To call the New York Knicks a "dynasty," as the NBA has done by releasing the team's history in the "NBA Dynasty Series," is a bit of a stretch. The team has two titles to its name, less than any of the other four franchises (Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, Chicago Bulls, Philadelphia 76ers) represented in the series. Most seasons, the Knicks are mediocre at best, squeaking into the playoffs and exiting in the first round.
There are, it seems, some advantages to being located in the country's biggest media market. And no, I don't mean the possibly-fixed draft lottery that gave the Knicks the right to draft Patrick Ewing.
Whether the team itself is worthy, The New York Knicks: A Complete History is an incredibly in-depth release, with NBA Entertainment dipping deep into the vaults to come up with footage from every era of the team.
The main feature of the five-disc set comes on the first disc: A direct-from-VHS port of the 1989 feature "New York's Game: History of the Knicks." It is paired with a shorter feature on the post-1990 squads, focusing on John Starks, Spike Lee and company.
In fact, most of the footage here has appeared elsewhere, whether as a segment on one of the NBA's television shows such as "Inside Stuff" or a full, dedicated VHS release. Knicks completists or longtime fans have likely seen much of the material before.
The rest of disc one highlights individual players, rivalries, or moments from Knicks history. Dave DeBusschere, Willis Reed and Bill Bradley each get their due, with the latter being one of the most interesting segments on the DVD; it seems more like an autobiography, with Bradley providing the voiceover. It's the equivalent of a mid-70s short film, and much more interesting than the normal NBA fluff pieces.
There are some major problems here, the biggest being in the packaging. The discs are stored on top of each other, layered in such a way that if someone wants to view one, often (s)he would have to remove another disc to get to it. To add to the confusion, the discs are not labelled at all; there is no way to tell just by looking at the DVDs which is disc one and which is disc five.
In addition, there is very little sense of unity to the history segments. Anyone looking for what Knicks players think of eras before or after theirs are left wanting. Since every segment was produced to air separately, it makes viewing the set much more episodic. What does current era Knicks point guard Stephon Marbury think about playing in the same arena as someone like Walt Frazier or Earl "The Pearl" Monroe? Those are the types of segments that would really hold the disc together.
Because of the various time periods chronicled in The New York Knicks: A Complete History, the video and audio standards vary wildly. The game footage found on discs two through five likely look and sound as good here as they ever will, while the features on disc one are not much improved over their VHS counterparts or their over-the-air broadcasts.
It is difficult in such a set to determine where the so-called "main feature" ends and the extras begin. For the purposes of this review, the full games on discs two through five will be considered the extras.
The two-sided DVDs of The New York Knicks: A Complete History contain eight full-length contests:
Disc 2, Side A: 1970 NBA Finals Game 7 - Knicks v. Los Angeles Lakers
Disc 2, Side B: 1984 Eastern Conference First Round, Game 5 - Knicks v. Detroit Pistons
Disc 3, Side A: 1984 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 6 - Knicks v. Boston Celtics
Disc 3, Side B: 1989 Eastern Conference First Round, Game 3 - Knicks v. Philadelphia 76ers
Disc 4, Side A: 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 2 - Knicks v. Chicago Bulls
Disc 4, Side B: 1994 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 7 - Knicks v. Indiana Pacers
Disc 5, Side A: 1999 Eastern Conference First Round, Game 5 - Knicks v. Miami Heat
Disc 5, Side B: 1999 Eastern Conference Finals, Game 3 - Knicks v. Indiana Pacers
The game selection says a lot about the Knicks' relative strength as a franchise - only one NBA Finals matchup, and three of the remaining seven come from the first round of the playoffs.
Disc two also contains highlights from Game 5 of the 1970 NBA Finals. The set does not contain highlights or full games from the 1973 NBA Finals, a curious omission.
For a Knicks fan, it's hard to imagine a better gift collection than The New York Knicks: A Complete History. While the lack of new material is glaring, NBA Entertainment has done a great job encapsulating the history of the New York NBA franchise. For general basketball fans, the other entries in the "NBA Dynasty Series" are more relevant to the great history of the league.