Did the Knicks Ruin Basketball?


John Hollinger decided to put together a fake-quantitative method of analyzing the quality of different NBA franchises across the course of their existence. You get one point for each regular season win, two points for each playoff win, four points for each playoff series win, thirty points for each championship, a one hundred point penalty for changing cities, and also an adjustment of +/- 50-100 points for “intangibles.” So, for example, the Knicks get docked a 100 point intangibles penalty for playing good defense in the 1990s:

Those teams in the ’90s were the most successful since the ’73 champs, but not aesthetically. The Knicks employed a physical, bruising style that gave them one of the best defenses of all time but also produced an undeniable decrease in the game’s watchability as other teams began to emulate their muddying tactics. It took a decade to clean up the game in their wake.

I know people love to hate the Ewing-era Knicks, but I think it’s hard to argue that basketball was “unwatchable” during that period. Both the Spurs-Knicks Finals in 2001 and the Rockets-Knicks Finals in 1995 rated better than any of the past seven NBA Finals. In fact the 1990s were the peak of the league’s popularity. Obviously, that’s more because of Michael Jordan than because of Charles Oakley. But by the same token, the thing it took the league 10 years to recover from was Jordan retiring after the second three-peat, not the Knicks’ physical defense. Nor does it make a ton of sense to somehow hold the Knicks single-handedly responsible for the slow pace of the game in the Jordan era. All six of His Airness’ championship teams played at a below-average pace even in the slowest decade in the history of the game.