Blacks And Whites Didn’t Hang Out On The 1970 New York Knicks Because Whites Can’t Dance, Among Other Reasons
A little while ago on Twitter, netw3rk sent out a link to the October 12, 1970 issue of New York Magazine, which in part details the racial and coach-player tension on the then NBA champion New York Knicks. There's a lot of great stuff in there, so we thought we might share a few tidbits with you.
Racial tensions were prominent in the NBA back then, especially with black players already taking over the league, so it should come as no surprise that white and black Knicks players hardly spent time together off the court, even if they were a championship team on it. And the reason is obvious: white people can't dance.
From guard Dick Barnett:
"Blacks and whites on the Knicks went their own ways. [...] Like most white ballplayers don't dance, they don't know how to dance. In our world, they're considered squares and maybe they'd feel inadequate in our world if they did try to hang out with us, and maybe we would feel the same. They just can't relate. We had a couple of dances where a couple of [white] guys tried to dance. They just...they were out of their class, let's put it like that. I mean, like, it's what do you have in common except playing basketball?"
At the very least, the players were united in hating head coach Red Holzman. This sheds particular light on Phil Jackson, who, according to Sam Smith's best-selling book The Jordan Rules, united the Chicago Bulls' disparate parts through a shared hatred of himself (at least at first). Though maybe this wasn't completely intentional on Holzman's part, there was a clear displeasure with his tactics.
After one game which the Knicks should have won by more, Holzman lit into Bradley and Frazier near the end of the game, with both returning verbal fire. Sensing a further explosion in the locker room after the game, the team tried a preemptive strike. It didn't work. Via an anonymous Knicks' player:
"So we got into the locker room and I was hoping that Red would either discuss it calmly or talk to the two of them alone. But it was so obvious what was going to happen that we beat Red to the locker room and Nate [Bowman] starts clapping his hands, 'Hell of a win, hell of a win.' So we all picked it up right away, although it was a bad victory, a game that we should have won by 35. We were doing it just kind of to pimp [unnerve] Red when he came in, trying to say that we're together on this thing.
"Red came in and said 'All right, we won the ball game but everybody just sit down.' Then he pointed a finger at Walt [Frazier] and he started hollering 'Clyde, the reason you're screwing up is because nobody can talk to you anymore.' He said we were getting cocky and un-coachable.
"True, Bill shouldn't have said 'bullshit' and Clyde should have kept his mouth shut, but at the same time Red's attitude towards the thing was, he's not going to give the ballplayer an inch, you know. Then he wheeled around and said, 'The same goes for you, Bradley,' and he pointed to one of the other guys. Bradley was a few stalls over. And the other guy just looked at Red like, what the hell? And then Red kind of had to get his balance and go on. 'Not you,' he said. 'You,' and he pointed at Bill."
And this whole Phil Jackson being the Zen Master thing, that's old news. He was already out-zenning his teammates in 1970:
"'I'd be curious to see what would happen with team therapy,' Phil Jackson said one day. 'I think athletes kind of consider themselves manly, insensitive, without personal hurts or feelings, or that their personalities are so strong they can't be hurt. I think this is incorrect. The biggest thing would be to try and make ballplayers realize that these are sensitive humans that they're working with."
We highly recommend you check out the whole thing if you have some minutes to spare.
Be the first to know
Want FREE Fantasy and Gaming Advice and Savings Delivered to your Inbox? Sign up for our Newsletter.