For most fan bases, if you become their villain, they’ll hate you forever. But for villains of the New York Knicks, you also might just get a documentary one day.
Getting Knicks fans to hate you isn’t difficult when you’re the star of the opposing playoff team in town, but leaning into it is where Trae Young will win regardless of the result of this series. In Game 1 on Sunday, Knick fans were as loud as you could’ve expected in the first near-full capacity (a few thousand short due to select social distancing guidelines) Madison Square Garden playoff game since COVID-19 hit. Early in the first quarter, the Knicks serenaded Young with “Fuck Trae Young” chants, which he reminded them of in the fourth quarter, hitting the game-winning floater after knifing through the lane.
Following the shot, Young immediately taunted the suddenly quiet Knick fans, putting a finger over his mouth to shush them, then adding, “It’s quiet as fuck in here!”
Though, of note, Young didn’t get to the free-throw line until 6:43 remained in the game (as noted by Mike Cortez of The Knicks Wall), and somehow wound up with nine free throw attempts, which Knicks fans have been furious and or skeptical about, and rightfully so. Young kept up the playoff intensity in the locker room as well, indicating that “It got real quiet in there.”
The fouls were so out of hand for some that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called for Young to stop fishing for fouls during a press conference yesterday while wearing a Knicks ‘dad’ hat.
Then, today, Derrick Rose was asked about Young and noted that the general back-and-forth is par for the course.
“That’s basketball … the league’s gotten so soft, bro,” Rose insisted. “That’s basketball. He come in, he played a great game and the crowd’s supposed to do that. His reaction’s supposed to be that way. It’s supposed to amp up and bring the atmosphere, that environment, to where it is right now … that’s the environment that I’m used to.”
(He also noted that he’s used to a playoff environment where players’ mothers had drinks poured on them, so there’s that.)
Even if the Hawks lose, and they may not, Young will probably get booed in MSG for years after this series, which is a great play for him. Despite their lack of winning in than many of their NBA counterparts. The exchange is a moment we’ll remember, especially if built upon, as this series progresses, along with the rest of his career. We don’t have a ton of playoff rivalries between teams anymore because players switch squads more often than ever before. But given where the Hawks and Knicks are compared to the rest of the Eastern Conference, whether it becomes Young vs. Julius Randle, RJ Barrett, Knicks fans, and or the franchise as a whole, it will serve him well long term. It’ll cement him as an adversary of New York City and simultaneously uplift him as a hero to those who hate Knicks fans, of which there are plenty. Few organizations have that effect, and Young would be wise to continue capitalizing on it, especially if the Hawks win.
Lean in, Ice Trae, lean in.