ESPN: Greatest Knick 5?

ESPN has put together a little toy for NBA fans. You have the chance to assemble the greatest 5 from any NBA team. For the Knicks, PG is the most obvious choice (I can’t imagine anyone over Frazier), but there are some interesting decisions to make for the remainder of the roster. At center you could argue Ewing/Reed all night. Power forward gives the most depth without a clear winner: DeBusschere, Gallatin, Larry Johnson, David Lee, Charles Oakley, and Willie Nauls. At SG before you select your favorite from Starks, Houston, and Monroe, don’t forget olde tymer Richie Guerin (a 6 time All Star in New York).

In any case, if I were building a team of Knicks, here are three guys I’d avoid:

Stephon Marbury: There’s no doubt that Marbury had talent. Imagine if he stayed in Minnesota and worked on his defense next to Kevin Garnett? Those two teenagers could have made a solid core for a decade. Instead Marbury forced his way out of there, and nearly everywhere else he went. But that’s not the only chapter of the cautionary tale of Stephon Marbury. He went from a spoiled NBA player who couldn’t be bothered to play defense to creepy intern hunter to avert your eyes sideshow. His odd behavior in interviews and his do-it-yourself-internet-only reality show reveals a side of him that made the rest of his career a bit more understandable.

Ray Williams: The next time your cable goes out, your air conditioner breaks, or you don’t have some other creature comfort Americans expect in the 21st century, read this to put things into perspective.

Latrell Sprewell: I liked him as a player, but I think if you’re building an all-franchise team you want someone that isn’t the butt of two jokes. I wonder if kids today know Sprewell as the guy who choked his coach, or the guy who turned down a $27M contract, had no other offers, and then went bankrupt? I’d probably go with Bernard King, especially if I were building this team with modern medicine at my disposal.

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Mike Kurylo

Mike Kurylo is the founder and editor of His book on the 2012 Knicks, "We’ll Always Have Linsanity," is on sale now. Follow him on twitter (@KnickerBlogger).

39 thoughts to “ESPN: Greatest Knick 5?”

  1. The interesting thing is you could simply march out the 1972 Knicks and make a pretty legitimate argument that all five players are the best Knick to ever play that position. It’s not quite true, Bradley doesn’t quite make the cut, but it is really not too far from the truth.

  2. Here’s my 5:

    Center: Very tough call. My heart gives Reed the nod, as do the championships, the MVP award, the fact that he was The Captain of the greatest Knick team ever. You can make a compelling case for Patrick Ewing based on his size, skill and numbers (The Captain was my childhood idol, yet if Willis himself says Pat was the best Knick center ever, who am I to argue?) but as someone who saw Reed ascend to become the Bill Russell of the Knicks, I just can’t leave him out of the top-5.

    One way to avoid this choice is to make Reed the PF (Reed actually played PF beside the corpse of Bellamy before he and Komives were traded for DeBuscherre) To those who won’t accept this, Dave D is the clear winner over Oak at PF, based on all-star appearances among other things. It’s a shame Lee never got to play on a good team here or he might deserve consideration.

    The rest of the positions are pretty clear-cut:

    SF: Bernard King (no contest here, anyone here who was a Knick fan during the early 80’s would agree. Bradley was really good, but not ever close to all-NBA caliber. King had become the third best player in the league behind Bird and Magic until that terrible day when he got hurt.)

    SG: Earl the Pearl. Again, not even close. Perennial all-star, HOFer, top 50 of the century, need I say more?

    PG: Duh…#10

  3. Hasn’t this been done before? How about all time greatest 5 knick-killers by position? Guess you’d have to put MJ at sf, and miller-time at sg. What about the other 3? Stephon at pg? he was a real knick killer. ha ha.

  4. I have pretty much the same take as Z-man except I think Reed is a little further ahead of Ewing, Oak a little closer to DeBusschere and Houston at least deserves a mention. Though I think the 50s Kincks went to like 3 straight finals so I/we may be giving short shrift to Richie Guerin, Carl Braun and Harry Gallatin who really only get mentioned when they pass on. So if anyone is keeping score: Reed, DeBusschere, King, Frazier, Monroe.

  5. Based on the parameters of the ESPN’s who I picked. BTW I didn’t necessarily pick the “best” players, I picked from a coaching standpont, u know-the 5 who would flow the best together in my opinion: Ewing, DeBusschere(although u could put Oak here as he didn’t need the rock 2 be successful), King, H20, and Swishing and Dishing.
    However my top 5 would be (trying to stick as close to position as possible): Ew, Reed, King, and the starting backcourt of the last team that won the chip. That 1 was 2 easy. In my Honorable Mention spots would be Oak, DeBusschere, H20, and Spree. Yes, Spree. His career went horribly awry, but in the short time he played for the Knicks-he was arguably THE heart and soul of the squad. Tough D, insane energy, crowd fave, and the most dangerous Knick on offense at the time.

  6. I would say my all-time Knicks are Ewing, Reed, Bernard King, Houston, and Clyde.

    I’d also have Clyde doing the play-by-play as my all-time favorite announcer. (Is that a conflict of interest?) And I almost want to put Oakley at the 4 cause of his years of doing the dirty work, but I just couldn’t bump Reed and I do want to see the sweat dripping off of Patrick’s chin at the 5.

    All time Knick killers by position?

    I’d have Riley coaching, Wilt at the 5, Garnett at the 4, Jordan at the 3, Reggis at the 2, and (of course) Isaiah at point.

  7. My least favorite Knicks all-star team:

    PG: Stephon Marbury, Chris Childs
    SG: Shandon Anderson
    SF: Jared Jeffries, Charles Smith, Quentin Richardson
    PF: Othella Harrington, Zach Randolph
    C: Eddy Curry, Frederic Weis, Jerome James

  8. PG – Fred Cofield
    SG – Brian Quinett
    SF – Jarred Jeffries
    PF – Pat Cummings
    C – Jerome James

  9. This app is both fun and depressing. Honestly, in a 5 on 5 tournament, the all-time Knicks would probably come in in the all-time bottom 10.

    The Celtics and Lakers beat us two deep at every position.
    The 1996 Bulls alone would beat our all-time greatest lineup.
    The 2010 Miami Heat too.

    We’d probably lose to most of the following:

    Hawks: Nique, Pistol Pete, Moses Malone, Pettit, Johnson,
    Cavs: LeBron, Nance, Price, Daugherty, Harper
    Mavs: Dirk, Nash/Kidd, Blackman, Aquirre, Donaldson(!)
    Pistons: IT, Dumars, Hill, Rodman, Lanier
    Warriors: Webber, Richmond, Hardaway, Wilt, Barry
    Rockets: Barkley, Hakeem, Drexler, Rudy T., Lucas
    Bucks: Kareem, Allen, Big O, Robinson, Cummings
    Nets: Kidd, Dr. J, Carter, Buck, Gminski
    Hornets: Paul, LJ, Mourning, Rice, Chapman(!)
    Thunder/Sonics: Durant, Payton, Sikma, Chambers, Allen
    Magic: Shaq, Penny, Grant, McGrady, G Hill
    Sixers: Cheeks, Barkley, Dr. J., Wilt, AI
    Suns: Barkley, Hornacek, Eddie Johnson, Nash/Kidd/KJ, ?
    Blazers: Buck, Walton, Kiki, Porter, Drexler
    Kings: Webber, Peja, Divac, Richmond, Big O. (basically the 2002 roster plus Oscar Robertson)
    Spurs: Duncan, Robinson, Manu, Parker, Gervin
    Jazz: Stockton, Malone, Eaton, Maravich, Dantley
    Wizards: Hayes, King, Monroe, Bellamy, Strickland

    We’d beat the Nuggets, the Bobcats, the Pacers, the Clippers, the Grizzlies, the Timberwolves, and the Raptors.

    Question is: who would win it all? Depth doesn’t help the Celtics or Lakers, but they probably don’t need it either. Sixers are stacked. Pistons look pretty good. Darkhorse bets would be Jazz, Spurs, or the Suns playing 4 on 5.

  10. @12 – Strongly disagree. Pearl and Frazier is one of the top back courts in this app. King, Debusschere, and Reed/Ewing is a great front line. The 2010 Heat would have no answer for Ewing in the post nor Clyde at the point. Same for the ’96 Bulls.

    “Who would win it all?”

    The Lakers would beat the Celts in 7 games :)

    5. Shaq/Kareem/Wilt
    4. Gasol
    3. Baylor/Worthy
    2. Kobe
    1. Magic


    5. Russell
    4. McHale
    3. Bird
    2. Havlicek
    1. Cousy

  11. Please stop with Reed over Ewing at Center. Ewing is not only by far the greatest Knick Center in history he is by far the greatest Knick ever period.

  12. Also must add I did this yesterday and I knew the starting 5 would be by vote Clyde, Pearl, King, DeBusschere and Ewing but I had to vote for Houston and Oak at SG and PF. They were at least 2nd in voting at the time I voted. lol

  13. DS: @12 – Strongly disagree… The 2010 Heat would have no answer for Ewing in the post nor Clyde at the point.Same for the ’96 Bulls.

    Oh right. I forgot the Bulls never had an answer for Ewing in the post. That’s why he has so many rings, and Jordan so few.

  14. I just liked him alot Ted. I know he isnt anywhere near as good as Pearl, I just voted for him because he is my 2nd fave Knick ever after Ewing and I knew Pearl will have most of the votes at SG anyway.

  15. BTW Z, Ewing had some HUGE games against the Bulls in the playoffs. They used to have to double team him like crazy many times. Of all the games the Knicks won vs Jordan and the Bulls in the playoffs Ewing had a huge game in all of them except Game 4 in 1992 if I remember correctly.

  16. Also wait why the hate for Spree!!!! I f’ing loved Spree!!!! His D against Vince Carter in the 2000 playoffs was epic.

    As many have said, if only Spree had Houston’s offensive skills and Houston had Spree’s defense and overall intensity. A hybrid of the 2 players wouldve made one helluva SG.

  17. OK hold on, Pearl was great with the Bullets but he wasnt nearly as good as a Knick. He was part of the 1973 championship team, but in terms of their careers with the Knicks is he clearly the best SG in team history?? Houston is the 4th leading scorer in Knick history behind Ewing, Clyde and Reed. Looks like he might have a bigger case than I thought.

    Ted, I would be interested to see who your starting 5 would be especially since you go about it statistically.

  18. Jafa, I understand why because he was just a scorer and thats it. A pretty decent efficient scorer but not efficient enough to make up for the lack of everything else. I still think he was a much better defender than people give him credit for though.

  19. BBL,

    You are right, but I prefer to view our past greats fondly, even while acknowledging their shortcommings. Houston was not Jordan great, or even Reggie Miller great, but he was the best pure shooting guard we had in the late 90s and early 2000s.

    I prefer to remember how we snatched him from Detroit, how he killed the Miami Heat in the playoffs, how he teamed up with Sprewell to lead us all the way to the finals as a #8 seed (I know, LJ and Camby contributed to that ride as well, including the lost art of Van Gundy type Defense) and how he was our constant representative at the all star games (something we haven’t had since he last did it – and David Lee making it as an injury sub isn’t just as sweet as those who were originally picked).

    Think about it – could we use an Allan Houston in his prime right now to be our starting 2? With his sweet stroke, he would probably average 27 ppg in Mike D’s system, while shooting 40% from 3 pt land (his career average).

    So Ted, celebrate the good things – fine wine, sliced bread and the sweet stroke on a Houston jumper that would may Ray Allen jealous.

  20. @16 – Z, you said the ’96 Bulls could beat the Knicks best 5 ever. Jordan winning 6 rings does not mean Luc Longley could shut down Ewing in his prime, in the post.

    Anyway, for fun here is a comparison of the ’96 Bulls vs. the Knicks best 5 in the their best year as a Knick:

    1) Ron Harper vs. Clyde Frazier:

    2) Jordan vs. Monroe:

    3) Pippen vs. a healthy King:

    4) Rodman vs. DeBuscherre:

    5) Luc Longley vs. Ewing – hence, the “no answer” comment.

    As I said before, I think Frazier and Ewing gives the Knicks the edge but Jordan’s ’96 season is head and shoulders above Pearl’s best as a Knick.

  21. Hell the 1996 Knicks gave the 1996 Bulls their worst loss of the regular season (a 32 point whooping at MSG giving Van Gundy his first career win) and were the only team in the East to win a playoff game vs them that season winning Game 3 at MSG in OT only because Jordan went crazy at the end of the 4th quarter to send it into OT. They shouldve won 2 playoff games vs them but they pissed away Game 4 in the end.

  22. I would never put either of these guys in the all time Knick 5, but 2 of my favorites from the 90’s Knicks were Derek Harper and Anthony Mason (“the locksmith”) Both were tough SOB’s and a big part of the Knicks’ success in that era. I know Mason’s antics were a little hard to take, but the man could play some serious D and actually had some nice post moves.

  23. @25– Not sure how best to score this hypothetical match-up. If I was an odds-maker I’d bet the Bulls would win. Position-by-position Knicks may get a slight edge. Knicks win in total PER 104.5 to 90.3. Bulls win in WS/48 .912 to .931.

    But if you swap out Longley for Kukoc, it’s realy not close. Kukoc was 3rd on the team in minutes, 2nd on the team in WS and 3rd in PER (20.4).

    Do the same exercise for the ’80s Lakers and Celtics, position-by-position with the all-time-great Knicks and I’d bet the same result would occur. Those teams had multiple “GOTME” contenders on them. The Knicks have had none, ever, at any position.

    But the point I was making wasn’t that a team composed of the greatest Knicks of all-time couldn’t beat a single-season Bulls team. My point was that the greatest Knicks of all time, position-by-position, aren’t very good compared to the other all-time great teams in the league. Walt Frazier is the only legitimate all-time great at his position. Ewing was our warrior, but objectively, he simply doesn’t match up with the great centers, either of his era, or those that came before him. (see: for KB’s analysis (an analysis that doesn’t even include Kareem, Wilt, Russell, Walton, or Mikan)). The rest of the choices to fill out the Knicks all-time great roster aren’t really much to choose from considering the larger pool.

    The other teams on that App, to me, have some pretty great looking teams. Take Phildelphia. The Sixers 5 of Wilt, Barkley, Dr. J, Cheeks, and Iverson would beat the Knicks 140-79. Or Washington, which also boasts King and Monroe, but adds Elvin Hayes and Walt Bellamy to the mix. Or Cleveland, who if you swapped out Hot Rod Williams with LeBron James, the 1988-89 Cavs would probably be the greatest team of the modern era.

    Meanwhile we’re left to choose between Latrell Sprewell or Gerald Wilkins…

  24. Monroe vs. Houston
    There is really no comparison between these two. Monroe was on the 50 greatest player roster. I was fan during his time, and he was a superstar, period. Even Frazier would tell you that, look for quotes on what he thought of Pearl. I listened to Marv do every knick game during the Monroe era and can tel you that he was as revered as, say, Dwayne Wade is today. The fact that his stats dropped off when he came to the Knicks is very misleading. If LeBron’s stats drop off (or Wade’s) on this year’s heat, is he a lesser player?

    Reed vs. Ewing
    BBA, the reason I go with Reed (again, having experienced virtually every game of both players) is that Reed had leadership abilities that transcended his talents as a player. He ws larger than life in his playing days, Ewing was not.

  25. Yeah, Houston isn’t in the same universe with Earl. It’s silly really.
    Oak seems easy too.
    I think I take Reed over Ewing because of his leadership, and his ability to deliver a championship. Ewing couldn’t get it done.
    Bernard King should be there, which makes an even stronger case for Reed. With King on the court, Pat wouldn’t get nearly as many shots. Clyde is a lock at point.


    All this is doing is making me see the inadequacies of this Knicks squad…

  26. Ewing’s lack of leadership skills was having 0 HOF teammates and only having 2 teammates in Oak and Starks make the All-Star team during their time with the Knicks and those All-Star appearances was due solely to the team’s record in 1994 (plus no MJ at SG in Starks’ case).

    I really thought after all these years of being beyond awful people would stop with the stupid Ewing crap and realize what a great player he was and how important he was to the franchise.

    Im fortunate enough to have found a website with thousands of old NBA games and have been able to download and re-watch a bunch of Knicks playoff games from the 90’s. I am 30 yo now so I remembered all those games vividly but watching them again gave me even more appreciation for how good a player Ewing was. Offensively those teams prior to the 1996-1997 season was all Ewing all the time and for good reason. But to me the part of his game that may be completely underestimated was his defense. Forget shot-blocking and defensive rebounding which he was great at but my god he challenged everything and the way he played D on the pick and roll is something you never see anymore. Plus he gave his 110% every minute he played which I know is not something we should really praise but still.

    Even when he was old and broken down his performances in Game 5 in 1999 and Game 7 in 2000 vs the Heat and an in his prime monster in Zo are epic. Was he as good as Olajuwon or an in his prime Shaq?? No he was not. Nor was he obviously as good as Jordan. But he was still a HOF/50 greatest player ever. He was also my favorite player ever and always will be damnit!!!!

  27. BBA, I hear you, especially the part about playing with 0 HOFers. I will make the point that Reed only played with 2 bonafide HOFers (Clyde and DD.) Bradley was inducted and I loved him, but he really wasn’t a HOF caliber player. It’s a really tough call for me, and I can’t argue against your feelings on Ewing. Sadly, the lack of a championship is undeniable, and he never fulfilled the dreams we had when he fell in our lap at the first draft lottery.. Reed not only had greatness to his game, not only won all 3 MVP awards that year (Ewing never won any), he willed his team to a championship despite a gruesome injury. I was 12 years old when I watched that unfold, and can tell you that there will never, ever be another Knick moment like that. The grainy old videos just cant do it justice. Maybe if Ewing had come out in 1999 vs. Spurs with that partially torn achilles I would have thought differently. If there was any way possible, Reed would have been out there, you can be sure of it.

  28. PS , re HOFers, I was only referring to 1969. Monroe and Lucas came along later and by the next championship, reed was in serious decline due to injury.

  29. Z-man I totally understand. Considering you were able to watch those 70’s Knicks at the age I got to see the 90’s Knicks we both feel the same way to those teams although luckily for you the Knicks won championships. Of course I cant complain because I am as big a Yankee fan as I am a Knicks fan so I was able to enjoy the late 90’s Yankees at the age where you will never forget those teams.

    I will say this though I understand the Reed thing in Game 7 vs the Lakers but he only scored 4 pts and if Im not mistaken didnt even play half the game!! I always was curious why Clyde Frazier isnt more revered than Reed considering he was the one who scored almost 40 pts and close to 20 assists that game plus I love the highlight of him straight pick-pocketing Jerry West and going all the way for the layup while drawing a foul.

    Trust me I totally respect the 70 and 73 championship teams so my say Ewing is better than Reed is in no ways meant to disrespect Reed at all. I just think Ewing still gets an unjustified bad rap by some thats all.

  30. There are lot of reasons why Reed overshadowed Clyde. Reed was the undisputed heart and soul of that team. When he went down in game 5, the Knicks still won the game to go up 3-2. From that moment, however, the whole city was asking whether Reed would suit up for game 6 (he didn’t and Wilt demolished us) and then up until the warmups of game 7. The buildup was beyond my ability to explain it, and as a kid from the Bronx who started rooting for the Knicks when Reed was a rookie, it was almost too much to take. When he came out of the locker room, not only did the Garden go berserk, but Clyde said the Lakers were watching in disbelief.

    It still seemed too good to be true to me, and everyone still knew that Reed was far from 100% and the Knicks were going up against Wilt and West in the most important game in franchise history. Then Reed comes out and hits those two jumpers to start the game and drags his leg around the court for 27 minutes. It was pretty unbelievable, and all the more dramatic because it was the first championship ever for the Knicks. If nothing else, his impact on his team despite the paltry stats in the box score exemplified the value of leadership, something we haven’t had around here in a while.

    Here’s a pretty good article on that game:

    Ewing is as deserving of best Knick player ever as anyone, but Reed had the moment for the ages. I truly wis that Big Pat could have given us just one moment like that. Alas…

  31. Jafa: Ted,

    Why are you so low on Houston?

    I wouldn’t say I’m low on Houston at all. I just think Monroe was clearly a better player, including his Knicks career.

    Allan Houston had one season where he broke a 17 PER and 2 where he broke a .111 WS/48. For a guy playing the modern era whose strength was scoring…………………… Not that impressive. I would take Earl Monroe based on raw stats, and when you consider he played pre-modern era I think (assume really… haven’t particularly researched it) that only helps his case.

    I will grant people that the SG competition is not particularly fierce over Knicks’ history. I just think Houston often gets overrated based on his stroke, high scoring totals, professionalism, huge contract…

    BigBlueAL: OK hold on, Pearl was great with the Bullets but he wasnt nearly as good as a Knick.

    He wasn’t particularly better on the Bullets. His rookie season was his best season, but he was pretty consistently good. Houston wasn’t very good as a Knicks either. Earl played about 7 seasons on the Knicks and Allan 8–cutting out both their last seasons where they didn’t play much–so, the Bullets case can also be made with Houston and Pistons (though he wasn’t very good there either).

    BigBlueAL: Ted, I would be interested to see who your starting 5 would be especially since you go about it statistically.  

    I would go with Clyde, Earl, and Bernard King… frontcourt spots are really tough. I went with David Lee and Patrick Ewing on ESPN. Lee mostly because I knew he wouldn’t get much love and Ewing/Reed was more or less a toss up to me.

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