While I have never been a fan of the New York Knicks and the teams in this book were ones that I use to despise, I was nonetheless very pleased with this book and thought it was an excellent portrayal of a team that was so good and yet couldn’t win a championship. Here is my review of “Blood in the Garden.”
Title/Author: “Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990’s New York Knicks” by Chris Herring
Rating: 5 of 5 stars (excellent)
Review: Professional basketball in the 1990’s was certainly dominated by the Chicago Bulls and Michael Jordan, having won six titles during that decade. Two others were won by the Houston Rockets and at the end of the decade, the San Antonio Spurs won the first of their five titles. However, if one is talking about teams that excelled during that time, one must also include the New York Knicks. Those Knicks teams provided some of the most thrilling moments for their fans and faced the Rockets and Spurs in the NBA Finals during the 1990’s. This excellent book by Chris Herring chronicles those teams in a fun, fast-paced read – not at all like the style of play by those teams.
Led by Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason, the Knicks were most famous for their stifling defense and their physical play. This carried over into their practices, and it is in those practice sessions where Herring tells the most interesting stories and information about the team. Whether it was about John Starks not wanting to drive to the basket during practice early in his tenure with the team, Gerald Wilkins sharing a story about practice ending early if he ran through a line of teammates ready to throw elbows and shoulders at him (he declined the offer) or the details in which coach Pat Riley had the team execute during these sessions, I enjoyed these sections more than the either the game writing or the portraits of key personnel.
That doesn’t mean that these sections of the book weren’t good – there were full and complete profiles on many of the key people who made the Knicks so successful during the 1990’s. That starts with Patrick Ewing and Pat Riley, the best player and coach respectively for the team during this time. But others are included as well – Anthony Mason, Charles Oakley, Jeff Van Gundy, Dave Checketts – those are just some of the names and people a reader will learn about as he or she reads about the team.
As for in-game writing, that is not as in depth as one might expect as only memorable games or moments are covered in detail. Take the 1994 Finals in which the Knicks lost to the Houston Rockets in 7 games. Of course, game 7 and the shooting struggles of John Starks are well documented as was the scene at Madison Square Garden during game 5 when the fans were leaving their seats and watching the television monitors in the concourse during the low-speed police chase of O.J. Simpson. But if a reader wants more detail of the other games in the series, there isn’t a lot aside from some details of the Knicks wins. The reader will still get a good perspective of the series, just not a lot of detail. This is true for all of the regular season and playoff basketball described in the book.
Knick fans who remember this time with mostly happy memories (after all, they did not win a championship) will want to get a copy of this book as will fans of the NBA during this time frame, when the Knicks, through their physical play, were one of the better professional teams.
I wish to thank Atria Books for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.