Miles McBride, of the New York Knicks, during Tuesday night’s game against the Indiana Pacers. (Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Bill Bradley: The Knicks Could Be Champions

‘I still believe the unselfish team wins,’ the NBA legend tells The Free Press. ‘And these Knicks are unselfish.’

“I’m like a fan,” said Bill Bradley. “I’ve been waiting for this for a long time.” 

So, of course, has the rest of New York. It’s been 51 years since the New York Knicks last won a championship, with that iconic team anchored by Willis Reed and Walt Frazier, and that included, at small forward, future New Jersey senator Bill Bradley. Fifty-one years of inept management, bull-headed ownership and, sigh, Carmelo Anthony. Fifty-one years of praying that the Knicks could somehow figure out how to compete for a title again.

And now they’re here, in the conference semifinals and in with a chance. During Tuesday night’s game against the Indiana Pacers—which the Knicks won by 30 points, giving them a 3–2 lead in their playoff series—the camera showed Bradley in the stands a few times. And he posed with a dozen other former Knicks who were also at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. He looked pretty jazzed. So I emailed him to ask what he thought about this current Knicks team. 

“I took my daughter to the game,” he said, “and I told her, this is how it used to sound. There’s always an explosion when someone makes a great play. The Garden is always the Garden. But now, there is the anticipation of the explosion. This team has created an atmosphere where they’re never out of it. And therefore, you always think they’re gonna come back. And that anticipation leads to a kind of crackle in the crowd.”

I mentioned the ability of star guard Jalen Brunson to bring the crowd to its feet. “Yeah,” he replied, “and also when [Donte] DeVincenzo shoots or when [Josh] Hart drives hard to the basket.” These Knicks, he wanted me to understand, were not a one-man show.

“It’s the old story,” he said. “You’ve got to move the ball, hit the open man, play defense and box out for rebounds. And they’re doing a lot of that now. The three point shot has totally changed the game. But I still believe the unselfish team wins. And these Knicks are unselfish.”

The sports cliché is that you should never look too far ahead, but like everyone else in New York, Bradley couldn’t help himself. Once the Knicks get past Indiana—of course they will!—their opponent in the Eastern conference finals will be none other than the Boston Celtics. He chuckled. “We’ll move into our traditional modes,” he said.

He can’t wait. Neither can New York.

Joe Nocera is a columnist for The Free Press. Follow him on X @opinion_joe, and read his piece, “The Humiliating Cross-Examination of SBF.”

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