New York Sea Monsters or New York Knicks?

Madison Square Garden
Madison Square Garden

The New York Knicks have failed in recent times due to Hobbes’s “state of nature”. With superstars Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler, they all fell into the same trap Hobbes warned us about in the Leviathan. Being a New York Knicks fan my entire life, the 2011 New York Knicks brought hope and optimism to New York, to Madison Square Garden, and to fans all around the world. They had acquired superstars Carmelo Anthony, Amar’e Stoudemire, and Tyson Chandler and people had believed they were serious contenders for the championship that year. Notably some of the greatest players in the NBA at the time, they all brought different talents, skills, and statistics to the then revamped New York Knicks. Hobbes’s social contract theory inherently made the Knicks’s season “nasty, brutish, and short.”

These three superstars in “the mecca of the NBA” were supposed to help the Knicks win a championship for the first time in nearly 20 season. New Yorkers love winning and believed this was the answer. However, the NBA and Miami Heat had different thoughts on this new team. According to Hobbes’s state of nature and their “four basic facts of human life“, people need equality of needs, need equality of power, have self-interested motives, and have a scarcity of resources. Similarly, the “leviathans” of the Knicks, Carmelo, Amar’e, and Tyson, fell into the same state of nature.

  1. 2011-2012 NBA Salaries
    2011-2012 NBA Salaries

    These big three players alone accounted for $53.6 million for the salary cap for the New York Knicks for the 2011-2012 NBA season. This “equality of need” not only allowed no other room for improvement for the Knicks, but also weakened the depth needed for the team to succeed. The basic needs of salaries and promotions of these players brought lot of attention to New York. This attention swayed the focus away from basketball and to the gossip and drama of New York’s new trio.

    2. All superstars on different teams before joining forces in New York, these three players’ “equality of power” proved to be a huge detriment for this so-called “Dream Team.” The true leader of the team was unclear. The rest of the team did not have a true role and the team revolved around the three players without set rules or organization.

    3. Three players needed the ball to produce on the field. Assists became an unknown stat in New York. As superstars on there respective teams before uniting, all of the players competed egotistically and in self-interest. Trying to get the most points, rebounds, blocks, and steals, the three did not mesh well together and proved to destroy the Knicks chances in the playoffs. In addition, Carmelo Anthony, in the running for MVP, tried to lead the team single-handedly with more shots taken than ever before. Once again, this proved to not work well with the help of Amar’e and Tyson.

    4. In all, Anthony, Stoudemire, and Chandler all needed to have an impact on the floor with a 48 minute-time restraint. The fact that all three of these players could not mesh well meant they needed to play at different times. This “scarcity” of playing time gave no room for production and actually statistical evidence which showed up on many fantasy leagues and eventually the scoreboards and standings.

Carmelo Anthony
Carmelo Anthony

With practice, unselfish passing, and rules to make sure players knew how to understand the new dynamics (a social contract), a 2011-2012 banner might be hanging on the ceiling of Madison Square Garden today. In addition, in Hobbes’s book, Leviathan, he argues for rule by an absolute sovereign. Had the Knicks decided that Carmelo Anthony would be the face of the New York Knicks and allowed him to run the offense with his discretion, the outcome could have been much different. Having three different leaders with many different role players interfering with the dynamics, the 7-time All Star and 2-time olympic gold medalist, Carmelo Anthony was not able to help the Knicks win. Had Amar’e Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler given up some of their power and stat-making prowess in order to allow the Knicks and Carmelo Anthony to control the offense and defense, they might have won more than one game in the first round of the playoffs.

Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes

Throughout my life, sport teams, professional and recreational, have not succeed due to the state of nature explained by Hobbes. When I was 12 on my township recreational basketball team, we had lost every game of the season due to Hobbes’s state of nature. We had no captains, no set instructions, selfish seventh graders who wanted to rescue a decimated team, and no guidelines to help steer the team in the right direction. Even though the severity of a seventh grade recreational basketball team is minimal, it shows the importance of a social contract and sovereignty in sports.

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4 thoughts on “New York Sea Monsters or New York Knicks?

  1. As a New York Knicks fan, I found this article intriguing in how you connected it to our studies in class. Having three all star players with the Knicks just did not work because of the selfish desires of the players. Although a possible solution could be just having Carmelo Anthony running the team, which he does either way, would let them be able to add more depth instead of having three players eating up their salary cap. While it does not seem possible under Hobbes’ theories to have a team with multiple superstars, the Miami Heat were able to accomplish that with players even better than the Knicks. The superstars bought into the system, and played as one team, letting go of their own needs and succeeding. As long as each player, thinks of the team as equal parts, then they can succeed under Hobbes’s definition.

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  2. I really enjoyed reading your piece on how the content in the Leviathan relates to the current state of the New York Knicks. You make an interesting comparison between the government tactics recommended by Hobbes, and their potential effectiveness if implemented on an NBA franchise. I believe an absolute monarchy system—with Carmelo Anthony as the primary leader of the Knicks—does not work in the context of professional athletics. So much of a team’s success is dictated by the chemistry, or lack thereof, between the good players and the bad players. Solid chemistry is created by an equal distribution of power and responsibility. During this summer’s World Cup, Germany ultimately won because of their equal distribution of power and talent. While the team named a captain, his role wasn’t authoritative. Similarly, if Anthony became the Knicks’ absolute monarch, of sorts, the already abysmal New York team wouldn’t win another game.

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  3. As an avid sports fan, I enjoyed reading this blog even though I don’t necessarily care for the Knicks. I think that you did a really good job of connecting sports to Hobbes state of nature, which is something that I had never really considered until now. Although I think your assessment of the Knicks and how their selfish desires eventually led to their demise is correct, I do have to disagree with your point that they should simply let Carmelo run the team as an absolute sovereign. Melo has shown in the past that he is incapable of playing fundamental team basketball and leading his team in the postseason, so allowing him to have absolute control would not be a good idea. I believe they should look to their coach as an absolute sovereign or even their president Phil Jackson, as he should be the one that has the final say in how the team is run. Giving Melo such authority would not fix the problems, I think it would only create more for the team as a whole. Ultimately, they need a leader to step up that is not self-interested and only wants to win, like Phil Jackson or Derek Fisher.

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  4. Although, I am not a New York Knicks fan I do understand your logic in blaming their unsuccessful season on Hobbe’s social contract. I was especially intrigued by the point you made that because the team was filled with so many individual superstars that that there was no equality of power. I think the same can be said for many teams made up of superstars that do not pan out as planned. Another example would be the present day Cleveland Cavaliers. Although, they have been hyped up as the most talented team in the NBA with three potential MVP candidates on the same team, Kyrie Irving, Kevin Love, and LeBron James, they have underperformed. Maybe it is also because of the lack of equality of power that you mentioned.

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