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Jalen Brunson was a source of dreams and nightmares in Philadelphia. He helped lead Villanova two national championships in the Wells Fargo Center in 2016 and 2018. And on Sunday, the New York Knicks guard perhaps cut the lights off in that building following a historic 47-point, 10-assist masterpiece in Game 4 vs. the Philadelphia 76ers. The orchestra of roars carried a familiar tone. When it comes to these Knicks and Brunson in particular, love and loyalty know no bounds. Every day is Groundhog Day — and finally for Knicks fans, that’s something to be proud of.

I think back to April 12, roughly an hour before the New York Knicks tipped off against the Brooklyn Nets. Sandra Brunson felt herself getting emotional. Her husband, Rick, and their son, Jalen, were getting up shots on the opposite end of the court in Madison Square Garden. That night would be critical in the Knicks landing the 2-seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs. But at that moment, the fans only cared about getting a glimpse of the leader of a gritty, cohesive and enthralling Knicks unit that has galvanized the city.

“MVP! MVP!” one fan chanted.

“F— Boston! Easy work last night!” another yelled.

“Two-seed loading!” yet another chimed in.

Of course, Brunson didn’t give the coveted title of king of New York to himself. He’s far too humble and deliberate on and off the court — except on his podcast, the Roommates Show, with teammate (and former college roommate) Josh Hart and co-host Matt Hillman. Quite honestly, that moniker shouldn’t be his genuine concern at the moment. However, denying his impact across the city’s five boroughs would be equally disingenuous.

When I arrived at Madison Square Garden that Friday evening, Brunson and his teammate Donte DiVincenzo (DiVincenzo, Brunson and Hart make up the “Nova Knicks“) were shooting 3s in their own makeshift version of “Around The World.” DiVincenzo enjoyed a hearty laugh — as did Brunson’s family, including his dad, who played for the Knicks in the late 1990s — when Brunson tried to dunk. It may be his only lousy decision of the season. But when I sat with Sandra Brunson behind the opposite basket, her profound gratitude radiated.

A Long Island, New York, native and self-proclaimed diehard New York Giants fanatic, Sandra Brunson understands the importance of playing in the most famous city in the world. Her eyes turned glossy as she remembered her son running on the court with his dad before games. Now, he’s the star in a city full of stars and leading a franchise that hasn’t experienced this level of excitement in at least a decade. Yet, it’s not only the glitz and the glamour so many in the city associate with Brunson. It’s the tenacity to hustle in a city full of hustlers. It’s a hoodie, skully, Canada Goose coats and AirPods in the dead of winter hustle that lives in Brunson.

“All I know is growing up here, everybody just worked so hard. New Yorkers are just tough, put our heads down. [We] don’t look for accolades. I’m sure that could be any city, but because I’m from here, it really means a lot because I think about that little boy … dreaming of this,” Sandra Bunson said. “For him to come back here as a professional, words can’t explain the joy that it brings. Everyone in New York feels good about the team and the city. It’s amazing how a sport can do that.”

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New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson leaves the court after the game against the Philadelphia 76ers on April 28 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The evening Sandra Brunson and I spoke, Brunson was awarded Eastern Conference Player of the Month for March before the game versus the Nets and then proceeded to score 30 points and 11 assists (with no turnovers). Two days later on April 14, in the final game of the regular season, Brunson’s 40 points, 8 rebounds and 7 assists against the Chicago Bulls cemented the 2-seed for the Knicks — and perhaps more importantly, nearly a whole week of rest to prepare for an incredibly physical matchup versus the Sixers. Following Brunson’s departure from the Dallas Mavericks that boiled down to dollars and cents, his tenure in New York has been meteoric and uniquely personal. He’s the unquestioned leader of a pro team that sports a collegelike camaraderie. This Knicks team is as tough as well-done steak.

Brunson is the Knicks’ best player since the Carmelo Anthony era ended in 2017. Yet, New York is a city of point guards, which makes Brunson’s rise to power particularly romantic.

“This is a place that’s been starved for a lead guard, point guard, and captain solidified,” Monica McNutt, the ESPN and Knicks radio analyst, said. “Jalen has answered that call and exceeded expectations in many ways. He just embodies New York in that you might look and underestimate, but you’re going to feel him.”

Brunson never gets too up or down. In a city like New York, it’s not only preferred out of the stars but also a requirement. He doesn’t say much, but his actions speak volumes.

“It’s like he doesn’t want to let anyone down. He knows that if he gives the same amount of effort, it’ll reflect, and hopefully, it will be with the W. But that propels him forward,” Sandra Brunson said. “He just wants to do the work. He won’t really talk about it because he’s like, ‘I’m supposed to be here.’ “

The thing is this. Brunson doesn’t engage in a lot of banter, and that’s fine. He’s in the perfect city that will do that for him.


In 1990, Christopher Walken starred in the film King of New York, and from there, a cultural fascination with the title was born. Five years later, The Source magazine gave The Notorious B.I.G. his first cover, crowning him the city’s king. Five World Series rings cemented Derek Jeter as an icon of New York lore. Musically, Jay-Z has carried the moniker for the better part of the last quarter century. The title has always been in constant transition, but it stays with a person forever as a bookmark in the city’s history.

“If you’re the king of New York in a sport, you might as well be one of the biggest names in sports, period, because you’re doing it in the biggest city, in the biggest market,” said Chris Herring, author of Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks. “Everybody knows what you sound like and what you look like.”

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New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson (right) celebrates with filmmaker Spike Lee (left) after the Knicks’ win against the Toronto Raptors at the Scotiabank Arena on Dec. 1, 2023, in Toronto.

MARK BLINCH/GETTY IMAGES

Looking at the process, it’s nearly impossible to categorize Brunson’s rise as anything short of a storybook. His father played in the NBA for almost a decade and played in the franchise’s last NBA Finals appearance against the San Antonio Spurs in 1999. Brunson’s current coach, Tom Thibodeau, was an assistant coach for the team then. The clips of father and son working out play right into the obsessive work ethic Brunson shows on the court and mirrors a large pocket of Knicks fans. He was a second-round pick and played alongside fellow 2018 draftee Luka Dončić. He starred in a complementary role, and when the money offered by the Mavericks wasn’t enough — he made sure to increase the price of the brick on his own on the most significant stage possible.

“That taps into the New York story, too, of giving him just enough fuel to be an underdog even once he was transitioning into stardom,” Herring said. “That’s a massive part of what New Yorkers like to feel about themselves … Think about what people love to hear and what galvanizes the fan base. Jalen Brunson had just enough that before he even played a game for the Knicks.”

Bonz Malone wrote the 1995 cover story on The Notorious B.I.G. for The Source, and is extremely protective of the king of New York title. While it may not have originated with The Notorious B.I.G., it’s still his. It’s one he took pride in, even referring to it on his 1997 cut “Kick in the Door” as he addressed a slew of MCs, such as Nas and members of the Wu-Tang Clan, for perceived lyrical threats aimed at his throne.

Yet, Malone admits one thing. As a Knicks fan, images of the 1994 season culminating in a Knicks Game 7 loss in the NBA Finals remain fresh. But it hasn’t allowed him to take Brunson’s tenure for granted. For Malone, it’s fearless and tenacious but organized like an orchestra or waltz. Focusing on the past is fine, his thinking goes, but it can’t pollute or allow Knicks fans not to appreciate what’s in front of them.

“The title ‘King of New York,’ like I’ve always said, was given to B.I.G. for a reason. I don’t ever want anybody to get the wrong impression that it’s interchangeable. Officially, it belongs to B.I.G.,” said Malone. “Now what Jalen is doing for New York City, he’s the MVP. That’s the only title he needs because that’s what everyone is chanting. Everywhere he goes, he has solidified himself as that.”

In December 2023, Las Vegas Aces coach Becky Hammon made headlines when she argued the Knicks wouldn’t be able to win a title with Brunson as its best player. Historically, Hammon, a basketball savant and WNBA championship-winning coach, wasn’t inaccurate. Basketball, as she noted in a follow-up message posted on social media, “favors the tall.” The best players on the teams who have won NBA titles have historically been taller than Brunson, who is 6-2. Only players such as Isiah Thomas of the Phoenix Suns and Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors have broken that mold as smaller guards who were also the best player on a championship team.

The vibe around New York City is understandably combative. Exactly why can’t Brunson add his name to that list? If he was offended by Hammon’s statement, Brunson never took the opportunity to address it. His silence on the matter has deepened the love and passion for him. Looking at the NBA’s fourth-leading scorer on the surface, there’s nothing about him that necessarily suggests he should be that guy. He’s not the fastest. He’s a much-improved shooter, but could be better. But he’s also rugged in an Allen Iversonian way.

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New York Knicks guard Jalen Brunson makes a play against the Brooklyn Nets on Jan. 28, 2023, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

“New York, at its core, was a blue-collar town,” Dallas Penn, a Queens borough native and cultural critic in New York, said. “While tremendous money comes through this port again, it’s based on the blue-collar manual labor, manufacturing, hardworking people.

“When the Knicks are up,” Penn said, “let’s just get back to the fact that working-class people — your bus driver, your sanitation worker, your civil servant — almost take on a bit of regality themselves. Understand something, [if] you live in this city, you’ve got to be incredibly wealthy just to be poor.”

When I saw him warm up before the Nets game earlier this month, he wore a pair of orange WNBA-inspired Kobe 6 player editions. His footwork is a nod to the late Hall of Famer Kobe Bryant. So is his relentless, bloodthirsty will to win. Teams have thrown nearly every defensive set imaginable at him, and he simply adjusts.

Despite it all, what could be the most endearing quality about Brunson is that he somehow remains an enigma. This is despite growing commercial endorsements and making Madison Square Garden the epicenter of the playoffs again. Yet, Brunson manages to say just enough to charm fans, but not nearly enough to peel back the layers.

“Frankly, I’ve heard that beat writers around the team describe him as a Jeter-like figure,” said Herring. “Jeter rarely said anything of note to the media. He knew he wasn’t saying much. But it helps to have this mystique where you’re always trying to figure out what he’s thinking other than the idea that you know he’s taking notes on what’s been said. You know he’s thinking about it. You know he hears it.”

The noise around Brunson is overpowering because of the location of his home office. Opened in 1879, Madison Square Garden has undergone four versions, the most recent being in 1968. Where a lack of titles has haunted the venue for generations, a lack of history has not. The Knicks and New York Rangers’ last title games (1973 and 1994, respectively) were played here, and won by names such as Willis Reed, Clyde Frazier and Mark Messier. “The Fight of the Century,” the first of Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier’s iconic trilogy, was fought there in 1971 — and the downfall of notorious drug kingpin Frank Lucas began when he wore a $100,000, floor-length chinchilla coat and matching $25,000 hat to the fight, attracting the attention of law enforcement. Actor Marilyn Monroe sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy in 1962. Larry Johnson’s 4-point play and Michael Jordan’s double nickel, too. And thanks to the most lauded Knicks fan of them all, Reggie Miller will always hold a special place in Madison Square Garden. Miller, ever the antagonist, wouldn’t have it any other way.

“I think the Garden has been a huge part of [Brunson’s story],” Herring said, “and I think that there’s not that level of attachment if not for some of those factors [like the Garden].”


We’re ready to anoint him because of his pedigree and lineage, and he’s an All-Star. But we need an extended run and quality leadership

Dallas Penn

Over time, the idea of Brunson overtook the reality of who he is as a player. His passion parallels the hopes of generations of New Yorkers who practice cautious optimism — as “cautious” as New Yorkers are capable of — that Brunson is the savior they’ve been praying for. It’s why he referred to Knicks fans as “family” in a recent essay for The Players Tribune.

Brunson plays on Broadway and is the conductor of a maniacal-in-unison squad that includes players such as Hart, DiVincenzo, OG Anunoby, Deuce McBride and Isaiah Hartenstein who’ve become stars in their roles. They are New York in a way Knicks basketball hasn’t been in well over a generation. However, the evolution is reminiscent of New York, which isn’t romanticized in Times Square billboards or Watch What Happens Live shotskis with Andy Cohen.

From a sports perspective, the title of king of New York is there for Brunson’s taking. It may already be his. Regarding dominance, the only actual competition is Breanna Stewart of the New York Liberty, who led her squad within two wins of a WNBA title last season. The list of contenders, aside from them, run thin. New York Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge is currently experiencing one of the worst batting averages of his career. The New York Giants haven’t had anyone close since Odell Beckham Jr., and the New York Mets are void of nationwide star power. This season, the Rangers’ Presidents’ Trophy makes them arguably the best team in the city, but even centre Matt Rempe’s hold on New York isn’t at the level of Brunson’s. Meanwhile, the obvious contender, New York Jets quarterback Aaron Rodgers, seems to be a conspiracy theorist.

Nevertheless, there is an inquiry New Yorkers don’t seem to be wholly aligned with: What exactly would it take for Brunson to objectively assume control of the current king of New York?

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New York Knicks assistant Coach Rick Brunson (right) of the talks with son Jalen Brunson (left) a during the preseason game on Oct. 9, 2023, at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images

“I don’t think it would be something where they need to make a Finals run this year for him to be viewed as the king of New York,” Herring said.”If they make the conference semis and certainly the conference finals, I already think it’s close to being cemented. That’s a really good signal that it’s more about the way he carries himself and his backstory and how dominant he’s been than what they’d accomplish as a team. That’s a little different.”

“We’re not the longest of long shots, but these odds are superlong. We’re ready to anoint him because of his pedigree and lineage, and he’s an All-Star. But we need an extended run and quality leadership,” Penn said, echoing Herring’s sentiment. “But if he gets to the Eastern Conference Finals, he’s not just a shoo-in. He’s anointed.”

Lifelong Knicks fan Shaina Wiel disagreed. “The only scenario is him winning a championship,” she said. “I’m not trying to be stereotypical, but as New Yorkers, we don’t care about what-ifs. If they make it to the Finals, great job. I’m superproud of you. But unless you’re winning a championship, nobody cares … We’re trying to be insufferable, and how are we going to be insufferable if we don’t win?”

It may be because Brunson is undersized, and there’s an every-man/every-woman quality in it that feels palpable in ways that even the Carmelo Anthony era didn’t. Herring, a beat writer during Anthony’s years with the Knicks, can still feel the passion and tension. As much as Knicks fans loved (and still love) him, he felt the discomfort at times, fairly and unfairly.

“I don’t know any Knicks fan that isn’t head over heels in love with Jalen Brunson,” said Herring. “He’s gotten there a lot earlier than just about anybody has — minus Jeremy Lin, but that was a couple of weeks, and this has been two years.”

Much like being passed over for Team USA for this year’s Olympic run in Paris — “I didn’t even look at the list,” Brunson said — individual titles don’t matter to him. They do, however, to so many others. So what type of king of New York could Brunson possibly be? The unassuming, involuntary one, but one the city fiercely protects because he keeps the main thing, the main thing.

According to his mother, off the court, Brunson’s “a ham.” Yet, when it comes down to standing on business, the city understands what he brings to the table is rare. It’s infectious, in an endearing way, to his teammates and the millions of New Yorkers he’ll never meet.

That night versus the Nets, fans didn’t just serenade him with MVP chants. They demanded it be awarded to him. Celebrity row, which featured people such as new Chicago Sky draft pick Angel Reese, Afrobeats artist Davido, and former NBA star Rod Strickland, wasn’t the focus. Not too far from the press row, a father couldn’t stop talking to his kids about Brunson. Another can’t stop staying, “Give him the MVP, damnit!” Throughout Madison Square Garden, half of those in attendance wear some sort of Brunson paraphernalia — jerseys, shirts, hoodies, hats.

He’s not just an MVP candidate. He’s their MVP.

Less than 30 minutes before tipoff that night, Sandra Brunson was still emotional. Since he was in high school, she’s always texted her son before every game. The messages focus on balance and perspective. Integrity and purpose. Being present and the bigger picture.

She told her son that day, “When they make it about you, make it about the team.”

Those messages are precisely why Brunson and New York City sit on the precipice they do today.

“He’s already a legend here in New York,” McNutt said matter-of-factly. “Frankly, this is just the beginning.

———————–

By: Justin Tinsley
Title: Jalen Brunson, the quiet king of New York
Sourced From: andscape.com/features/jalen-brunson-king-of-new-york/
Published Date: Mon, 29 Apr 2024 20:18:39 +0000

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Adam Silver says the NBA may be ‘past the point’ of having a competitive all-star game

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Adam Silver says the NBA may be ‘past the point’ of having a competitive all-star game – originally posted on Sportslens.com

A hot discussion topic around the NBA over the last few years has been the overall product of the all-star game. In the past, the competition level in the all-star game has come into question. Specifically, on defense. The all-star game has turned into a glorified three-point and dunk contest. Not what fans want to see. 

Ahead of Game 3 in the 2024 NBA Finals last night, the NBA Commissioner sat down with the NBA Countdown desk. Silver was asked if any changes could be made to improve the all-star game. Reluctantly, the Commissioner noted that players don’t have any real incentive to play at a high level of competition. Has the NBA given up on trying to make the all-star game competitive again?

What can the NBA do to increase the level of competition in the annual all-star game?

ESPN’s Michael Wilbon asked Commissioner Adam Silver about the possibility of a US vs. International all-star game. He offered this idea as a way to bring a new level of competition. While Silver listened to the idea, he responded saying that the league may be past the point of making the all-star game competitive again. Silver noted that it’s hard to get players to give 100% effort in a game that has no real incentives or meaning. Additionally, players do not want to risk getting injured in an all-star game.

In 2024, the all-star game was out of hand. The league returned to the East vs. West format this season. With no defense being played in the all-star game, the East won by 25 points and scored 211 total. That’s simply not a realistic score for a basketball game no matter how talented the players are. Before this year’s all-star game, NBA legends like Larry Bird went into the locker rooms and discussed the level of competition. Despite the speech from Bird, the all-star game was an offensive showcase. Hardly any defense was played.


The most exciting part of this year’s all-star weekend was the three-point shootout between Steph Curry and Sabrina Ionescu from the New York Liberty. Their shootout was a refreshing twist on all-star weekend, Compared to the product they’ve been putting out of the last several years. Is there anything the NBA can do to save the all-star game? Surely Adam Silver and his colleagues will tackle that issue this offseason.

From Sportslens.com – NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB News, Rumors & Betting Picks

———————–

By: Zach Wolpin
Title: Adam Silver says the NBA may be ‘past the point’ of having a competitive all-star game
Sourced From: sportslens.com/news/adam-silver-says-the-nba-may-be-past-the-point-of-having-a-competitive-all-star-game/
Published Date: Thu, 13 Jun 2024 14:20:59 +0000

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Adam Silver hinted at three potential cities for NBA expansion teams in the future

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Adam Silver hinted at three potential cities for NBA expansion teams in the future – originally posted on Sportslens.com

While the NBA Finals are still going on, the offseason is approaching. Twenty-eight of the league’s 30 teams are already in their offseason. Boston and Dallas are still battling for the rights to be the 2024 NBA Champions. Ahead of Game 2 on Sunday night, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver sat down with NBC Sports Boston. 

Silver was asked about possible expansion in the NBA and where potential teams could be located. He was not able to give much detail, but Silver did mention how the NBA is working to see what is the best move for their league. Commissioner Silver mentioned Seattle, Las Vegas, and Mexico City.

When will the NBA expand the league past 30 teams?


As it stands, 29 of the 30 current teams in the NBA play in the United States. The Toronto Raptors are the only franchise not in America. What cities would be best for future NBA expansion? Talking with NBC Sports Boston, Adam Silver mentioned Seattle, Las Vegas, and Mexico City. Seattle is a market that would certainly be a fan favorite. They used to be home to the SuperSonics before the team was relocated and changed to the OKC Thunder. There’s no doubt Seattle would love to have a professional basketball team back in Washington.

There’s also Las Vegas, which would be a no-brainer. Several expansion teams have been added in other professional sports leagues. The NBA could follow their lead and make an expansion team in Nevada. Commissioner Silver also mentioned Mexico City as a possible expansion destination. The NBA has played a few games in Mexico City in the past. If made an expansion team, Mexico City would become the second team in the league not in the United States.


Expansion is not going to happen this offseason and the league needs some time to make that happen. They are currently in deep negotiations with NBC, ESPN, and Amazon for a new media rights package. Once that is all settled, then the league can start doing more research on expansion cities and teams. To keep the league at an even number, two cities will get an expansion team. One in the East and one in the West.

From Sportslens.com – NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB News, Rumors & Betting Picks

———————–

By: Zach Wolpin
Title: Adam Silver hinted at three potential cities for NBA expansion teams in the future
Sourced From: sportslens.com/news/adam-silver-hinted-at-three-potential-cities-for-nba-expansion-teams-in-the-future/
Published Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2024 17:56:25 +0000

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Yankees vs Dodgers Weekend Match Up Could Be World Series Preview

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Yankees vs Dodgers Weekend Match Up Could Be World Series Preview – originally posted on Sportslens.com

The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers entered the 2024 MLB season as two of the favorites to win the World Series, and not much has changed in that regard over the first 2+ months. Both have commanding and growing leads in their respective divisions, and are still at the top of the odds list when it comes to championship likelihood.

Yankees vs. Dodgers Could Be World Series Preview

This weekend, the two powerhouses will meet for a three-game series in New York, which could very well be a preview for this October’s World Series.

Despite being 6 games behind the Yankees and in 5th place overall when it comes to the best record in the major leagues, the Dodgers are still the heavy championship favorites. Los Angeles will enter the weekend with a +290 designation to win the World Series, given their balanced attack and brutal batting order. They are currently 8 games up in the NL West, and have the second-best record in the entire National League behind the Phillies.

The Yankees are currently in second on the World Series odds list with a number of +500, but are arguably the best team in baseball right now. They have the most wins in the majors with 45, and are one of two teams (along with the Phillies) who have yet to lose a 20th game. They’ve won 8 in a row and 19 of their last 24, and have lengthened what was the smallest division lead in the majors to 4.5 games over the Orioles.

Both Teams Are Minus Money For This Weekend’s Series Overall

When it comes to the odds for the upcoming series, both teams are listed as minus-money. The Dodgers will be the slight favorites at -115, with the Yankees coming in at -105. The pitching matchup for the first game of the series on Friday will be Yoshinobu Yamamoto against Cody Poteet.

The success of the Yankees has plenty to do with star players Aaron Judge and Juan Soto, who are listed as the two favorites to win the American League MVP award.

From Sportslens.com – NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB News, Rumors & Betting Picks

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By: Anthony R. Cardenas
Title: Yankees vs Dodgers Weekend Match Up Could Be World Series Preview
Sourced From: sportslens.com/news/yankees-vs-dodgers-weekend-match-up-could-be-world-series-preview/
Published Date: Fri, 07 Jun 2024 18:36:38 +0000

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