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Revisiting the Knicks' last NBA championship in 1973


In any given season, whether the Knicks reach the playoffs or not doesn’t matter — the world will hear about them either way.

It’s the nature of New York sports and the popularity the city brings them. Year after year, the media will include the Knicks in talking points regardless of their record.

For the better part of the 21st century, the Knicks have been the laughingstock of the NBA, rarely making the playoffs yet always center stage of media coverage. That’s changed recently, as the Knicks have emerged as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference after decades of dormancy and mediocrity.

The franchise has reached the playoffs in three of the past four seasons and is in the second round for the second straight year. Jalen Brunson & Co. can take the Knicks to heights they haven not reached since 2000 — the Eastern Conference Finals — and since 1999 — the NBA Finals.

With those two destinations in sight for New York, the Sporting News takes a dive into Knicks history, detailing the last time the Knicks won an NBA title.

MORE: Timeline of every Knicks NBA Finals appearance

New York fans have been starved of an NBA Finals appearance for 25 years. But they’ve gone without a championship for more than 50.

Behind a star-studded roster that included Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, Dave DeBusschere, Bill Bradley, Earl Monroe, and Jerry Lucas, the Knicks won their second NBA title in 1973. The first came in 1970 with a similar cast, and perhaps sweetest of all, both wins came against the Los Angeles Lakers.

The 1973 squad defeated the Lakers in five games, and Reed came away with his second Finals MVP trophy, becoming the first player to accomplish this feat. After a Game 1 loss in Los Angeles, the Knicks won four straight and closed the series out in L.A.

Reed posted 16.4 points and 9.2 rebounds per game in that series. Bradley led the team in scoring with 18.6 points per game, Frazier led with 5.2 assists per game and DeBusschere had a team-high 11.6 rebounds per game.

The 1973 title marked another crowning achievement for the late Hall of Famer, but Reed is most remembered for the 1970 NBA Finals.

Reed averaged 31.8 points and 15.0 rebounds per game through the first four games of the 1970 Finals. The series was tied, 2-2, and Reed tore a thigh muscle late in Game 5, which the Knicks won. He sat out Game 6 and was doubtful for Game 7.

That’s when “The Willis Reed Game” was born. Reed jogged out of the tunnel and played in Game 7. He finished with just four points and three rebounds, but he played 27 minutes despite enduring a severe thigh injury four days prior. The Knicks went on to win fairly easily, establishing a 27-point lead at halftime.

Reed became the first player in NBA history to be named the Finals MVP, regular season MVP and All-Star game MVP in the same season. The NBA introduced the Finals MVP award in the 1969 NBA Finals.

In the years following the 1973 title, the franchise was quiet — until the Knicks drafted Patrick Ewing No. 1 overall in the 1985 NBA Draft. New York went on to make 14 straight playoff appearances from 1988-2001.

A majority of those appearances ended in the Eastern Conference semifinals, but the Ewing-led team reached the NBA Finals twice, in 1994 and 1999. Both times, however, the Knicks lost.

The Knicks are still two rounds away from reaching the NBA Finals in 2024 and would likely need to defeat the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals to get there. Nonetheless, possibility is enticing.

Brunson has the opportunity to cement himself as a Knicks legend if he leads this team to the NBA Finals, a feat that’s happened just eight times in franchise history and just twice since the 1970s.

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The New York Knicks earned the No. 2 seed in the Eastern Conference in the 2024 NBA Playoffs.

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