We don’t quite understand Wednesday’s decision by the New York City Council to basically tell Madison Square Garden that it has 10 years to move. Especially after the $1 billion in renovations that are to be complete this year (do you know how many bad contracts James Dolan could have handed out with $1 billion).
The decision essentially puts a clock on what’s known as the Mecca of Basketball. What’s next: moving the George Washington Bridge from 181st street to midtown, or move Macy’s to the Lower East Side?
If this is, really, the last decade of what’s called “The World’s Most Famous Arena,” I can only hope that my beloved Knicks can get it together and win a couple of championships to provide a fitting closing chapter to the building.
For now, these are my five favorite Madison Square Garden sports moments.
No. 5 New York Knicks win second title in three years (1973)
Winning one title takes heart, commitment and dedication. But haters can always argue it was just plain old luck. So winning a second title with the same basic cast of players is what puts teams into the history books (see LeBron’s Heat this past year).
That 1973—while clinched on the road in Los Angeles, the series still serves as a special Madison Square Garden moment— title gave hope to New York fans that the Red Holtzman-coached Knicks would dominate the league for a long time.
We had no idea that 40 years later we’d still be waiting for the next championship. (Video: Knicks win 1973 NBA title)
No. 4 John Starks Slams the Bulls (1993)
No championship came to the Knicks on this play but it sure was dramatic. Watching Garden favorite John Starks slam the ball over Chicago Bull defenders—which included Michael Jordan although, in the post-game press conference, he denied being in the neighborhood—was a thing of beauty.
I would rather have won just one measly title over MJ’s Bulls during those Patrick Ewing championship runs.
Short of that, this dunk was a moment to remember. (Video: John Starks dunk)
No. 3 The Drought Ends – The Rangers Win (1994)
The Rangers in the early 1990s were distance cousins to the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs — and not in a good way.
All three franchises boasted large and passionate fan followings. And all three were chronic losers. In fact, it appeared none of the three would EVER win a title.
What made the Rangers plight even more bitter was that the new jack franchise on Long Island, the New York Islanders, captured multiple Stanley Cups in the ’80s.
The misery came to an end in 1994 when, led by Mark Messier, the Rangers grabbed their first title in 54 years, winning the clincher on their home ice. (Video: Highlights of Rangers 1994 Stanley Cup championship season)
No. 2 Ali-Frazier I – The Fight of the Century (1971)
A vivid memory from 1971 was the tremendous hype going into the fight for the undisputed heavyweight championship of the world (when’s the last time in boxing anyone was called undisputed champion).
The stars showed up, sporting designer suits, skimpy skirts and fancy furs.
And the fighters—with their intense hatred for each other—showed out.
It was, truly, one of the biggest sporting events ever. And while this 1970 fight didn’t earn the cool moniker like the fight that ended the Ali-Frasier Trilogy, “The Thriller in Manilla” did, Part 1, won by Frazier, lived up to the hype like few sporting events in history have. (Video: Ali-Frazier I)
No. 1 Willis Reed inspires the Knicks as they win their first championship (1970)
For New York basketball fans over 50, this is probably the number one sports moment of all time.
In game five of the series against the Los Angeles Lakers, Knicks captain Willis Reed tore a muscle in his leg and was forced to leave the game. Somehow, the Knicks were able to win to take a 3-2 advantage in the series, but with Reed out—and the Knicks having little to counter the size and strength of the dominant Wilt Chamberlain—few gave New York a chance.
The Lakers won game six at home, sending the series back to New York for the deciding game. No one expected Reed to play, but during the pre-game warm-ups he limped onto the floor and the crowd erupted. Reed started the game, hit the first bucket—a jumper—and then sat for the rest of the night. Walt Frazier came through with the game of his life—36 points, 19 assists and seven rebounds—and the Knicks won, 113-99, to win the title. (Video: Highlights from the Willis Reed game)