New York is often considered the Mecca of the basketball world. It’s home to the famous Holcombe Rucker Park in Northeast Harlem, which serves as the proving ground for some of the best basketball players ever to grace the courts. And it’s also home to a couple of billion-dollar basketball franchises. So, how many basketball teams does NYC have?
What NBA Teams are in New York?
The New York Knicks and the Brooklyn Nets are two professional basketball teams that proudly wave the New York City banner. The Knicks play their home games at Madison Square Garden, while the Nets play at Barclays Center.
The New York Knicks
The New York Knicks has been a cornerstone of the league since 1946. And with seven decades under its belt as an NBA franchise, the Knicks have seen it all.
In the 70s, the team was a perennial championship contended, with the legendary duo of Walt “Clyde” Frazier and Willis Reed as the team’s two best players. Those 70s Knicks squads even left us with a wonderfully inspiring moment when an injured Willis Reed hobbled back onto the court in a crucial Finals Game 7 win against the mighty Lakers.
In recent years, however, fate has not been kind to the Knicks as they’ve struggled to remain competitive in the NBA’s Eastern Conference. There was a seven-year stretch, from 2013-2020, where the failed to make the playoffs. This includes the dismal 2018-2019 season when they finished with a franchise worst of 17 wins in an 82-game season.
However, it’s not all doom and gloom for the Knicks as they’ve made some pretty savvy personnel changes in recent years. In 2020, for example, they signed Tom Thibodeau as the new head coach who had transformative stints with the Chicago Bulls and the Minnesota Timberwolves. With a new coach, the team also acquired Julius Randle in a trade and RJ Barret in as the third overall pick in that season’s draft. And most recently, they’ve acquired another All-Star caliber player in Jalen Brunson in free agency.
Suffice it to say that the last few seasons with this new core, was some of the best seasons the Knicks have had in almost a decade. Tom Thibodeau even won his second Coach of the Year Honors in 2021.
Fortunately, with rich history comes a deep-rooted fan base that spans generations. This fanbase helps the team stay popular despite years of not making it into the playoffs. And now that there’s a solid core in place, it looks like the organization is set to reward the fans for their loyalty by winning more games.
The team’s fan base doesn’t just comprise everyday folks but also high-profile celebrities passionately supporting from the courtside. Seeing famous directors, actors, and entertainers in the stands has become a common sight in Madison Square Garden now every time the Knicks are playing.
The Brooklyn Nets
Cross the famous Brooklyn Bridge, and you’ll find the Brooklyn Nets making noise in the Barclays Center. Unlike the Knicks, the Nets have never tasted the joy of bringing home the championship trophy. And it’s obvious in how the team approaches roster building duties.
The organization was among the most aggressive recruiting league’s best talents. They signed superstars such as Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving in 2019, and James Harden in 2021, all at their peaks. The trio brought some championship buzz around the team in recent years.
Unfortunately, the Nets failed to meet expectations year after year and has decided to take a different route in the 2023 season. And when buzz started to fizzle out, they traded away their three stars in exchange for young talent and future draft picks.
While current Nets fans know that the Nets call Brooklyn home, the fact that the franchise has roots in New Jersey isn’t exactly common knowledge. The Nets were founded in 1967 as an expansion team in the ABA. They were still called New Jersey Americans then and were only rebranded as the New Jersey Nets during the 1976 ABA and NBA merger.
The New Jersey Nets as a franchise had some success getting to the Finals in 2002 and 2003 during what’s now called the Jason Kidd years. But other than that, the Nets were not what one might call competitive during those days.
5 Notable NBA Players from New York
It’s not just the fact that two NBA franchises call New York City home that makes it the Mecca of basketball; it’s also the fact that the city develops top-quality basketball players. The city has birthed numerous NBA stars like Bernard King, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Carmelo Anthony – each adding to New York’s basketball tapestry in his unique way.
1. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
We can’t talk about Hall of Famers from New York without mentioning the great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. On his trophy case sits six Regular Season MVPs, two Finals MVPs, and six championship rings. We can go on and list his other minor awards, such as First-Team selections and Defensive First-Team selections, but that would require another article.
More than the accolades and awards, however, Abdul-Jabbar is idolized by fans mostly for his toughness in both mental and physical aspects. He was able to play basketball on the highest levels for 20 seasons while accumulating the most minutes played and total field goals made.
Unfortunately, he’s more associated with his amazing playing years with the Lakers than his New York roots.
2. Julius Erving
While most of us probably know him as a Sixers legend, Julius Erving’s childhood and basketball career started in New York. He was the star player of the New Jersey Americans and even won two championships with the team while they were still in the ABA.
Known lovingly as “Dr. J,” he exuded a charisma and style of play that was quintessentially New York. His showmanship helped raise the league’s profile and paved the way for other high-flyers like Michael Jordan. Every time he played, tickets got instantly sold out, with fans waiting to see what kind of dunk he could come up with.
Erving’s career has definitely earned him the right to be called a New York City basketball icon. He played with the flair and intensity that New Yorkers are known for.
3. Bob Cousy
With a legendary career with the Celtics, Bob Cousy’s early life as a hooper in New York is often forgotten. Cousy grew up in Yorkville and attended Andrew Jackson Highschool. Initially, the man they called “Hardwood Houdini” wasn’t a standout, but through grit and determination, he blossomed as a basketball player when he finally got to the collegiate ranks.
Cousy became one of the most decorated players in NBA history with the Boston Celtics. He won six championships, was a 13-time All-Star, and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1971.
4. Bernard King
If New Yorkers had to choose one player to represent the city’s basketball legacy, it would be Bernard King. His style of play is often described as intense and passionate, which reflects the very spirit of New York.
The hard-working small forward played for the New Jersey Nets from 1977-1979 and the New York Knicks from 1982-1987. And although he had brief stints with other teams like the Golden State Warriors and the Utah Jazz, his years with the Knicks and the Nets were definitely his most productive. So, it’s no wonder he became a fan favorite in Madison Square Garden.
5. Carmelo Anthony
Born on May 29, 1984, in Brooklyn, New York, is often viewed as one of the best scorers to ever wear a Knicks uniform. He can score from anywhere on the court, whether it’s from the post or from way beyond the three-point line.
Anthony’s rise to becoming a New York basketball legend began early at Syracuse University. He led the Orange to the national title in 2003 as a 19-year-old freshman. With his remarkable performance, he earned the title of Most Outstanding Player.
The young forward declared for the draft right after the magical 2003 NCAA season. Has that year’s third overall pick by the Denver Nuggets. He immediately made a splash by leading the Nuggets to the playoffs.
But the highlight of his career would have to be when he signed with the New York Knicks in 2011. With the Knicks, he became a true superstar, and he showed that by leading the team to three straight playoff appearances from 2011 to 2013. He dazzled the NBA with his ability to create space for himself. His jab step, for example, was the stuff of legends as defenders were wary of his power drives while still respecting his quick-release jumpers.
Unfortunately, his Knicks teams could not make it past the first round. And while he wouldn’t really be in a position to win titles, other NBA players would often pick Melo as one of the toughest players to guard.
Wrapping Things Up: How Many NBA Teams are in New York?
Historically, New Yorkers have always had a deep-seated love for basketball. Win or lose, fans of both teams continue to show up. And what’s even more impressive is that the love for both teams seems to be passed successfully down from one generation of New Yorkers to the next. This deep-rooted affection for basketball has carved a rich and glowing culture around the sport in the city, promising a vibrant future for the game.
And while the Knicks and the Nets don’t exactly look like championship-contending teams right now, it’s always a thrilling affair whenever they’re matched up.
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