I’ve Got Your Tough Trivia Question RIGHT HERE
One of the toughest trivia questions that you will ever see (and probably next to impossible to answer) is:
“Who owned the New York Knicks in the mid-1970s?”
Gulf & Western purchased the team in 1977, just as Bill Bradley was retiring, and immediately shipped Walt “Clyde” Frazier off to the woeful Cleveland Cavaliers a few weeks later.
This much, I, and any REAL longtime Knicks fan, have always known.
The question I have had since I was about 8 years old (when I would read my sports almanacs) is, “WHO OWNED THE KNICKS IN THE FIRST PLACE, ENABLING GULF & WESTERN TO BUY THE TIME TO BEGIN WITH?”
The world may never know.
That period of time is why the Knicks were largely moribund until Patrick Ewing hit his stride in the late-1980s. Nothing but massive overhaul after overhaul in the front office; the Gulf & Western Co. was undergoing several shapeshifting efforts itself, before selling to Jim Dolan in 1994, right after the 1994 Finals, and a staggering 13 different general managers and head coaches during the Gulf & Western years.
Those who love to spout, “1973. Enough said.” are not only imbeciles of the highest order, but are guaranteed to be unable to answer the trivia question.
The Knicks attempted to sign George McGinnis (would have been a decent move, except the Sixers owned his rights), and were penalized steeply for attempting to do so. They also attempted to lure Wilt Chamberlain out of retirement during this period of unknown ownership, which would have been shaky. Wilt was clearly done after the Knicks embarrassed the Lakers in the 1973 Finals.
The one move that would have kept the Knicks afloat during the late-1970s throughout the mid-1980s is the move that the UNKNOWN ownership FAILED to make in 1976: SIGNING JULIUS ERVING FROM THE NEW YORK NETS, WHO WERE SEEKING ENTRY INTO THE NBA (and the New York area, as a result) AND WANTED TO AVOID THE $5 MILLION TERRITORIAL RIGHTS FEE PAID TO THE UNKNOWN OWNERSHIP GROUP.
Erving was just entering his prime at the time, when all the Knicks legends from the 1970 and 1973 teams were either freshly retired (Reed, DeBusschere, Barnett), about to retire (Bradley), were shipped off (Frazier), or entering their last couple of years (Monroe, Phil Jackson — with the Nets, after leaving following the first year of the Gulf & Western ownership tenure). The Knicks actually drafted decently during those years, but the constant changing of the front office and the sidelines (save for the Hubie Brown years, which would have been even better with a King-Cartwright-Erving-Sparrow/Westphal-Truck Robinson lineup, with Trent Tucker, Sly Williams and The Human Eraser coming off the bench — and Ewing on the way two years later), but we only had King, and a bunch of nobodies — especially once Cartwright’s knees and feet began breaking down just as King tore up his knee and Ewing arrived two months after the King injury — until Ewing came into his own.
And everyone remembers the Scott Layden/Isiah Thomas years, but that absentee ownership period is what set the Knicks back for a good 15 years from the mid-1970s until the 1989-1990 season, which was Ewing’s best.
Few people, even some Knicks fans, even realize this.