The Garden’s 50th anniversary celebration of the 1969-70 champion Knicks had been slated for Saturday during halftime of their scheduled game against the Warriors.
Two days before the season was suspended after Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus, that reunion was scrapped by Knicks officials. Some alumni — all of whom are over 70 years old — were concerned about flying.
Bill Bradley, the former U.S. Senator and glue player on the Knicks’ first title team, told The Post he’s sensing the 50th anniversary show will go on — next season.
“Sure I was disappointed — I was looking forward to the celebration,’’ Bradley said. “It was a special moment in my life. Fifty years is a long time, but I think we’ll have something in the fall. It was 1970. So as long as we have it in 2020? Maybe we’ll have one in November.”
With the same nucleus, the Knicks won a second championship in 1973. The Knicks have not won a title since, making the accomplishments of those teams even more revered.
“That first Knicks team caught a moment in New York,’’ Bradley said. “People were moved by our unselfishness at a time when there wasn’t a lot of it around.”
Bradley has reached out this week to check on Willis Reed, Walt Frazier, Phil Jackson and Earl Monroe (a 1973 titlist), making sure his old mates are well.
The U.S. has changed dramatically since 10 days ago. The sports world is on hold and deprived fans are reminiscing about fabled games in the past.
As much as May 8, 1970 — Game 7 of those Finals — has been immortalized by the image of Reed hobbling out of the tunnel, Bradley remembers more fondly Game 5 at the Garden, with the series tied 2-2. Reed went down with a torn abductor muscle in the second quarter.
“The fifth game was more indicative of who we were as a team than the seventh game,’’ the Princeton product said. “We could no longer do the offense around Willis. We went into halftime behind and devised a whole new offense and executed it in the second half and won. That indicated so much about our team, our imagination and everyone contributing to the game plan. We executed with selflessness. That game was the epitome of what the Knicks were about. And it’s like it occurred yesterday.”
Game 7 garnered more poetry, sparked by Reed’s pregame tunnel shuffle. Limping downcourt after the opening tip, Reed hit his first two mid-range shots before Frazier busted out for 36 points and 19 assists in what Bradley called “the best seventh game performance in NBA history.’’
“I’m on the court warming up, taking practice shots and the Garden explodes,’’ Bradley said. “[Elgin] Baylor, [Jerry] West, Chamberlain stopped shooting, looking at Willis. [Reed] put his whole career on the line for the team. I had chills going up my spine — the perfect thing to get you sky-high before Game 7.’’
Those moments were supposed to be relived Saturday night. Bradley still got to the Garden twice this season and two Knicks youngsters caught his eye.
“The young kid from Duke, [RJ] Barrett, I like him,’’ Bradley said, “And I like the giant center [Mitchell Robinson]. I like both those guys a lot. Robinson, he needs to refine his game but has unbelievable skills. He can be a phenomenal shot-blocker if he learns how to move on the court and keep his body straight up instead of toward people.”
The 1969-70 Knicks were selfless and the former New Jersey Senator says New Yorkers need to show those traits now.
“We’re all in this together,’’ Bradley said. “Not to make the analogy trite, but we’re all on the same team here. If you do your part, we have a better chance of succeeding and your part at this point is as simple as staying home. Corona doesn’t recognize any distinction — rich or poor, black or white, gay or straight. COVID-19 is the enemy. In some strange way it could — and must — bring us together for all of us to survive.’’
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