It would be rare in 2011 to acquire a player at 29 years old, only to find his name among the all-time franchise leaders in seven categories a decade later. I have to assume it was even rarer in 1965, when the Knicks traded Bob Boozer to the Los Angeles Lakers and acquired Dick Barnett. Barnett wasn’t much more than a league-average player in two years with the Syracuse Nationals and three more in L.A., but he exploded in his first year in New York (’65-’66, as seen above) and while he never replicated that season statistically, he rode the momentum to eighth place on the Knicks all-time scoring list…oh, and two championships.
A product of Gary, Indiana, and Tennessee State who almost didn’t make it to college due to academic issues (says Barnett, who now holds a Ph.D. in education and used to teach at St. John’s, “I didn’t understand that athletics and academics could peacefully and productively coexist”) Barnett was known for the way he kicked his legs back during his jump shot. (Check out this clip for much more on Barnett’s story.)
His legacy to me, other than the guy that every great Knick has had to pass in just about every statistical category, is as one of the guys who kept us from being the Boston Red Sox or Chicago Cubs of the NBA. He wasn’t a big part of the 1973 team, sure, but he was integral in getting this franchise over the hump in 1970. Without him, this franchise could’ve been a laughingstock when Isiah Thomas was still in diapers; hell, hiring Isiah as GM might’ve been an improvement without those two titles to look back on. We’ve had a lot of guys on this list that most of the younger crowd isn’t too familiar with, but Dick Barnett is the true gem of the bunch, the one who needs to be remembered as more than just a stepping stone on some all-time franchise lists. We truly don’t know where we’d be without him.