Fifty years ago yesterday, two notable events occurred in New York City within hours of each other. (Yes, it’s still 8 May for a few more minutes in Kansas, but it’s 9 May in NYC, so yesterday is appropriate).
One, the Hard Had Riot, was one of many regrettable episodes in the more than 400 years of the city once known as New Amsterdam (“Even Old New York was once New Amsterdam”, a famous line from the famous They Might Be Giants song, “Istanbul not Constantinople). Occurring four days after Sandy Scheuer, William Schroeder, Jeffrey Miller and Allison Krause lost their lives at Kent State, 200 construction workers mobilized by the New York State AFL-CIO attacked more than 1,000 students protesting the war and mourning the Kent State four.
Apologies to Ms. Scheuer’s family and friends for misspelling her name with an extra “R” in previous posts.
It began at 07:30 with a memorial for Scheuer, Schroeder, Miller and Krause at Federal Hall. Four hours later, construction workers broke past a pathetic police line and started beating the protesters, especially those men with long hair, with their hard hats, steel-toed shoes, and anything else they could find.
Four policemen and 70 others were injured. Fortunately, nobody was killed.
This was not the case in January 1976 when union members murdered a non-union worker at a chemical plant in Lake Charles in the midst of Louisiana’s push to become the last southern state to pass right-to-work legislation.
Six months later, after right-to-work cleared both chambers of the Louisiana legislature, the leader of the right-to-work campaign, Shreveport advertising executive Jim Leslie, was murdered in Baton Rouge by a sniper acting on orders of Shreveport police commissioner George D’Artois, who attempted to use city funds to pay for his election campaign. Leslie flatly refused D’Artois’ bribe, and paid for it with his life. Rat bastard D’Artois dropped dead in June 1977 before he could be brought to justice. It would have been lovely to see the S.O.B. rot in Angola.
Back to 8 May 1970 in the Big Apple.
Nine hours after the construction workers attacked innocent protesters who had the nerve to exercise their First Amendment rights, the Knickerbockers met the Los Angeles Lakers at Madison Square Garden for the championship of the National Basketball Association.
Hours after the Kent State shootings, the Knicks won Game 5 107-100 at MSG to take a 3-2 series lead despite losing the NBA’s 1969-70 Most Valuable Player, Louisiana native and Grambling alum Willis Reed, to a serious leg injury in the first quarter. Los Angeles led 51-35 at halftime, but committed 19 turnovers in the final 24 minutes, leading Lakers fans to believe their franchise was cursed, if they didn’t already.
Two nights later, with Reed back in New York, the Lakers destroyed the short-handed Knicks at The Forum 135-113 behind 45 points and 27 rebounds from Wilt Chamberlain.
The teams flew commercial from LAX to JFK the next morning, leaving them approximately 30 hours to rest for the winner-take-all game.
Charter flights were not the norm in the NBA or NHL until the late 1980s, which means the likes of Chamberlain, Reed, Jerry West, Bill Bradley, Walt (Clyde) Frazier, John Havlicek, Bill Russell, Dave Cowens and Oscar Robertson flew charters very rarely, and Kareem didn’t fly them for the majority of his career. Same for Bobby Orr, Phil Esposito, Rod Gilbert, Stan Mikita, Bobby Hull and Jean Beliveau, although Les Habitants (the Canadiens) may have been flying charter before the American teams.
The Lakers were planning a glorious return to LAX Saturday morning, then a parade similar to the ones enjoyed by the Dodgers following World Series wins in 1959, ’63, and ’65.
The Knicks wanted to be honored with New York’s third ticker tape parade for a championship sports team in 17 months, following the Jets in Super Bowl III and the Mets after the ’69 World Series. In between the Jets and Mets, Neill Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin and Michael Collins were honored with their own parade for Apollo 11.
Sadly for most of the 19,500 who passed through MSG’s turnstiles that Friday evening, the Knicks’ chances appeared dim without Reed.
Then, the NBA’s version of Moses parting the Red Sea occurred.
ABC announcers Chris Schenkel and Jack Twyman lamented the Knicks’ fate without their MVP, but as they went on, Twyman excitedly noticed Reed coming out from the tunnel.
Reed took the court with Bradley, Frazier, Dave DeBuesschere and Dick Barnett for the opening tip.
Eighteen seconds later, Reed, who could barely walk, took a jump shot from 20 feet.
A minute later, Reed scored again to make it 5-2.
Willis Reed did not score another point.
He didn’t need to.
His defense against Chamberlain spooked The Big Dipper, who was limited to 21 points, although he led all players with 24 rebounds.
Frazier picked up the offensive slack with 36 points and 19 assists, and New York rolled to a 113-99 victory in a game which wasn’t that close.
The Knicks were NBA champions for the first time. New York had its third championship team in 17 months. Prior to that, the Big Apple went six-plus years without a title after the Yankees won the 1962 World Series. The Giants were in the midst of 29 seasons without a title, with Super Bowl XXI a little less than 17 years off. The Rangers’ Stanley Cup drought stood at 30 years in 1970 and would last 24 more. The Islanders and Devils (Kansas City Scouts/Colorado Rockies) didn’t exist, and the Nets were an afterthought until they signed Julius Erving.
The Knicks won the title again three years later by defeating the Lakers in five games, one year after Los Angeles got the monkey off of its back by ousting New York in five.
Since 1973, the Knicks have been to the championship series twice, losing to the Rockets in 1994 and the Spurs in 1999. The Lakers have had slightly more success, winning five championships in the 1980s and five more in the 21st century.
Today’s Knicks are an outright disgrace to Red Holzman’s championship teams. Thankfully, the surviving members of the 1969-70 Knicks didn’t have to put up with having to watch the 2019-20 Knicks at a 50th anniversary reunion; it was cancelled due to COVID-19. Owner James Dolan is a douchebag who continues to anger fans with his outright stupidity and callousness. Isaiah Thomas is a sexual harasser who should be in prison, but Dolan loves him, so he still has a high-paying job with the Knicks.
That’s more NBA than I care to discuss, so I’m signing off.
The New Orleans Pelicans won the first overall pick for the upcoming NBA Draft last night in the lottery.
I was very happy on two fronts.
First, I’m happy for the team playing in my native city.
I’ve been a Bucks fan since I was old enough to follow the NBA. The Jazz left the Crescent City four months before my third birthday, so I have no memories of Pistol Pete playing in the Superdome when the games actually happened. I thought the NBA was certifiably insane to let the Hornets relocate from Charlotte to New Orleans in 2002, because New Orleans, I felt, didn’t have the population nor the wealthy fans to support a team playing 41 home games per season. The Saints have enjoyed rabid support since their first season of 1967, but the Saints play only 10 home games (eight home games and two exhibitions which are nothing more than scrimmages under game conditions) a year. Prime seats for NBA games cost at least $300 per contest. Multiply that by 41 and you get the picture.
There was a time I believed the only reason New Orleans still had an NBA team was because David Stern felt sorry for the city after Hurricane Katrina. I believed for many years the NBA should have let the Hornets stay in Oklahoma City, where they played most of their games during the 2005-06 and 2006-07 seasons, which would have allowed the SuperSonics to stay in Seattle. But Stern (a) loved New Orleans and (b) loved Clay Bennett, who bought the Sonics and moved them to Sooner country in 2008.
However, I simply cannot ignore the place where I grew up and the state in which I lived the first 29 years of my life. I want the Pelicans to do well. I want them to win 80 of 82 games every season–the other two is when they play the Bucks.
The Pelicans were given the giant middle finger by Anthony “Unibrow” Davis when he demanded a trade to ONLY the Lakers or Knicks in January. Gayle Benson didn’t budge, and the Unibrow had to spend the rest of his season in the Crescent City, where he dragged down the Pelicans to a 33-49 record.
Benson was right to hold on to Davis. She cannot let the Pelicans get brutally robbed the way the Bucks were in 1975 when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar forced his way out of Milwaukee with a trade to the Lakers, who sent the Bucks a bunch of nothing.
The Bucks weren’t the only NBA team the Lakers robbed blind in the ’70s; the Jazz gave away a first round draft pick for over-the-hill Gail Goodrich. That pick became the number one overall pick in 1979. The Lakers used it to draft some fellow named Earvin Johnson from Michigan State. The Jazz could have had Magic. Enough said.
New Orleans has some very interesting paths to take with the first overall pick. It could draft Zion and trade Davis for the king’s ransom he should bring in return; the Pelicans could trade the pick AND Davis and begin a massive rebuild similar to that the 76ers undertook at the beginning of the decade; it could draft Zion and then attempt to re-sign Davis, hoping to build a new Big Three with Zion, Davis and Jrue Holliday; or it could draft Zion and shop him to the highest bidder if it cannot resign Unibrow.
David Griffin, the Pelicans’ new Executive Vice President and General Manager, is the envy of his 29 counterparts across the NBA.
The other great thing about the Pelicans winning the lottery: THE KNICKS DIDN’T.
Few teams in all of professional sports infuriate me more than the Knicks. Never have liked that franchise. Hated it when David Stern rigged the first lottery in 1985 to allow the Knicks to take Patrick Ewing, then Ewing saying he would never have signed with the Pacers had they won the lottery that year. Hated it when former Knick great Bill Bradley preached socialism during his political career as a U.S. Senator from New Jersey and later as a failed presidential candidate.
I have really despised the Knicks for (a) hiring Isiah Thomas, a total douchebag on the court and an even worse piece of fecal matter off of it; and (b) having James Dolan as an owner.
To say Dolan is a douchebag would be saying Hurricane Katrina was just a little rain and wind storm. Dolan brings a new definition to the word “douchebag”. Between Dolan and Thomas, the Knicks should be sponsored by Summer’s Eve and Massengale.
Why Zion badly wanted to play for these supreme dickheads is beyond me, but he felt he would make upwards of $250 million in endorsements in the Big Apple.
When the Knicks didn’t win the lottery, Zion stormed out of the Chicago hotel where it was being held and presumably went back to his hotel to sulk to Coach K and his agent.
A trade to the Knicks isn’t happening. That team is so messed up it doesn’t have enough to offer the Pelicans. So Zion better accept he isn’t going to Knicks for awhile.
If Zion doesn’t want to play for the Pelicans, let him go to Europe. He wouldn’t be the first crybaby to demand a particular team not draft him.
One of the first known instances of this happened 50 years ago.
Orenthal James Simpson was so coveted coming out of USC that Philadelphia Eagles fans rioted in the stands at Franklin Field when the Eagles defeated the Saints in a December game, because it allowed the Bills to move ahead of Philadelphia for the first pick in the upcoming draft.
Simpson didn’t want to go to Buffalo. He hated the cold. He hated the East Coast. He wanted to be in a major media market. But the Rams, who shared the Coliseum with USC, weren’t going to sniff him unless they traded the Bills Roman Gabriel, Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones and Tom Mack, and even then, the Bills may have said no.
Buffalo drafted Simpson. He held out as long as he could, but finally signed.
The Bills had it happen twice more to them within five years.
In 1979, they drafted Tom Cousineau out of Ohio State first overall after Cousineau said he had no desire to play for them. Cousineau went to Canada for three seasons before returning to the NFL and signing with his hometown team, the Browns.
Four years later, Jim Kelly refused to sign with the Bills after he was drafted 13th overall out of Miami. He played in the USFL for two seasons in Houston before coming to Buffalo when the USFL was awarded $1 in its 1986 antitrust case against the NFL.
The NHL’s poster child for draft shenanigans is Eric Lindros, who steadfastly refused to play for the Nordiques after Quebec drafted him first overall in 1991. He held out for the entire 1991-92 season before the Nordiques traded him to the Flyers for numerous players and picks.
In 1990, Todd Van Poppel was a hotshot high school pitcher in Texas. He told the Braves not to draft him, because if they did, he would attend the University of Texas. Atlanta honored his wishes and drafted this Chipper Jones guy. Van Poppel was drafted 12th overall by the Athletics, the 1989 World Series champion, and chose Oakland over Austin. I think the Braves won that won. Big time.
Professional sports drafts go against the American ideal of freedom of choice, but if they didn’t exist, players would simply sign with the highest bidder. In MLB, that would create gross competitive imbalance, because the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs and Dodgers would simply outbid the likes of the Astros, Cardinals and Brewers for the top shelf talent. The Yankees did it so well for so long that MLB finally instituted the draft in 1965. Once it began, the Yankees fell into a nosedive which didn’t end until 1976.
Nobody should feel sorry for a crybaby 19-year old who didn’t get his way and can’t play for the team he wants, at least at first. If Zion loves New York that bad, he can get a job in the Big Apple I’m sure, one which will pay less in a year than he would make in a single game playing in New Orleans.
Everyone has a price. Zion will eventually wise up. It’s all about the $$$$.