Despite a legacy that leaves plenty to be desired during his time in New York, David Lee will always hold a special place in the hearts of Knicks fans. He was the team leader nobody expected him to be with production that far outpaced his spot in the 2005 NBA Draft.
As a rookie, he generated about as much hype as a 30th overall pick would and didn’t seem to be headed anywhere special. The following season saw him earn more minutes, where he would show off an inside game that helped him average a double-double in less than 30 minutes a night.
Lee was a skilled lefty around the basket, ambidextrous with his touch around the rim. This made it difficult for defenses to slow him down, as they couldn’t simply force him to either hand given his skill with both. He wasn’t athletic or overly muscular, but he used incredible box-out fundamentals to dominate the glass.
He was also an underrated passer that could hit cutters out of the high post and pass out of the constant double teams he faced every night.
It was in his fourth season — the 2008-09 campaign — where the Knicks made him a permanent starter. Lee would take full advantage in averaging career-high marks in points, rebounds and assists.
In the following year, he would make his first of two career NBA All-Star Game appearances and would go on to average 20.2 points, 11.7 rebounds and 3.6 assists on the season, a sparkling stat line for one of the games underrated talents.
Lee’s production as a Knick was clouded on a team that won at best 33 games in any of his five seasons. Yet, he’s still greeted to a rousing ovation whenever he’s seen courtside at Madison Square Garden.
Why? Aside from the All-Star selection and a truly memorable game-winner, he was a sliver of light in a very dark time for the team, one who constantly produced in a manner no one thought possible back when he came onto the scene in 2005.