Every generation has their player, their icon, their 'best ever', and will happily give you the reasons why. Those in my parent's generation usually go for Kareem, Wilt or Bill Russell. A little later and it will be Magic or Bird, maybe even Dr J. For us it was Mike, for those younger than me it's Kobe and for kids today it's Steph or of course LeBron.
I can appreciate all of these players for sure, in fact anyone who claims that any single one of those mentioned is less than legendary needs to go and wait in the car. But I take exception to any kid born this millennium who try's to claim that anyone other than Michael Jordan is the king of New York. (Disclaimer, I'll agree with Bernard King, but no one born in the last 20 years will bring him up in this convo).
We all saw the highlights of LeBron squaring off against the Knicks last week, and if not then we saw the Instagram post. LeBron James may be one of the top five best players of all time (only a maybe) and has certainly had some memorable performances... but he'll need to do more than put some pressure on a sophomore to claim the 'King of NY' title. Here's why.
Michael Jordan is considered the greatest ever for a reason, the main one being consistency. Never losing in the finals is one example, but there are also countless times when Mike was under intense pressure and pulled it out of the bag. And if you want to talk about pressure, than you have to mention playing at the mecca, Madison Square Garden.
The venue itself holds tradition and legacy, legends have been born and history has been made. On the other hand, phonies have been spotted and dreams have been shattered. New York doesn't suffer fools easily, so regardless of your status or salary, when you come to the Garden, you better come to play... hard.
Apparently Michael Jordan got the memo. From his very first game as a fresh faced rookie he wowed the MSG crowd. When the Eastern Conference giants, the Pistons and Celtics, began to slow down at the end of the 80's, a fierce rivalry would begin to form between the Knicks and the Bulls. The Knicks were stacked with talent but also with muscle, and the attitude from the players reflected that of the blue collar spectators in the stands. Nothing would be easy for MJ in those early 90s playoff match ups, but time and time again, Jordan would perform and lead his team to victory, and not without some bruises on the way.
Jordan would play well when he returned from playing baseball in 1995, but he would wait until his return to NY to put up a truly legendary performance, 55 points in fact. A few years later the All-Star weekend was hosted by New York and the main event was one of my favorite ever. Mike squared off against a young kid named Kobe in a match-up which was almost like a passing of the torch, Mike gave the kid a lesson in winning and came away with the MVP award at his home away from home.
There are countless other performances which I could reference, the 1998 game where he rocked the Jordan I's for example, but the bottom line is this... There is only one king of New York, and he wore the 23 before you did.