Often it is difficult to appreciate history while it is being lived. Sure, the Knicks’ single-season, franchise-record 17-game losing streak has been well-documented, but their midseason struggles also have settled into fuzzy numbness.
Stuff keeps happening to distract us. Since the Knicks last won on Jan. 4, the NFL has played the entirety of its playoff schedule. The Islanders have risen to the top of the Metropolitan Division. The Jets hired a new coach.
Around 400,000 Americans have been born, and around 300,000 have died.
But let us take a moment to stop, smell the wilted roses and appreciate what we are dealing with here. The Knicks not only are setting new lows for themselves, but for New York-area pro sports in general.
After losing to the 76ers on Wednesday night, the Knicks now match the 2009-10 Nets’ season-opening, 18-game losing streak for the worst single-season slide in major New York pro sports history. The streak ended on Thursday night when the Knicks pulled out a 106-91 win over the Hawks in Atlanta.
The Knicks did once lose 20 in a row over two seasons – 12 in 1984-85 and eight in ’85-86 – but that is not the same thing as doing it in a continuous stretch.
The tricky thing about historic single-season losing streaks is that basketball and baseball have an edge.
In the NFL, it is impossible to lose more than 16 games in a row in one season, and neither New York-area NFL team has gotten that bad regardless.
In hockey, ties used to get in the way of long losing streaks. For our purposes, ties from the era before overtime and shootout losses do not count for losing streaks, but now all losses can be considered losses, even if you earn a point for your trouble.
So, let us take a look at the longest single-season, regular-season losing streaks for each of the eight teams Newsday covers on a daily basis, plus two famous franchises formerly based in New York.
Nets, 2009-10, 18 losses
Adding to this streak’s notoriety is its timing. The Nets lost their first 18 games of the season before edging the Bobcats, 97-91. Brook Lopez had 31 points and 14 rebounds. Future Knick Courtney Lee scored 27 points.
Knicks, 2018-19, 18 losses
Tanking was not foreign in the NBA last century, but it has become an art form, which is why many fans would rather see the Knicks lose regularly than win occasionally. Still, they have not won at home since Dec. 4.
Mets, 1962, 17 losses
The ’62 Mets are the standard by which all bad New York teams are judged, and they lived down to it by losing 17 straight from May 21 to June 6 before Jay Hook beat the Cubs, 4-3. Those Mets finished 40-120.
Brooklyn Dodgers, 1944, 16 losses
The slide ended with an 8-5 victory over Boston in the second game of a doubleheader on July 16, thanks mostly to a seven-run second inning. That matched their highest run total for an entire game during the streak.
Islanders, 2010-11, 14 losses
Scott Gordon got fired as coach 10 games into this autumn skid and was replaced by Jack Capuano. It ended on Nov. 26, when Rick DiPietro shut out the Devils, 2-0. Then the Islanders lost six more games in a row.
New York Giants (baseball), 1902 and ’44, 13 losses
John McGraw got the Giants back on track in his first full season in 1903. The '44 team endured its streak in August, ending it in the second game of a doubleheader against the Cubs, the first of seven wins in eight games.
Yankees, 1908, 12 losses
Then known primarily as the Highlanders, the team dropped a dozen in a row in mid-summer en route to 106 losses before rookie Joe Lake stopped the bleeding with a 4-1 win over Chicago on Aug. 8. He finished 9-22.
Rangers, 1943-44, 11 losses
The worst team in franchise history opened with 11 losses in a row, then tied the Canadiens, then lost three more in a row. The Rangers finally broke through with a 6-4 victory over the Bruins at the Garden – on Dec. 12!
Giants (football), 1976, 9 losses
The nine losses started the season and concluded with a flair: three routs by a combined 46-3. Bill Arnsparger was fired as coach at 0-7 and replaced by John McVay, whose grandson Sean currently dabbles in coaching.
Jets, 1975, 1996 and 2014, 8 losses
The good news is that the Jets’ longest single-season losing streak is shorter than any other area team’s. The bad news is that they have done it three times, most recently in Rex Ryan’s final season.