Home Sport Jalen Brunson und Knicks beweisen, dass ein Napoleon-Komplex nicht nur schlecht ist

Jalen Brunson und Knicks beweisen, dass ein Napoleon-Komplex nicht nur schlecht ist

von NFI Redaktion

It’s Oscar week, which feels like a perfect opportunity to explore the plot lines and characters of the NBA that could serve as Oscar nominees. Something is wrong with the Knicks | Keep it for a dollar(et)Joaquin Phoenix may not have fully captured Napoleon, but the casting of Jalen Brunson as a tiny floor general, leading a once great powerhouse back to glory in the NBA production after James Dolan’s long reign of terror, feels familiar. With Tom Thibodeau as his commander, Brunson’s strategic brilliance on the 94 feet of hardwood has breathed new life into the New York Knicks.

Manhattan has always felt like it overcompensates for its size. It’s a densely populated metropolis where millions of people are housed between sizzling concrete and a billion tons of metal, but it never feels small. You won’t find a larger collection of egos in the developed world, inflated both by real estate prices and by believers who have never wavered in their reverence for the Knicks. Madison Square Garden is the biggest stage in the NBA, but not because of the products on the floor. Since New York’s last title, half a century has passed. The Knicks‘ front offices wasted two decades chasing generous free agents who matched the high expectations of the Big Apple’s perception of itself. LeBron, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, Kevin Durant, and Kyrie Irving are just a few of the Hall-of-Fame basketball aristocrats who have snubbed the Knicks. Stars are no longer interested in becoming mainstream stars on Madison Avenue. They would rather enhance their reputation by winning over the MSG crowd as conquering invaders. But Napoleon Brunson sneaked into the league and embraced the challenge as the first player in NBA history to sign a $100 million contract with a new team without having an All-Star accolade on his resume. In Dallas, Brunson left behind his Josephine, Luka Dončić.

Nearly two years after Durant and Irving refused to entertain the Knickerbockers during their free agency tour, the Brunson-led Knicks are allegedly in their Napoleonic era, leading an unlikely assault on the Eastern Conference elite and bringing one of the most famous franchises in the NBA back to prosperity. However, in December, a soundbite from Becky Hammon on ESPN’s NBA Today tapped into every Knicks enthusiast’s latent Napoleon complex.

„Can I share my philosophy with you? If your best player is small, you don’t win,“ Hammon explained on the show. „John Stockton, Allen Iverson, Steve Nash. You can go down the list. Steph Curry is the only one – but he’s also the best shooter to ever walk the planet. He’s in a class of his own.“

„I say this as a small person,“ Hammon continued. „This is a game that favors the big and bold – this God-given thing. And I love Jalen Brunson, but you want to rank him at the level of a 1A? You match him up with Giannis? KD [Kevin Durant]? Steph?“

Hammon, with a wealth of experience as a head coach, basketball historian, and six-time WNBA All-Star standing at 5’9″, raised doubts about Brunson’s size, echoing the criticisms he alluded to during his introductory press conference as a Knick. Between December 21, 2023 – when Hammon made her remarks – and February 1, 2024, the Knicks went 16-5, climbing to second place in the East. And after each win, salt was thrown in their direction. If healthy, Brunson is the vessel through which Knicks fans live vicariously, and Hammon’s attitude struck a nerve. Perhaps because Knickerbocker Nation is also realizing that the franchise’s ethos of player acquisition should reflect the bleak proletariat that populates New York City and its outer boroughs, and not the shiny skyscrapers downtown or the red carpet-walking intruders hopping on the courtside seats. At some point, the CAA influence led the Knicks to believe they could mimic the Lakers‘ formula of chasing stars as their modus operandi. In the Leon Rose era, they achieved the opposite.

In a time where the pipeline of homegrown stars in New York is depleted, there’s no way to lure Knick-loving, New York-raised basketball players into Madison Square Garden. Brunson’s Knicks aren’t a big-budget epic. It’s an indie project where top-tier talent does the work and proves that sometimes the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. Thibodeau, who was an assistant during New York’s glory days when John Starks, Anthony Mason, and Patrick Ewing played in the mud, ensured the Knicks held the edge as the league’s best defense in a healthy state. Meanwhile, OG Anunoby achieved the impact Donovan Mitchell had hoped for. Last summer, Mitchell was expected to be the next superstar eager to become a Knick. That never materialized, but since January 1, his +252 plus-minus as a Knick ranks third in the league despite missing 16 games. Julius Randle is receiving admiration he never found in LA and is the only three-time All-Star as a Knick alongside Patrick Ewing and Carmelo Anthony.

Ultimately, Napoleon met his Waterloo in the Battle of Waterloo. The Knicks‘ Waterloo could be accelerated by the looming threat of injuries. Brunson, Anunoby, Randle, and Mitchell Robinson have missed significant parts of the season since rising to second place in the East on February 2. They’re teetering on the edge of the play-in. But fear not, Brunson’s return is imminent. The Knicks‘ All-Star participated in practice on Thursday after sitting on the shelf for a week rehabbing a bruised left knee, while Anunoby returned to 5-on-5 action. If these Knicks want to escape to the East, the rest of the cavalry is needed, but Brunson is the right 40,000-man.

Find DJ Dunson on X: @BRAINSPORTEX

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