Quick: Name the pro basketball team whose chances to win another championship were hurt significantly by Kevin Durant‘s injury Monday night in the NBA Finals.
If you said the Golden State Warriors, you’d be right — and wrong.
The New York Knicks, long the league’s bottom-dwelling laughing stock, were also dealt a similarly devastating blow when it was learned that Durant hurt his Achilles’ during Game 5. The injury will probably keep him from playing for all of next season — when Knicks fans and basketball experts alike expected him to be suiting up for the home team in Madison Square Garden.
Instead, Knicks fans plunged back down to reality with a crash landing as explicit, slo-mo video made its way around social media showing something popping in Durant’s leg to hammer home the severity of the injury.
The development, many Knicks fans said on social media, could only be the result of one thing and one thing only: The Curse of the Knicks, a jinx that reared its ugly head after months of apparent slumber only to stretch out, sharpen its elbows, clear its throat and say, “Wayment!” while thugging away any scintilla of hope New York faithfuls had of seeing Durant in orange and blue next season.
What’s “The Curse,” you ask? It’s both complicated and very simple at the same time.
The multitude of factors that compelled basketball’s karmic gods to frown upon the Knicks are far too many to list here. But one of the two major reasons why no hoops purists with an appreciation for hardwood tradition sheds a tear for the Knicks is because it’s been a clear case of self-sabotage. The most recent blame starts at the top with team owner James Dolan, whose cavalier approach to the Knicks and prioritization of his failed rock band has enabled the same level of uninspired attention from the franchise’s management and coaching ranks. When you couple that with how the franchise disrespected Knicks legend Patrick Ewing at the end of his record-setting career, all any basketball realist can do is shrug out of understanding why the gray cloud of despair has followed the Knicks ever since, even in times of heightened hope — like now.
Aside from the Durant injury, other noteworthy examples of The Curse of the Knicks include LeBron James tempting and then snubbing the Knicks in free agency in 2010 as well as the tam having the worst record in the league this past season only to miss out on getting the top pick in the NBA Draft later this month.
But there are seemingly still some significant rays of sunshine on the horizon for the Knicks. As the only NBA franchise with an all-Black front office and head coach, strategic moves were made last season to put the team in what is still an enviable position. There’s still plenty of “max money” to spend on as many as two star players who are deserved of nine-digit contracts. But KD, who, before his calf injury last month, was arguably playing basketball at the highest level of his career, was supposed to be one of those “max” stars for the Knicks. Not to mention the Knicks recently dumped the disappointing Kristaps Porzingis, a former lottery pick who attained all-star status before injuring himself and sitting out the entire 2018-19 season. But considering Porzingis never helped the team win and his, um, racist rape charge in which he is accused of sexually assaulting a Black woman he allegedly forced to be his slave , the decision to trade him was in retrospect a brilliant move. (Porzingis is now a member of the Dallas Mavericks, which has its own #MeToo scandal going on. In the past, the Knicks would have been on the receiving end of such a deal.)
And while cynics might refer to all of the above as a first world problem, seeing as the Knicks still have the coveted third pick in the NBA Draft, the truth is that the team’s losing culture has bred a level of impatience among its fanbase not seen since before the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles finally won a Super Bowl last year. And with the Toronto Raptors — an expansion team that joined the NBA in 1995 — poised to win its first championship in about half the time since the Knicks’ last title in the early 1970s, that level of urgency was nearing unrivaled status for many Knicks fans who weren’t even alive the last time the team won a ring.
At the end of the day, KD’s health is obviously what’s most important. And, of course, the Knicks could still very well sign him and continue trying to build a young team to prepare them for Durant’s theoretical triumphant return to the court. But whatever the decision, conventional wisdom — fueled by The Curse of the Knicks — would suggest that the Knicks’ woes were all but guaranteed to continue for yet another season, only not as bad as years prior.
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