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145. Dick Barnett

Sometimes players are forgotten with time, such is the case of Dick Barnett. A key member of the Knicks championship team and a player who had a long and productive NBA career, he is forgotten by most fans today.

Barnett lead Tennessee A&I, now Tennessee State to three consecutive NAIA national champions from 57-59. He than entered the NBA draft where he was the 5th pick by the Syracuse Nationals in 1959. Barnett had a solid two seasons with the Nationals and quickly became a starter. The team however wanted to relocate to Philadelphia and sold Barnett to the Los Angeles Lakers.

Barnett quickly became a key member of a very good Lakers team that had established superstars Jerry West and Elgin Baylor. Barnett played a sixth man role during stretches with the Lakers but was able to average over 18 points a game.

The Lakers made the NBA finals in both 63 and 65 with Barnett but lost both times to the Boston Celtics. After the 1965 season where Barnett had one of his worst as a professional he was traded by the Lakers to the New York Knicks for Bob Boozer.

Barnett’s points averaged jumped 10 points from 65 to 66, from 13 to 23. The 23 points a game was a career high and the only time in his career he averaged over 20 points a game.

The Knicks began to turn things around as they already had a loaded team with Willis Reed, Walt Bellamy, Walt Frazier, Jim Barnes and veteran Tom Gola.

Barnett made the all-star team in 1968; the only one he’d ever play in. But the Knicks as a team began to see unparalleled franchise success. In 1969 they lost to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern finals and in 1970 the Knicks made the NBA finals to face the LA Lakers.

The 1970 NBA finals is one of the most memorable to ever be played. It’s the infamous Willis Reed game, where Reed injured his leg in game six only to triumphantly walk onto the court prior to game 7, start, score for 4 points and helped the Knicks win the NBA championship.

The Knicks would also win the 1973 NBA title, also over the Los Angeles Lakers but Barnett would miss most the playoffs with an injury. He’d play only 5 games the following season before being waived and ending his NBA career.

His #12 is retired by the New York Knicks.

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