They say you never forget your first time, which might explain why the 1969-70 Knicks championship team has always enjoyed the prime spot in the franchise's annals.
There's no denying the narrative glories provided by Willis Reed's comeback from injury and Walt Frazier's masterpiece in Game Seven over the Lakers in the Finals, but it isn't quite enough to explain why that first title team is always held up as the pinnacle of Knicks basketball while the 1972-73 team gets shuffled off into the shadows.
Beating the Celtics in Game Seven at Boston Garden and knocking off the defending champion Lakers is a pretty good narrative, after all, and those second Knicks had the added storyline of Earl Monroe learning to live alongside other stars after burning brightly all by himself in Baltimore. The second time just never got the same respect as numero uno, though.
That changes a bit on Friday night when the Knicks host a 40th anniversary celebration of the team at halftime of the game against the Bucks. All the living members of the team are expected at the Garden, including the long-awaited return of Phil Jackson as something other than the target of barbs from the crowd that used to cheer him.
Or maybe not. Jackson's sure to get a mixed reaction after breaking our hearts so many times in the past, although you'd hope his work in bringing championship glory to New York wins out over all the rings he wound up winning elsewhere as a coach.
After all, not hiring Jackson seems to have worked out pretty well for this year's Knicks team. Mike Woodson's done a pretty strong job of juggling personalities, injuries and everything else over the course of the year and he's got the team playing its best ball in months at the moment when the Atlantic Division is hanging in the balance.
That's something that seems to have gotten a little less notice than you'd imagine given that it has been almost 20 years since a Knicks team has won more than the 10 in a row that the current squad has put together. The stench from the four-game losing streak that kicked off the western swing last month and the team's uneven play in January and February seems to have lingered a lot longer than makes sense given the alternate evidence, which is a shame because this would be a nice time to enjoy everything the Knicks have done this season.
From Carmelo Anthony doing a latter day Monroe move and embracing the whole over the individual to the hodge-podge of veterans finding fountains of youth to the endlessly entertaining J.R. Smith, there's been plenty to enjoy about this Knicks team. It doesn't mean much in the grander sense until we see what happens in the playoffs, but that doesn't mean you can't appreciate what's gone on to this point.
Perhaps celebrating the 1973 Knicks, whose accomplishments have been overlooked for a bit too long, will give everyone a reminder that it is okay to embrace all the good things that have happened on the court this year. This team might not wind up ending the championship drought, but it's been a really long time before even making the suggestion led to anything but laughter and that's gotta be worth something.