With the Boston Celtics advancing to the championship after conquering the Eastern Conference, a former New York Knicks player will be in the NBA Finals for the 76th-straight year in a row.
Luke Kornet, the fan-favorite sharp-shooting 7-footer, is a reserve for Boston. That means Kornet will be one of a mind-boggling number of former Knicks players to compete for, and maybe even win, a ring on the NBA’s biggest stage.
It is extremely unlikely that Kornet sees the floor beyond garbage time minutes. However, being a part of a team in any role that reaches the championship is a unique experience that few people ever have, and it is even more unique given this historic wrinkle.
The streak was on the line because of the chance that the Miami Heat would advance over Boston to face the Western Conference Champions, the Golden State Warriors. Neither the Heat nor the Warriors have a former New York player on their rosters.
Fun fact, if the Dallas Mavericks made the 2022 NBA Finals, a total of five former Knicks would have represented them. Those five players are Frank Ntilikina, Tim Hardaway Jr., Reggie Bullock, Trey Burke, and Theo Pinson. The Warriors defeated the Mavericks in five games in the WCF.
Former Knick Luke Kornet will suit up for the Celtics in 2022 NBA Finals
Kornet signed with the Knicks in 2017 as an undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt. He spent two seasons in New York: one as a rookie on a two-way contract and the other as a reserve having signed a fully guaranteed contract in 2018 free agency.
His signature game was undoubtedly against Chicago on Apr. 9, 2019, at the United Center. Behind Kornet’s impressive performance of 12 points, 13 rebounds, and a career-high 6 blocks in 39 minutes. The Knicks came away victorious with a 96-86 win.
Following the 2018-19 season, Kornet left for the Chicago Bulls in free agency. He finished his Knicks career with 66 games played and he averaged 6.9 points, 3 rebounds, and 0.9 blocks in 16.8 minutes per game.
After a little over a season with the Bulls, Kornet was traded to Boston, where he finished the 2020-21 campaign. He re-upped with the Celtics on Oct. 15, 2021, only to be waived the next day. After a pair of 10-day contracts with the Cavaliers and Bucks this year, Kornet found his way back to Boston and signed a contract on Feb. 11, 2022.
Interestingly, Kornet, as it turns out, has had less of an impact on the Celtics’ success than a current Knicks player despite actually being on the roster. Kornet was in the midst of his 10-day contract with Milwaukee on Jan. 6th, 2022, the night that RJ Barrett hit a game-winning fadeaway three over Jayson Tatum to beat Boston 108-105.
Following Boston’s Game 7 ECF win, Jayson Tatum acknowledged this moment against New York as the team’s low point of the season. This clearly was a catalyst for the Celtics’ dominant second half of the 2021-22 season, as they went 33-11 following the loss.
In 2020-21, all four finalists for each of the NBA’s two conferences had former Knicks on the roster. The Los Angeles Clippers had Marcus Morris Sr., the Atlanta Hawks had Danilo Gallinari, the second-place Phoenix Suns had Langston Galloway, and the champion Bucks had Bobby Portis.
Portis is the most recent former Knick to win a ring. Other notable recent players who have won rings before or after stints in the orange and blue are J.R. Smith (LAL 2020, CLE 2016) and Jeremy Lin (TOR 2019).
So, good luck to Kornet because once a Knick, always a Knick. But don’t get it twisted, all New York fans should be rooting against Boston and should instead root for another Warriors championship (kind of stale, I know). Sorry, Luke.