New York Knicks: Trae Young makes the perfect playoff villain

Frank Ntilikina, Trae Young, New York Knicks. (Photo by Seth Wenig - Pool/Getty Images)
Frank Ntilikina, Trae Young, New York Knicks. (Photo by Seth Wenig - Pool/Getty Images) /

We are only one game into this first-round playoff series, and the New York Knicks may have already found a perfect playoff villain.

Villains are a necessary part of all good entertainment. Harry Potter had Voldemort. Batman had the Joker. Sandra had Jonny Fairplay.

The Knicks have not had a true villain in some time. There has not been that one player that unites the fanbase in hatred and frustration for as far back as I can remember.

Sure, it’s easy to hate the Nets as a franchise–they are the inner-city rivals–but there is no one person on that roster that gets the whole Knicks’ fanbase in a tizzy. If you polled 100 Knicks fans, you’d probably get five or six different answers.

This is not an uncommon trend in Knicks history. Phil Jackson talks in Eleven Rings: The Soul of Success about how much the 70s Knicks hated the Lakers, but he never mentions one specific player as the locus of ire.

90s Knicks hated the Bulls, and even though Jordan was the main source of frustration (because, duh), there was plenty of hatred to go around with a team that was dominating the entire league for the majority of a decade.

There is one player that comes to mind from the 90s, though, that Trae Young is already starting to remind me of.

New York Knicks: Trae Young has become public enemy #1

A player who had the ability to simultaneously enliven and silence the Garden.

A player who was known for drawing cheap fouls.

A player who acknowledged how much the fans hated him, but only seemed to use it as fuel.

I’m talking, of course, about Reggie Miller.

With true villains, there has to be some tit-for-tat. There has to be a true threat that either side could come out victorious. (That’s, bluntly, what sets the 90s Bulls apart here. There was never a true threat that the Knicks would dethrone them.)

With Reggie Miller, there were constant exchanging of blows.

Trae Young has that potential.

You’ll recall that the Knicks and Hawks had identical records this year.

And even though the Knicks swept the season series, Trae Young put up a solid 24.7 points and 12 assists per game across the three meetings, per

Numbers only tell half the story, though. A true villain has the showmanship qualities as well. That’s where we really saw Trae Young excel in game one.

He ran all the stereotypical wrestling heel moves last night. He was as much Chris Jericho as he was LeBron James.

He got the benefit of some questionable calls. How many times have you seen a heel trick the ref into helping them cheat?

He mimed to the crowd to be quiet and that he had ice water in his veins. Heels love to play to the crowd when things are going their way.

He even claimed that Madison Square Garden was in Times Square. Mislabeling the place where you’re playing is a total heel move.

Here’s the true kicker with Trae Young: at only 22-years-old, Knicks fans could have years and years of dealing with him in the East.

Sunday night wasn’t just game one of a 2021 Eastern Conference First Round series. It may have been the opening salvo in a career-long rivalry.

Next. 3 Major takeaways from Game 1. dark