New York City is home to around 8.5 million people these days. With that many citizens, it is impossible to get the majority of people to agree or support anything. However, there is only one true team that most of New Yorkers can get behind as a city, and that is the New York Knicks. Behind the MVP caliber play of Kristaps Porzingis, the leadership of Jeff Hornacek, and the overall play of the entire team, the Knicks are becoming New York City’s team.
A City Divided
According to the research of the acclaimed FiveThirtyEight right before the 2017 season, baseball is completely split in the Big Apple, as New York Mets fans take up 45% of the population, while the New York Yankees fall behind them at 43%. This is the first time in 20 years that the city is made up of more Mets fans than Yankees fans. You would have to think with the Yankees success this season, the scale may now weigh in favor of the Bronx Bombers. On the football side, there hasn’t been any recent research published, but there is a 2010 New York Daily News article that states that male Giants fans account for 48% of of NFL fans, with male Jets fans coming in at 43%. Women football fans widen the gap a little more, with female Giants fans outnumbering Jets fans at a 50-38% rate.
So where does this leave the New York Knicks? In a 2016 article from USA Today, they found that 6% of New Yorkers chose the the Knicks as their favorite team, tied with the New York Jets and above the city’s two hockey teams, the New York Rangers and New York Islanders. The Brooklyn Nets weren’t even mentioned in the piece.
Popularity of Basketball
With the fandom of New York City’s baseball and football teams being divided, this leaves the Knicks as the only team the entire city can get behind. In general, basketball is the sport almost everyone has played before. Even if you haven’t played with a team in high school or middle school, you have almost definitely played pickup at the park or at the gym. A 2016 study found that basketball is the most popular youth sport in America, and if you grew up in New York City, you probably played pickup basketball more than any other sport growing up.
Why is basketball so popular? There’s a few reasons. One, you don’t need 10 or 12 people like you do if you wanted to play football, baseball, or soccer. Expensive equipment isn’t needed. No gloves, bats, cleats, helmet, or pads required. All you need is a pair of kicks, one basketball, one hoop that you can find at almost any park, and a minimum of four or six people. That’s it. You can also play at any time of the year, as it is the only sport that you can play both outside and inside.
New York’s Team
So what does this all have to do with the Knicks? It has everything to do with them. Basketball is the most relatable sport there is. The players don’t wear helmets or hats while they are playing, they interact with fans and each other like no other sport – both in person and on social media – and with the explosion of the three point shot, it now comes off as “hey why can’t I do that?”
They don’t come off as super humans like football players do, and aren’t amazingly hitting or throwing 99 MPH fastballs. They are hitting three point shots, just like we all have at the park.
The combination of a united fanbase in the city, with the popularity and relatability of basketball, this Knicks team is in a perfect position to become New York’s team. The franchise player, 7’3” Kristaps Porzingis, simply gets it. He comes off as a regular person,in which anyone can get along with. Whether it be his dance moves to “What is Love”, sliding into DMs (shooters always shoot), or his young and hungry attitude, Porzingis seems to be like every other New Yorker, besides the fact that he is basketball unicorn. A perfect example of this is his recent interview with the legendary Mike Francesa, when he opened with “first time, long time.” Again, Kristaps just gets it.
— Ƒunhouse (@BackAftaThis) November 10, 2017
In addition to Porzingis, the entire team is likable and fun to watch. They make the extra pass. You can tell they are competing and improving on defense every night. They feed off the Garden crowd. They are relatively young and coming up together. All in all, they are giving New Yorkers a proud and extremely fun basketball team to root for and watch together.
Knicks games are now must watch TV in New York. Now with Twitter, you can scroll through your phone during the game, especially during late and close games, you can feel the sense of community between the die hard fans and the most casual of fans. Whether it be Kristaps dropping 30, the teenager Frank Ntilikina learning and developing in front of our eyes, Tim Hardaway Jr. heating up, or a different role player stepping up every night, Knicks fans are eating it up.
Kyle O’Quinn, Doug McDermott, Lance Thomas, and Willy Hernangomez are fan favorites who aren’t going to do the things Porzingis does, but they do everything that makes a team succeed. Just like pickup, even if you can’t carry the scoring load, you can appreciate setting the right pick, grabbing a loose ball, jumping a passing lane, or winning that 50-50 rebound.
As Kristaps perfectly put it, the Knicks are “playing with that New York mentality. That New York grit.” If they keep playing like this, they will quickly become the one team all of New York will root for together. With baseball and football fans being split in New York, the New York Knicks signify a united fanbase and the one team that all New Yorkers can get behind.
Kristaps Porzingis in true NY fashion is talking about that "NY Grit."pic.twitter.com/5xCyeudUHz
— The Shadow League (@ShadowLeagueTSL) November 6, 2017