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Knicks legends believe honors are overdue

This is what it meant to Bernard King to be at the Garden last night, to be among other Knicks legends who were honored by the franchise in a halftime ceremony: After doctors told him he suffered, in his words, "a precursor to a stroke" on Saturday, King completed a battery of tests at an Atlanta-area hospital, was released yesterday at 10 a.m. and came straight to New York.

"I wanted to be part of this, obviously," said King, who wiped sweat beads from his face with a handkerchief as he spoke of his life-threatening ordeal.

"I feel part of the Knick family. I grew up in Brooklyn and had the opportunity to live my dream and watch guys like Walt Frazier and Willis Reed and Dave DeBusschere and Bill Bradley on those great teams. It's certainly a joy to be a part of this."

Though his Knicks career was brief - because of a major knee injury, he played the equivalent of three seasons over five in New York - King has a sense of the franchise's history just as much as he had a sense of making that history with his prolific scoring.

But history and tradition aren't something that has been celebrated much with this franchise - at least not anything outside of the 1970 and '73 championship teams or the more recent Patrick Ewing era in the 1990s.

Donnie Walsh took note of that and made one of his first initiatives as team president to change it. Last night's celebration of the greatest players per decade is expected to be the beginning of a long- overdue re-connection with Knicks history, which dates to the inaugural season of 1946-47. The Knicks are owned by Cablevision, which also owns Newsday.

But unlike the other Garden tenant, the Rangers, who bathe in history and recently retired the numbers of old- time greats such as Harry Howell and Andy Bathgate, Knicks lore sometimes seems to begin in 1969.

Richie Guerin, arguably the franchise's first superstar player - he represented the 1950s last night - went as far as to say his era has been forgotten.

"I say that because if you go into a good number of the arenas around the league and you look at banners or individual numbers or whatever, it's not just for championship players; it's for players they felt dedicated something to an era, and they respected them by retiring a number or something like that," Guerin said. "And that's how you create tradition. I don't think they did that here."

Frazier, whose number is among the few retired by the franchise, blames Pat Riley for starting the disconnect during his era as coach in the early 1990s.

"Riley just obliterated everything because he didn't want it mentioned at all, so they hardly did anything," Frazier said.

"It astounded me when the Knicks were in the Finals [in 1994], did you know that no one interviewed me? Not one . . . No one talked to me, man. Not one TV station came up to me."

Frazier said former GM Al Bianchi had plans to celebrate more of the franchise's history, "but it didn't materialize. Even DeBusschere didn't perpetuate the legacy that much when he was the GM. I don't understand it."

Guerin is encouraged that Walsh's presence finally will bridge the wide gap between the franchise's proud past and troubled present.

"Yeah, I think they're trying to do the right thing," he said, "and I hope that's the beginning of something."

Richie Guerin

No. 9; 6-4, 210;

Iona College; Bronx, N.Y.

Averaged 20.1 points per game in seven-plus seasons with the Knicks.

Ranks sixth on the franchise scoring list with 10,392 points.

A six-time NBA All-Star.

16 triple-doubles (third in franchise history).

Had three 50-point games, including 57 points vs. Syracuse on Dec. 11, 1959, which stood as Garden record until Bernard King scored 60 points on Dec. 25, 1984. Kobe Bryant then topped it with 61 points on Feb. 2, 2009.

Had 13 40-plus-point games.

21 assists in a game (Dec. 12, 1958) vs. St. Louis was a Knicks record for 50 years until Chris Duhon had 22 against Golden State on Nov. 29.

Franchise records he still owns:

Most FGA in a season: 1,897 in 1961-62; Most FTM in a season: 625 in 1961-62; Most FTA in a season: 762 in 1961-62

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