By John DeFelice, Knicks Fan Since '88
The New York Knicks are one of the most historic franchises in professional sports. They came into existence in 1946 as members of the Basketball Association of America, then later joined the National Basketball Association in 1949.
It did not take long for them to start making their mark, as on this day 62 years ago, the New York Knicks won their first Eastern Conference (originally called the Eastern Division) championship.
Coach Joe Lapchick led the very young New York Knicks to a 36-30 record in 1951, good enough to put themin the playoffs. The team's two leaders had only one year of professional experience each; Leading scorer Vince "Moose" Boryla averaged 14.9 points per game and Dick McGuire amassed 400 assists over the 66 game regular season.
The Knicks stunned the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Division Semifinals, sweeping the 3-game series decisively by the scores of 83-69 in Game 1, and 92-78 in Game 2. The Celtics could not find an answer for Max Zaslofsky, as he scored 27 points in the victory.
The team advanced to the Finals to face the Syracuse Nationals (who would become the Philadelphia 76ers twelve years later) in a 5-game series. The Knicks took Game 1, 103-92, at Madison Square Garden behind the hot hand of Vince Boryla who poured in 30 points. The Nationals responded in gGame 2 with a 102-80 win.
After back-to-back double-digit blowouts, Game 3 went to overtime. The Nationals took an eight-point lead into halftime, but led by Harry Gallatin's 18 points, and 15 apiece from Vince Boryla and Connie Simmons, the Knicks fought back to push the game to an extra period. The Knicks won the overtime, 7 to 5, and took a 2-1 series lead into Game 4. After a tough defeat in Syracuse, it was down to the do-or-die Game 5 at MSG.
On April 4, 1951 franchise history was made. The Knicks again faced a tough deficit, as they entered the fourth quarter down, 64-57. The team continued to show their resiliency once again, led behind the scoring of Vince Boryla, who scored 23 points on 7-for-11 shooting.
The Knicks defeated the Nationals 83-81, securing their first Eastern Championship and advanced to the franchise's first ever NBA Finals.
Photo by NBA Photos