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When the Garden Was Eden: Clyde, the Captain, Dollar Bill, and the Glory Days of the New York Knicks
Synopses & Reviews
The late 1960s and early 1970s, in New York City and America at large, were years marked by political tumult, social unrest—and the best professional basketball ever played. Paradise, for better or worse, was a hardwood court in Midtown Manhattan.
When the Garden Was Eden is the definitive account of how the New York Knickerbockers won their first and only championships, and in the process provided the nation no small escape from the Vietnam War, the tragedy at Kent State, and the last vestiges of Jim Crow. The Knicks were more than a team; they were a symbol of harmony, the sublimation of individual personalities for the greater collective good.
No one is better suited to revive the old chants of “Dee-fense!” that rocked Madison Square Garden or the joy that radiated courtside than Harvey Araton, who has followed the Knicks, old and new, for decades—first as a teenage fan, then as a young sports reporter with the New York Post, and now as a writer and columnist for the New York Times. Araton has traveled to the Louisiana home of the Captain, Willis Reed (after writing a column years earlier that led to his abrupt firing as the Knicks short-lived coach); he has strolled the lush gardens of Walt “Clyde” Fraziers St. Croix oasis; discussed the politics of that turbulent era with Senator Bill Bradley; toured Baltimores church basement basketball leagues with Black Jesus himself, Earl “the Pearl” Monroe; played memory games with Jerry “the Brain” Lucas; explored the Tao of basketball with Phil “Action” Jackson; and sat through eulogies for Dave DeBusschere, the lunch-bucket, 23-year-old player-coach lured from Detroit, and Red Holzman, the scrappy Jewish guard who became a coaching legend.
In When the Garden Was Eden, Araton not only traces the history of New Yorks beloved franchise—from Ned Irish to Spike Lee to Carmelo Anthony—but profiles the lives and careers of one of sports all-time great teams, the Old Knicks. With measured prose and shoe-leather reporting, Araton relives their most glorious triumphs and bitter rivalries, and casts light on a time all but forgotten outside of pregame highlight reels and nostalgic reunions—a time when the Garden, Madison Square, was its own sort of Eden.
"Long before he was a sports columnist for the New York Times, native New Yorker Araton grew up loving the Knicks during their championship heyday. Personal significance aside, according to Araton, the teams of the late 1960s and early 1970s 'were the city's first true basketball love, consummated in the years before the romance of sport became complicated by money and the constructed divide between athlete and fan.' Their share-the-wealth success spurred countless books and created several heroes, such as Walt 'Clyde' Frazier, who was smooth on and off the court, and inspirational leader Willis Reed, whose dramatic return from a painful knee injury in game seven of the 1970s NBA finals cemented his legend. Araton profiles the team's construction, its players (some of whom have seen better days since retirement), and the high profile fans ( Woody Allen, Elliot Gould) who may have helped turn pro basketball into a media-savvy, worldwide business. The author's attempts to tie the era's political tumult and his own personal experiences to the larger story feel arbitrary and forced, but this thoroughly reported examination of the 'Old Knicks' and their connection to the city is still an essential read for basketball history buffs. 8 pages of b&w photo." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
In the tradition of The Boys of Summer and The Bronx Is Burning, New York Times sports columnist Harvey Araton delivers a fascinating look at the 1970s New York Knicks—part autobiography, part sports history, part epic, set against the tumultuous era when Walt Frazier, Willis Reed, and Bill Bradley reigned supreme in the world of basketball. Perfect for readers of Jeff Pearlmans The Bad Guys Won!, Peter Richmonds Badasses, and Pat Williamss Coach Wooden, Aratons revealing story of the Knicks heyday is far more than a review of one of basketballs greatest teams inspiring story—it is, at heart, a stirring recreation of a time and place when the NBA championships defined the national dream.
About the Author
Harvey Araton has been a sports columnist for the New York Times since 1991. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey, with his wife and two hoops-loving sons.
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