the small market on to a bigger stage. Pretty much every team in the NBA wants a crack at him, but the New York Knicks think that they are in prime position to land the possible franchise-making free agent (a free agent who talks about himself in the third person) before getting their hopes dashed at the last minute and seeing him sign with a rival team.

That is what happened twenty-five years ago when George McGinnis was set to make his way to the New York Knicks and the NBA Commissioner said, “No!”
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Unsung Knick History Archive

Here is an archive of all the previous editions of Unsung Knick History.

1. How Bruce Bowen Was Nearly a Knick

2. Celtics “Cap-Size” The Knicks Salary Cap From the Start

3. The Knicks’ Version of Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery”

4. Four and a Half Davids Beat a Goliath (Named David)

5. When the Knicks Pulled the WRONG Name in the Lottery

6. The Starks Ejection That HELPED the Knicks

7. Precursor to the Lebron Saga?

8. The Curse of Dancing Harry?

9. For Want of $2,500, a Hall of Famer Was Lost

10. The Italian Job That Luckily Never Came About

11. The 1996 Draft of No Return(s)

12. Before There Was Red, There Was Fuzzy

13. Quentin Richardson for Half a Season of Mirsad Turkcan?

14. The Fight For…Chris Dudley?!?

15. The Long-Lasting Impact Bob Thomas Had On the Knicks

16. How the Pacers Helped the Knicks Get a Pearl

17. How Green Was My Plan A

18. Farewell to the King

19. The Night Willis Reed Fought the Entire Lakers Bench…and Won!

20. The King’s Court(room Battle)

21. Dentistry 1, Knicks 0

22. The Comeback That Saved a Season

23. Duane Causwell, Allan Iverson’s Big Steal and the Game No One Wanted to Win

24. Be Careful What You Wish For, You Might Just Get Swept

25. There Are No Station Wagons In Basketball!

26. The FIRST Notable Knick #15

27. How Greg Anthony Killed the Knicks’ 1996-97 Season

28. Small School, Big Results (for the Knicks)

29. How the “Marion Flu” Ailed the Knicks

30. The Worst Stretch Run in Knicks History

31. The Easter Resurrection of 1973

32. The First All-Black Game in NBA History

33. That Time the Knicks Forced a Game 7 Down 3-0

34. The Time That AC Green Kept the Knicks From Trading Charles Oakley for Kendall Gill

35. When the Dream Saved the Knicks from a Seventh Game Nightmare

36. That Time Isiah Thomas Nearly Joined the Knicks…as a PLAYER!

37. How we Almost Had a Grant Legacy in New York

Unsung Knick History – The Starks Ejection That HELPED the Knicks

This is the sixth in a series (of indefinite length and regularity) 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.

John Starks was one of the most popular Knicks of the 1990s and he perhaps was also the Knick with the most interesting mythology surrounding his life and career. For instance, we all know by heart the story of how Starks, playing on a non-guaranteed contract and feeling (most likely correctly) that he was about to be cut, tried to wow everyone by dunking on Patrick Ewing during the last game of the Knicks’ 1990 training camp. Ewing, of course, easily swatted him to the ground, injuring Starks’ knee. The injured Starks was not allowed to be cut until healthy, and by the time his knee was healthy, Trent Tucker had gotten hurt so the Knicks now did need a back-up guard, and the rest was history. That is just one small piece of the Starks mythology, which also includes the story of how he was working as a bagger at a grocery store at one point before going back to college. This story, however, is about Starks’ trademark fiery nature, which he never was quite able to control. Sometimes it would hurt the Knicks (like when he got ejected for head-butting Reggie Miller in the 1993 playoffs), but today we look at a incident Starks was involved in that, in a roundabout way, ended up helping the Knicks.
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