Rich Reminisces: 1969-70 New York Knicks Team

Some people don’t like to admit their age or how long they have been doing various aspects of their life. On the other hand, I am proud to say that I’ve been following sports for more than 50 years now. Obviously, one does not always give today’s players the same respect as they do to the ones from their youth.

A few months ago, I watched the entire first half without interruption of a Warriors/Cavaliers NBA finals game and was struck by just how great of a team the Golden State Warriors are. That is correct, they play as a great team even if one of their players gets so hot for a game because they let them explode. Witness the Klay Thompson NBA record 14 three-pointers recently. Somehow, that record reminded me of the game Kevin McHale scored 56 points for a Boston Celtics record, only to inspire Larry Bird to post a 60 point game just nine days later. It makes you wonder if Steph Curry will be going for 15 three pointers in a few games.

Of course, in those 1980’s days there were not enough cards issued for anyone to commemorate those games. Today, we’d have a Panini Instant card and then another one issued a few days later. Since we don’t have any of those for the Celtics, how about a nice Kevin McHale Rookie Card instead? That nine-day interim between those two events reminded me of how the WWF (now WWE) passed the Heavyweight Championship torch from Pedro Morales to Bruno Sammartino. Since you could not have a good guy defeat another good guy, you had to have an interim champion. Well for nine whole days, Stan “The Man” Stasiuk was the WWF champion until Bruno pinned him.

Hey, anytime I can digress and mention Stan “The Man” Stasiak, it’s a good day. But back to the real point, the Warriors remind me of the New York Knicks team of my youth, of which they were renowned for their team play. There is a famous clip from Game 7 of the 1970 NBA finals versus the Los Angeles Lakers in which each player gets passed the ball and there was not a dribble during the sequence. Of course the whole Game 7 began with the famed “Is Willis Reed going to be able to play” discussion in New York. No one knew until Willis came out of the runway dressed in his warm-ups and ready to attempt to play. The entrance of Willis Reed is one of the great moments in NBA history. Topps only had one player to put on a card for each game and as you will see they had good reason to choose their selection for Game 7.
However, there is a NBA finals card of Reed, but it features Game 1 action.
Note: the other player featured on this card is Jerry West, known as the player the NBA Logo is modeled on.
After Reed hit his first two shots in the opening minute of Game 7 he never scored another point, but the Lakers were so demoralized they never were really in the game. The Knicks were led by Walt “Clyde” Frazier who had 36 points, 19 assists, 7 rebounds, and a few steals. Steals were not an NBA stat then so those were not officially recognized, but he had a few that night.
The other Knicks player in the picture is “Dollar” Bill Bradley, who was quite famous in his own right because of his NCAA experience. Bradley had a few short years prior set an NCAA record while at Princeton with 58 points in a tournament game. He also later became an U.S. Senator from New Jersey.
The other two starters were Dave DeBusschere, who was such as a baseball pitching prospect that the Chicago White Sox protected him and let Denny McLain be exposed in a draft. The Tigers took McLain, but before he flamed out, he became the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season. With what teams are doing today, there are many who will not even have ONE starter start that many games, and thus McLain will be the last pitcher with 30 wins in a season for a long time indeed.

By the way, this rookie card featuring DeBusshere and others as floating heads is a cool card in that it was issued in 1963, but Topps had first series issues and just as many of us have difficulties getting used to a new year, Topps still thought it was 1962 when they were beginning their 1963 set. This was corrected reasonably early to reflect the correct year.

The final starter was Dick Barnett, who had a jump shot with his legs going in an almost question mark design, and also loved to say “Fall Back Baby” whenever he shot. By the way, with everything else gong on in Game 7, Barnett chipped in with 21 points very quietly.

One aspect about sports in New York around 1970 was that the world was seemingly revolving around getting books out about the Jets, Mets and Knicks, who within an 18-month period all won their first championship. There was even a commercial featuring the Knicks subs getting pulled from the starting lineup because they had dandruff. I could not find that commercial, but you’ll have to trust me that it was made.

And for those of you who want to devote about 90 minutes of so of your life and see what real team game NBA basketball once was, here is a YouTube video of the famed game 7:

Thanks for reading and we’ll see you again real soon with another reminisces or two about days past and present

Rich Klein can be reached at RichKlein@Comc.com

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