NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 04: LeBron James #23 of the Cleveland Cavaliers falls against the New York Knicks on February 4, 2009 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** LeBron James
Unless last night's exciting 99-98 victory over the Hawks touches off a season-closing 20-game winning streak, the Knicks are going to finish with a losing record for the ninth consecutive season. They've lost 20 games by double-digit margins, including a 50-point thumping at the hands of the Mavericks. They lost to the Nets twice.
Yet they have taken deposits on 1,800 new season tickets in the last couple of weeks, a number that represents the best sales pace in the history of the franchise. It's safe to say that even the suggestion of LeBron James is the most powerful aphrodisiac available to basketball fans.
As you'd expect, the Knicks are crowing about this and feeling pretty good about themselves. MSG Sports president Scott O'Neil did some bragging to Darren Rovell of CNBC.
"We didn't hit this number until about August 15 of last year, which was a record year. We are on fire. There's certainly anticipation of adding two superstars to New York. I think there's also a sense of, most of us remember the 90s when you couldn't get a ticket to a Knicks game."
So much for the theory that New Yorkers are among the least likely Americans to fall for scams.
O'Neil's not wrong about how hard it used to be to get a ticket to the Knicks in the good old days, but the record sales clip and what it actually represents is nothing to brag about.
It's something to feel sad about, the way you feel sad about a neighborhood of proud old buildings left to rot by neglectful owners. The Knicks were a jewel of the city beloved by a wider swath of the city's population than any other team. That much is obvious from the fervor of sales based on innuendo. That they were allowed to fall into a long, painful disrepair is truly reprehensible, as is the fact that James Dolan will wind up richer for it.
Not that anyone will care if James is wearing an orange six on his back this time next year, of course, because our patience remains far longer than our memories.