Column: Welcome To The World's Most Famous Arena

Column: Welcome To The World's Most Famous Arena

I’m a history guy. I value the past and try to relate that to what we see today. And when it comes to sports, one of my favorite pastimes is learning about the way it was so I can fully appreciate what we’re seeing in the present.

I spent a summer covering the Red Sox, so I’ve spent a lot of hours at Fenway Park. For my money, it’s THE sports cathedral of America. It’s been tucked away in the Fens for a century, and the people who have played on that field have literally connected the dots of baseball history from Ruth through Williams all the way to Ortiz. In Boston, they’ve revitalized Fenway over the past decade to ensure it will stand the test of time.

In basketball, that cathedral is Madison Square Garden: The “World’s Most Famous Arena.” It’s the fourth incarnation of MSG—this particular building opened up in 1968 and is currently the second-oldest building in the NBA behind the Oracle Arena in Oakland. It was home to the “Fight of the Century” between Ali and Frazier in 1971, it was the site of the New York Rangers’ Stanley Cup win in 1994 that broke “The Curse of 1940,” and it’s been the home arena for two Knicks championships and standouts ranging from Reed to Ewing to Anthony.

It hosted all those Knicks-Bulls and Knicks-Pacers playoff series in the 1990s. It’s where we see Spike Lee and other celebrities spending their time seemingly every night.

The Garden is a special place, and it’s one of a kind in the NBA. All the old venues that carried the same cache and historical significance as MSG—the Boston Garden, The Forum in L.A., The Spectrum in Philadelphia, etc.—are no longer in use. In fact, all current NBA arenas aside from the Garden and Oracle Arena were built after 1987.

The history, and the significance of the events that took place there over the years, make The Garden a special place in today’s league.

“There’s so many new arenas now. It’s all changed,” Wolves coach Rick Adelman said. “But you know, it’s just a different place. Playing in New York, you know, it has a history to it.”

Adelman, for one, would know the arena fairly well. He played there during his playing career in the 1970s, and he’s led teams into MSG as a head coach for 23 seasons. He’s gone into the Boston Garden and the Great Western Forum, and today’s NBA has arenas that just don’t have the same prestige. They have the amenities, and they still have the atmosphere and energy, but they don’t have the history. Madison Square Garden still has it.

Gorgui Dieng might be a rookie, but he’s gotten a feel for The Garden before playing an NBA game there. In his three years at Louisville, the Cardinals spent three Big East tournaments at MSG and put together a pretty impressive stretch of basketball. Dieng’s teams went 9-1 in three years at the Big East tournament.

He’s played there with a lot on the line. He’s felt what it means to play at a high level on a celebrated court.

“It’s very special,” Dieng said. “We like to go to a place like that. But the most important thing is like, stay focused and deal with the game plan.”

This particular trip might look a little different for Dieng. Not only is he playing the Knicks this time around, but he’s playing there with MSG’s renovation recently completed. It’s been a work in progress for a couple seasons, and The Garden—and its history—is now refurbished and ready to make its own push into the future.

Like Fenway Park just up the road in New England, Madison Square Garden is a gem that should be celebrated. And it will be for years to come thanks to the work being done to refurbish and restore it. There are not many sports facilities in North America that retain the level of historical significance and celebrated memories that this Garden still holds on to. As sports fans, we need to embrace these buildings and revel in any chance we get to see them in action.

That goes for players and coaches, too. They get to see this building each year, and they need to balance the unique feelings that come along with being at a venue like MSG with the fact that it’s a business trip. The Wolves, after all, are there for a reason.

Corey Brewer said that’s an important distinction, even though he understands The Garden is special.

“It’s always great to go to The Garden—just like going to Staples Center,” Brewer said. “It’s all the same. It’s all about getting that win. We’ve got two. We’ve got to get two more.”

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