Ranking the Top 25 New York pro basketball players of all-time - Metro US

Ranking the Top 25 New York pro basketball players of all-time

John Starks and Larry Johnson
All photos Getty Images

New York will be the epicenter of the NBA world during All-Star weekend, but with only one possible representative between the two pro franchises here, there’s a dearth of impact players to represent either the Knicks or Nets.

And if Knicks forwardCarmelo Anthony (knee) can’t participate, there won’t be any local pros representing the host city.

So, to salve the wounds wrought from watching two downtrodden New York franchises this season, Metro has compiled a list of the top-25 players to ever play professional basketball in the city. Naturally, the list is Knicks-heavy, but there is one special Net that should not be forgotten:

1. Julius “Dr. J” Erving – No, The Doctor never laced his Converse kicks for the Knicks, but today’s younger generation needs to be schooled on the prowess of the dominant American Basketball Association force for the New York Nets. Erving averaged 28.2 points, 10.8 rebounds and shot over 51 percent from the field during his three seasons on Long Island, and even brought home a championship for the hometown team. His NBA playing career in Philadelphia was Hall of Fame-worthy on its own, of course, but the real Doctor – the guy who struck fear in every shotblocker and was the precursor to Michael Jordan – was the main reason why the fledgling league lasted as long as it did.

2.Patrick Ewing — Although a victim of the Michael Jordan era, and never having won a ring, it doesn’t diminish the career of this all-time Hall of Famer. Ewing led the Knicks franchise to an NBA Finals appearance in 1994 and holds almost every meaningful statistic in franchise history, includingpoints, blocks, rebounds, steals, free throws, field goals, and minutes. He finished with averages of 22.8 points per game, 10.4 rebounds, 1.1 steals, and 2.7 blocks per while shooting 51 percent from the field.

3. Walt “Clyde” Frazier — The greatest point guard in franchise history, Frazier was the catalyst for two Knicks’ championships at the start of the 1970s. Known more these days for his stylistic attire and vocabulary as the team’s color commentary, Frazier was a better on-court performer as he averaged 19.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 6.3 assists and 2.1 steals while shooting 49 percent from the floor. His defining moment came during a Game 7 win in the 1970 Finals when he scored 36 points, grabbed seven rebounds, and dished out 19 assists.

4. Willis Reed — The Captain is the only man to overshadow Frazier in that ’70 Finals when he limped onto the court in Game 7. But Reed was more than that signature moment, as he averaged 18.7 points, 12.9 rebounds and shot 48 percent from the field. He’d almost certainly have been among the greatest recorded shot-blockers had the stat been registered during his time. Blocks weren’t recorded until 1973.

5. Dave DeBusschere — He stood 6-foot-6 as a power forward, but he was pound-for-pound one of the toughest of his era. DeBusschere averaged at 15.4 points and 10.2 rebounds in each of his last four seasons as a Knick and helped the franchise win its only two titles.

6.Bill Bradley — “Dollar Bill” played his entire 10-year career in New York and averaged 12.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, and 3.45 assists, but it wasn’t the statistics that helped him standout, rather it was the way he helped direct some of the most unselfish brand of basketball the NBA has ever seen. Bradley was the perfect type of do-it-all player that signified the Knicks of that era.

7.Richie Guerin — He didn’t play in an era of flash and player notoriety, but Guerin dominated his period (1953-63) like no other. He tallied career marks of 20.1 points, 6.4 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game, as his name is still littered all over the franchise’s record book. His career ishighlighted by a 1961-62 season when he averaged 30 points and seven assists.

8. Bernard King — Had his career not been marred by knee injuries, King would’ve been regarded as an all-time NBA great, let alone franchise great. He played in just 138 games for the Knicks, but they were usually spectacular affairs. He averaged 26.5 points,5.2 rebounds, and 1.2 steals while shooting 54 percent from the field.

9.Earl Monroe — The Pearl was the perfect backcourt sidekick for Frazier, as he was the off-guard during the team’s second championship run. Similar to King, Monroe’s legacy was cut short by knee injuries, but when he played, he was electric. Monroe tallied 16.2 points, 3.5 assists, 1.1 steals and shot 48 percent from the field.

10.Carmelo Anthony — His New York legacy is still being written, but there’s no doubt he belongs. Anthony is the best player New York has seen sine the Ewing heyday, as he’s averaged 25.5 points, 6.3 rebounds, and has shot 44 percent from the floor — including 38 percent in 3s. Plus, he has a scoring title under his belt, so he’s on his way up the the ladder of New York ballers.

11.Charles Oakley — The great protector of all things Knicks, Oakley was built to play in New York. He averaged 10.4 points, 10.1 rebounds and shot 49 percent from the floor. There’s also no official tally for knocking down opponents who dared attempt a layup, floor burns, and diving into the stands for loose balls, but Oakley would certainly be near the top of those lists, too. He’s an all-time Knicks favorite.

12.Bill Cartwright — He might be more associated with Jordan’s Bulls by the younger crowd, but Cartwright was a great player in New York before that. The 7-foot-1 pivotentered the league as the third-overall pick in 1979, and was an immediate impact player, averaging 38.4 minutes his rookie season. He scored nearly 22 points, blocked nearly a shot per game, and grabbed nine boards in his first year — losing the Rookie of the Year Award to Larry Bird. Cartwright averaged 16.8 points, 7.1 rebounds, and a blocked shot during his stay in New York.

13. Mark Jackson — No. 13 may be the second-best point guard in franchise history, as the New York-bred Jackson had a game that was part streetball, mixed with great fundamentals and unmatched court vision. He averaged 11.1 points, 4.1 rebounds, and 8.1 assists during his New York tenure and won the Rookie of the Year Award in 1987.

14.Michael Ray Richardson — Another lead guard who had New York style oozing out of him, Richardson was the East Coast’s version of Magic Johnson, as he was as flashy and spectacular as the Lakers’ guard. He once led the league in assists (10.1) and steals (3.2), while adding 15 points per game. He finished with 14.2 points, 6.1 rebounds, 7.1 assists, and 2.6 steals while shooting 46 percent from the field.

15.Allan Houston — One of the purest shooters of any generation, Houston led the Knicks to a Finals appearance and from1997-2001, he shot 49 percent from the field, 40 percent from the arc, and 86 percent from the free-throw line. He finished with marks of 18.5 points on 44 percent from the field and 40 percent in 3s.

16.Cazzie Russell — He was a role player on the 1970 title team, but was far from ordinary. During the 1968-69 season, Russell averaged 33 minutes per game and was the team’s second-leading scorer behind Reed. He finished his New York tenure averaging 13.3 points on 46 percent shooting from the floor.

17.Dick McGuire — His career stats in New York aren’t staggering (8.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 5.8 assists per game), but the in the era that McGuire played (1949-57), he was a very good point guard — so good that Anthony had to take No. 7 because McGuire’s No. 15 hangs in the Garden rafters, along with Monroe’s No. 15.

18.John Starks — On talent alone, he may not crack most top-lists, but the Oklahoma native was so New York, thanks to his work ethic and grit. Starks was a fan favorite during the Ewing era, as the shooting guard took on all comers — whether that was Jordan or Reggie Miller. Plus, The Dunk alone gets him into the Pantheon for most Knicks’ faithful. Starks played on a team that reached the Finals and ended his tenure averaging 14.1 points while shooting 42 percent.

19.Latrell Sprewell — Much like Starks, Sprewell’s grit and street appeal made him an instant fan favorite. He was the team’s sixth man during their 1999 Finals appearance — while being the team’s second-leading scorer behind Ewing — and was then the perfect complement to the smooth Houston during the end of his New York tenure. Sprewell averaged 17.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists, and 1.3 steals.

20.Amar’e Stoudemire — Nearly a shell of himself these days, people forget how important Stoudemire’s free-agent arrival was when he came over from the Phoenix Suns.Stoudemire was the first impact player to sign with the Knicks after their 29-win season in 2009-10. It was his arrival that marked the revival of the franchise’s success and soon paved the way for Anthony to want to play in New York as well. Once considered an MVP candidate as a Knick, a then-healthy Stoudemire was still among the league leaders at 26.1 points per game and 50-percent shooting upon Anthony’s arrival.

21. Stephon Marbury —His arrival had even more fanfare than Stoudemire’s, but also soon fizzled. But make no mistake, Marbury’s game is all New York. His image may be tarnished here somewhat as the prized pupil during the Isiah Thomas era, but Marbury’s impact and stats are still staggering.His seven assists per game ranks fourth in franchise history, and his 18.2 points comes in at 13th. And during hisfirst full season as a Knick (2004-05), he finished second league-wide in total assists, only to Steve Nash.

22.Larry Johnson — He’s not one of the city or Knicks’ statistical giants, but Johnson was an impact player while in New York. But his legacy was cemented in his unselfish play, the grit, and that spectacular four-point shot against the hated Pacers in the playoffs. That last part alone is what Knicks’ fans gush over the guy. Johnson tallied 12.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, and shot 46 percent from the field.

23.Anthony Mason — A member of the grizzled Ewing-era Knicks, Mason’s toughness, flashy handle, and feistyness was all New York. Always a tweener as a 6-foot-7 hybrid forward, Mason was one of the truly tough guys whose stature in the post rarely hindered him as an effective weapon for Pat Riley. Mason, who averaged 10 points, 7.7 rebounds, and shot 53 percent from the floor, nevercared whose feathers were ruffled because all he cared about was winning…and that’s so New York.

24.Ray Williams — He excelled in the backcourt from 1978-84, but played on some bad Knicks teams. Williams only played in eight playoff contests, but he earned the respect of every opponent in the league as he tallied 16.4 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.7 assists, and 1.8 steals while shooting 46 percent from the floor.

25.David Lee — A forgotten player of sorts who improved his game every year while in New York, Lee strung together someof the most efficient offensive seasons from a Knicks big man in the late 2000s to early 2010s. But like many on this list, his wares were lost amid the losing and mismanagement of the franchise. Lee averaged 13.6 points, 9.6 rebounds, and shot 56 percent from the field.

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