The 5 Most Impactful Trades in New York Knicks History

The New York Knicks formed in 1946 as one of the original franchises of the league that would later become the NBA. Since then, the team has made eight trips to the NBA Finals, winning two titles. Several outstanding players have contributed to the team’s success.

While some of these Knicks, such as Patrick Ewing, were drafted by the franchise, others made their way to New York via trades. From generational talents to key pieces in championship runs, here’s a chronological look at five of the best players acquired by trade in New York Knicks history.

1. Dave DeBusschere

New York had lost in the first round of the playoffs in each of the previous two seasons before acquiring Dave DeBusschere, a Detroit Pistons forward, in December 1968. A high-level defender and rebounder, DeBusschere would go on to become an integral piece of the great Knicks teams of the late 1960s/early ‘70s.

After advancing to the second round of the playoffs in 1968–69, DeBusschere and the Knicks won an NBA championship — the franchise’s first — in his first full year in New York. He then helped lead the Knicks to two more Finals appearances, including a second title in 1972–73.

Along with contributing to the team’s success, DeBusschere earned individual accolades as an All-Star in five consecutive years starting in 1970. He retired following his final All-Star season and went on to be honored as an NBA Hall of Famer and a member of the league’s 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams.

2. Earl Monroe

A teammate of DeBusschere who also went on to become a Hall of Famer and a member of both the 50th and 75th Anniversary Teams, Earl Monroe spent his first four NBA seasons with the Baltimore Bullets. He was acquired by New York in November 1971, by which time the Knicks had already won their first championship.

Forming a backcourt with fellow Knicks great Walt “Clyde” Frazier, “Earl the Pearl” helped the Knicks return to the Finals in each of the next two years, winning in 1972–1973. He continued his outstanding play in subsequent seasons, averaging 16.2 points per game and making two All-Star teams.

Monroe’s legacy as a member of two consecutive Finals squads continues to make him a Knicks legend today. When considering that the Knicks paid a surprisingly low price to acquire him, some experts point to this trade as the greatest in franchise history.

3. Charles Oakley

While he was named an All-Star only once, Charles Oakley was considered the heart and soul of the ’90s Knicks. Playing alongside legendary center Patrick Ewing, the power forward helped the team reach the playoffs in each of his 10 years in New York.

Oakley came to the franchise after spending his first three seasons in Chicago. After the Knicks won the first pick in the 1985 draft, which the franchise used to select Ewing, center Bill Cartwright was no longer needed and was dealt for the 24-year-old power forward.

Oakley averaged a double-double in points and rebounds over his Knicks tenure and was a member of the 1993–94 team that reached the Finals. He played six more seasons after leaving New York before retiring at the age of 40.

4. Larry Johnson

Larry Johnson made two All-Star teams as a member of the Charlotte Hornets before being traded to New York ahead of the 1996–97 season. While he never managed to regain his All-Star form, Johnson’s 12.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game helped the team reach the postseason in all five of his Knicks seasons.

Johnson will forever remain a part of franchise lore for one moment in particular during the 1999 playoff run that culminated in a trip to the NBA Finals. Playing in the Eastern Conference Finals, Johnson and the Knicks were tied one game apiece with the Indiana Pacers when the team received the devastating news that Ewing had suffered a season-ending injury.

Despite being without their star player, the Knicks managed to trail by only three points late in game 3. As time wound down, Johnson looked to tie the score with a three-pointer. Not only did the shot connect but Johnson was fouled on the play. In making the subsequent free throw, he converted a four-point play that won the game for the Knicks and carried them to an improbable victory in six games over the Pacers.

5. Carmelo Anthony

Carmelo Anthony guided the Knicks to the team’s most consistent run of success since the turn of the millennium. Traded to the Knicks in February of 2011, he went on to lead the team to three consecutive playoff appearances while averaging 24.7 points per game over his seven seasons in New York.

Over this time, he won the 2012–13 scoring title and, in the same season, placed third in MVP voting. Unfortunately, the team never reached the heights experienced by other players on the list during Anthony’s tenure, in part due to the heavy price the franchise paid to acquire him from the Denver Nuggets.

Still, many Knicks fans today look back fondly on Anthony’s time in New York. A seven-time All-Star with the team, he will go down as a Knicks legend.

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Harvey Bell

Harvey Bell serves as a managing director, team leader, and senior portfolio manager with Morgan Stanley in West Orange, New Jersey.