NY Knicks: The 75 Year tradition of former players in the NBA Finals

While the NY Knicks have been unable to reach the NBA Finals since 1999 and unable to win a title since 1973, the franchise has still managed to be a part of the championship tradition each year for three-quarters of a century.

In fact, every  NBA Finals has seen a player that played for the Knicks at some point in their career.

The 2021 NBA Finals will mark the 75th straight season in which the Finals will feature a former New York Knicks player.

Dating all the way back to 1947, a former or future Knicks player has either won a ring or been the runner-up for one.

Technically, there are of course some years during this span in which the Knicks themselves were in the Finals (’51, ’52, ’53, ’70, ’72, ’73, ’94, ’99), so those players who were current Knicks at the time are the exception to the rule.

Check out the full list of players up to 2019 here.

The only year not listed is 1981, when Gerald Henderson (Knick from 1986-87) won a ring with the Boston Celtics.

It’s been 75 straight years that a former Knicks player has made the NBA Finals

With the NBA East and West Conference Finals about to wrap up, we will soon be able to add a couple of players to that list.

Each of the four remaining teams has a former Knick rostered, with the Milwaukee Bucks having two such players, Thanasis Antetokounmpo and a player who may reunite with the Knicks this summer, Bobby Portis.

Milwaukee’s opponents, the Atlanta Hawks, feature Danilo Gallinari, who may not be the only “Gallo” who reaches the Finals this year.

Langston Galloway, who was named to the 2015 NBA All-Rookie 2nd Team with New York, is a member of the Phoenix Suns.

And finally, the Los Angeles Clippers have Marcus Morris Sr., who the Knicks shipped last season to LA at the trade deadline.

Since all four teams have a former Knick, that means a former Knicks player is guaranteed to win a ring in the coming weeks. It also means of course that one of them will be losing in the Finals. This would be the first NBA Finals appearance for any of these players.

Fun side note, if the LA Clippers don’t reach the NBA Finals, then a similar tradition will come to an end.

For the past 36 years, every NBA Finals has featured a player who at one point in their careers was teammates with Shaquille O’Neal.

Rajon Rondo (Clippers) is the only player still in the playoffs that once played with Shaq, as the two were together on the 2010-11 Boston Celtics.

The most recent former Knick to win the championship was NY legend, J.R. Smith. Smith won his second ring in 2020 as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Smith also won a ring, alongside #OAKAAK Iman Shumpert, as a part of the 2016 Cleveland Cavaliers.

Other notable former Knicks to have won or reached the Finals were Jeremy Lin (2019), Tyson Chandler (2011), Jason Kidd (2011, 2002), Bill Cartwright (1991), Earl Monroe (1971), and Willie Naulls (1964-66).

So, if you’re ever feeling down about the Knicks not making the Finals, or if you need a good reason to root for either team that does make it, rest assured there will likely be a former Knicks player who you can cheer on since the championship and the New York Knicks franchise are clearly jointed at the hip.