Long before LeBron James, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s first choice was to play for the New York Knicks.
It’s a familiar story for New York Knicks fans: superstar player wants to change teams, superstar player wants to go to the Knicks, superstar player ends up playing somewhere else. Rinse and repeat.
On the tenth anniversary of LeBron James’ infamous decision to “take his talents to South Beach,” Knicks fans have been tormented with the reminder that his first choice was to come to New York.
Of course, he didn’t. And the rest is history.
Most recently, Knicks fans were told by every NBA reporter under the sun that Kevin Durant would be calling Madison Square Garden home this season, only to see those dreams vanish into the neighboring Brooklyn air.
While the NBA Hot Stove has become its own business, turning rumors into stories as big (or bigger) than the actual game in recent years, the process of the Knicks being teased by superstar players is nothing new.
Kareem Abdul-Jabbar wanted to play for the Knicks.
In fact, in 1975, when Kareem Abdul-Jabbar changed the entire landscape of the league by moving from Milwaukee to Los Angeles, the Hall-of-Fame center was dreaming of playing for the Knicks.
"“I wanted to go to New York and play in New York,” Abdul-Jabbar said during the press conference following the trade to Los Angeles (H/T Essentially Sports). “It’s been a dream of mine since I first started playing basketball: to play for the Knickerbockers.”"
Jabbar, born Fernidand Lewis Alcindor Jr., grew up in the Dyckman Street projects and went to high school at the New York City basketball powerhouse Power Memorial Academy (PMA), winning 71 straight games at one point.
The all-time great asked to be traded to either the Knicks or Lakers following the 1974-75 season in Milwaukee. According to Jabbar, the Knicks never made the proper moves to get him.
"“I had a strong desire to return home [with the Knicks],” said Abdul-Jabbar. “But the Lakers made a sincere effort to get me, and that wasn’t the case with New York. I don’t think it’s smart to go around people who don’t really want you.”"
The Knicks believe they did their due diligence to acquire Jabbar, even though a source told the New York Times at the time that New York could have acquired him for $4 million in cash with no other players involved. The Lakers ended up sending two reserves (Elmore Smith and Brian Winters) along with two high draft picks in the 1975 draft (Dave Meyers and Junior Bridgeman) to the Bucks.
"“If it had involved money,” a Knicks spokesman told the New York Times following the trade. “We’d have been in better shape. But we didn’t have a 7‐foot center, or two young draft picks like Meyers and Bridgeman. We’re disappointed.”"
Jabbar would later try to force his way to New York again in 1981 when he asked the Lakers to trade him to either the Knicks or the Nets, but obviously a deal never materialized.
Unfortunately for Knicks fans, the cycle continues all of these years later.