Editor’s Note: This thought provoking piece was written by dedicated Buckets Over Broadway reader Eric Nolan. Let him know what you think in the comments.
They got off to a slow start, but gained respect as the season went on. The Garden was alive again as top teams tumbled. Nationally-televised shows discussed them. They made the postseason for the first time in years. A devastating injury happened to their star player at a crucial point of the season. They were not able to make it past the first round, losing to a team with more experience. In one short year, players now want to come to New York. New York basketball is back. It was not a miracle year, but most fans would agree, it was a satisfying year for St. John’s.
Uh, I mean the Knicks?
Why does it come as a surprise to the average New York basketball fan that the Knicks and St. John’s seasons were fairly parallel? Maybe we couldn’t see straight, being caught up in all the storytelling this year surrounding the Knicks. But that had to be expected, after years of tales about the misguided behavior of the MSG crowd, of the strangeness of Stephon Marbury, whether or not Isiah was coming back. It had been so long since we were last excited about what was happening on the court that we forgot how to behave like regular fans. Our Herb Williams/Eddie Lee Wilkins-type role player was also an All-Star—we were confused. That’s why we embraced the Melodrama, that’s why we fawned over Felton, then got over him just as quickly. Why we saw Billups as a savior. We found ourselves standing on our feet at the end of Game 4, applauding, not exactly sure why but knowing that there was something great going on.
The fiction peaked with Amar’e's late entrance at the start of Game 3. It was in everyone’s mind: “Just like Willis Reed!” Well, that story ended poorly when Amar’e's version of a hobbling jump shot did not go in the hoop. “Maybe he’ll hit the next one,” some probably hoped. Nope.
But that was neither here nor there.
What was remarkable was not the parallels to any other Knicks’ season—to the 1970s finals or that the last home win was one year to the day of this year’s Game 3—but to what we saw St. John’s go through in the college season. St. John’s had a rough start, losing to Fordham early on, but slowly they started beating good teams. The Garden crowd went crazy as the Red Storm manhandled a high-ranking Duke team and won on a last-second shot versus Pitt. They made the NCAA tournament and there was speculation of them possibly going past the first round. One of their key players, D.J. Kennedy, went down and couldn’t play in the tournament. The Johnnies got Gonzaga in the first round and went down.
St. John’s is expecting one of the nation’s top incoming classes and coach Steve Lavin has shown us his growth during the ESPN hiatus. Amar’e and Melo have made the journey from the Western Conference and have created a desire to play in New York once again.
New York basketball is back. That’s the real story.