New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett drives into the paint...

New York Knicks guard RJ Barrett drives into the paint against the New Orleans Pelicans in the second half of an NBA basketball game at Madison Square Garden on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. Credit: Kathleen Malone-Van Dyke

Some, sadly, are gone. Others are struggling and were unable to attend. But members of the 1972-73 Knicks — the last team in franchise history to win an NBA championship — gathered at the Garden on Saturday night to celebrate the 50th anniversary of that title.

Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Earl Monroe, Dick Barnett, Jerry Lucas and Henry Bibby were in attendance along with relatives of Dave DeBusschere, Dean Meminger, Red Holzman and Eddie Donovan. Phil Jackson, John Gianelli and Willis Reed were unable to attend, but Reed recorded a video message that was played on the scoreboard.

Frazier spoke for the group, saying, “I enjoyed playing with these men. It was such a provocative experience. We had a veteran team. We understood the nuances of having New York on our chest. We knew the high expectations but we relished those expectations. We knew we played in the greatest city in the world. We played in the world’s most famous arena, we had the greatest fans. They gave us so much confidence that we could say ‘Not in our house Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor. Not in our house Kareem, Oscar Robertson.’ It was just a pleasure to play for New York City, of course for Madison Square Garden, and to represent the New York Knicks.”

“Tonight we celebrate and honor the rich history of our organization,” said Jalen Brunson, taking the microphone at center court before the start of the game. “We have the golden anniversary of our 1972-1973 New York Knicks. As a team, we try to embody their characteristics such as hard work, selflessness and sacrifice. So for us, we try to continue to celebrate these legends and honor them and make them proud.”

“It’s funny, you think back and what they meant to the city, what they meant to team basketball, and then you think about all the different connections that you end up having,” Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said. “Growing up in Connecticut, my dad was a big Knicks fan . . .  It was such a great team, but they were so unselfish and they played great defense. Bill Bradley, move without the ball. Every kid had their elbow out, like Walt, back the guy down, shoot over his shoulder, like he did. Willis was his hook and his short jumper. Dick Barnett with the leg kick. That was such a fun team, but it’s what they embodied how they played for each other, and I think it resonated with the city . . .  It’s funny, guys come back and that’s the beauty of the championship team. You’re tied together forever, but what it’s meant to all the different generations of people. People still talk about it.”

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