Boston and New York sports teams have had many memorable clashes over the years, whether it be the classic rivalry between the Red Sox and Yankees, or the always entertaining gridiron battles featuring the Patriots, Jets and Giants.
Yet after Wednesday night's close contest between the Celtics and Knicks, we may need to (re)add basketball to the list of prominent Boston-New York rivalries.
Media outlets from Boston and New York built a lot of hype around Wednesday night's game being a big rivalry game, but the Celtics just weren't buying into it beforehand. The Captain, Paul Pierce, responded with the following question when asked about the Celtics-Knicks rivalry.
"It's a rivalry?" said Pierce (via ESPN Boston). "Man, y'all are letting me in on all the new stuff, all the talk. I didn't know we had a rivalry going."
Yet after the game, Pierce acknowledged that the Knicks are for real.
"The Knicks have arrived," said Pierce after the game (via Yahoo! Sports). "They're going to be a force to reckon with in the division."
Nevertheless, he was right to question the validity of the rivalry. Following Wednesday night's win, Boston has defeated New York six of the last seven times. According to Chris Forsberg of ESPN Boston, the Celtics are 11-2 against the Knicks in the Big Three Era.
Forsberg put it best in his piece explaining why this Boston-New York clash still isn't a rivalry.
The Celtics and Knicks are in the same division with the current alignment in place since the 2004-05 season, when the Bobcats joined the NBA. In that time, the Celtics have won the division four times. The Knicks have never finished higher than third in the five-team division. Here's a closer look:
2009-10 -- Celtics 1st; Knicks 3rd (21 games behind)
2008-09 -- Celtics 1st; Knicks 5th (30 games behind)
2007-08 -- Celtics 1st; Knicks 5th (43 games behind)
2006-07 -- Celtics 5th; Knicks 4th (9 games ahead)
2005-06 -- Celtics 3rd; Knicks 5th (10 games behind)
2004-05 -- Celtics 1st; Knicks 4th (12 games behind)
It's a pretty simple concept. For two teams to have a rivalry, they both need to be competitive. The fact of the matter is that, for the majority of this decade, the Knicks have not been competitive.
For instance, if the Red Sox and Yankees were both bottom-of-the-barrel franchises that hadn't won World Series titles in over 100 years, the games just wouldn't be as hyped up and interesting, would they? Since the Knicks haven't been competitive in some time, they haven't garnered a rivalry status with Boston.
Yet that all may be changing with the emergence of the Knicks this season. Even after the loss, New York is 16-10 and sixth place in the Eastern Conference, just five games behind the Celtics. And with 56 games remaining for Mike D'Antoni's Knicks, that's not a bad place to be.
If the season ended today, New York would be back in the playoffs. Considering the Knicks' recent struggles, that is a huge step in the right direction (they haven't been in the postseason since the 2003-04 season).
David Stern and the NBA brass, as well as many Bostonians and New Yorkers, would like nothing more than a rekindled Celtics-Knicks rivalry. It's looking like that may be turning into a reality.