Madison Square Garden: The Mecca of Basketball

by Bernard Frei on March 27, 2019

Madison Square Garden. The Mecca of basketball. Ask basketball fans the world over what the greatest venue for their sport is and odds are they’re going to say MSG. A basketball stadium in the middle of the greatest city in the world? How much better can it get? It's just as much a part of the city as Central Park or the Empire State building. The home of the Knicks and Rangers, some of sports greatest moments, and a library of legendary concerts. There’s just something special about it. It’s the biggest of stages, and players bring it all to the table for the Garden. History simply pervades through the Garden as you enter. When you step inside you can feel the weight of every moment that’s passed through its halls.

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It's difficult to put into words what makes the Garden so special. From the outside, it looks like most other stadiums. It's a bit round, has big TVs, and a bunch of seats. It's the history that makes it special. The pinnacle of the Big East happened in the garden. It’s what some consider the golden age of college basketball. For years the Big East was the de facto basketball conference, it was simply the best, and Madison Square Garden was its stage. Think of all the players to come through the Big East. All-time greats like Patrick Ewing, Allen Iverson, and Ray Allen. The greatest moments however always came in the conference tournament. Every year the Big East tournament was in MSG and produced some of the most magical moments in college basketball. It's difficult to even quantify how many special moments have come from it, it’d be easier to just say countless. You immediately think of Georgetown and Patrick Ewing’s Big East conference title spurring them on to a national title or Gerry McNamara dragging 9-seeded Syracuse to a 6OT win over Uconn on their way to a title. You think of Kemba Walker making the whole world know his name. What the Garden does is make the Big East tournament truly special. In an era where conference tournaments can fall flat in the shadow of the NCAA tournament, the Garden presented a stage where the stakes were always high. Where legends could be made at any moment.

Just as important to the legacy of the Garden as college basketball is the NBA. It’s been forty years since the Knicks last won a title, but still, that magic pervades through the Garden. Those forty years have been defined by ups and downs, by coming so close and just missing out. These ups and downs, however, helped create some of the greatest performances in history and so are ingrained in the Garden’s legacy. MSG provided a stage for some of the world’s best to showcase what they can do, and one of the best environments to do it in. Those classic Knicks v. Pacers series are perfect examples of what makes the Garden special. Reggie Miller dropping 8 points in 9 seconds to take down the Knicks, all the while jawing with Spike Lee sitting courtside. It brought out the best in those willing to step up to the plate. Kobe dropped 61 in the Garden. Try to imagine Linsanity in any other arena. Anywhere other than the garden and it doesn't happen. A month of pure euphoria it’s one of the most special moments in NBA history. For a month the Knicks were must-watch TV whether you cared about them or not, it was a cultural phenomenon. Steph Curry going 11-13 from 3 and 7/7 in the second half with Knicks defenders draped all over him. Melo dropping 62 to break Kobe’s record. The list goes on and on and on.

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We may never be able to fully describe the magic at Madison Square Garden. Sometimes there just aren't words to define something like that. So instead, we can marvel at the memories it’s given us and wait with bated breath for the ones still to come. For decades kids have dreamed of playing on that court, and that's not changing any time soon. Think of Bernard King, the hometown kid from Brooklyn going down as one of the best the Knicks have ever seen. Its a fairy tale. That’s what makes MSG so magical. Its a place where anything can happen at any moment, not unlike the city it resides in. It’s the best of New York, and sometimes it's even the worst. Its Reggie Miller dropping 25 points in a quarter. It’s Willis Reed playing through an injury to bring the Knicks a title. Its Larry Johnson’s 4 point play to beat the Pacers. It’s the Garden. It’s basketball’s biggest stage.

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Knox Ashford, a content writer for Vintage Sports, is a regular contributor to the site including stories, product descriptions, and video scripts. You can follow him on twitter @KnoxVSports for regular updates.

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