A New York Knicks comeback for the ages

Dennis Johnson, Boston Celtics. Ernie Grunfeld, New York Knicks. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
Dennis Johnson, Boston Celtics. Ernie Grunfeld, New York Knicks. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /
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New York Knicks
New York Knicks. Patrick Ewing. (Jonathan Daniel /Allsport) /

Easter Sunday is a great day to talk about comebacks. I can think of no better comeback that the New York Knicks had than the one on Christmas Day 1985.

Like our own New York Knicks historian, Teresa Powe, I go back a long way with the Knickerbockers. As a kid, I remember shooting baskets in my back yard trying to perfect that little kick Dick Barnett had on his jumper. To say I’ve seen more than my share of NYK games is an understatement. None of them had a comeback like the Knicks pulled off on December 25, 1985.

History Lesson

On May 12, 1985, I was “studying” for finals when the NBA held its first-ever draft lottery. Of course, I had to watch it, the stakes were too high not to. No one watching that day will ever forget the drama etched on New York Knicks General Manager Dave Debusschere’s face as NBA Commissioner David Stern opened the envelope for the number two pick. They also won’t forget his relief and excitement when Stern announced No. 2 was going to the Indiana Pacers.

That meant the top pick in the draft, a true game-changer, center Patrick Ewing of Georgetown was headed to Broadway. After a 24-win season, things were looking up for New York. Except they didn’t improve at all. On December 25, 1985, the New York Knicks were a dismal 9-19 as the prepared to host the hottest team in basketball.

New York Knicks
Larry Bird, Boston Celtics. /

At 21-6, the Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Robert Parish, Boston Celtics were hitting their stride. They would finish the 1985-86 season with a 67-15 record to win the Atlantic Division. That was followed up with a 12-3 postseason that saw the men from Beantown win their 16th NBA Championship. They ran roughshod over the league that year. But not on Christmas Day.