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” Frazier’s St. Croix oasis; discussed the politics of that turbulent era with Senator Bill Bradley; toured Baltimore’s 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 York’s 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.