For decades it was a young basketball player’s dream to play in Madison Square Garden. Nicknamed the “World’s Most Famous Arena”, the Garden would highlight every big event in entertainment. Whether it was a big boxing event, a legendary musician, a comic, or showcasing some of the best basketball on the planet, MSG was a focal point of American culture.
Times have changed and the importance of the Garden to the country has with it. New arenas have been built making MSG feel irrelevant and old. Young players haven’t “dreamed” of playing in the Garden as much as they prefer to play for the market of New York City.
The St. John’s Red Storm is facing a similar fight in its relevancy to the nation. Once a collegiate hoops powerhouse, the Red Storm have fallen on hard times until the hire of Steve Lavin 3 years ago.
Recently I wrote about how the two, MSG and St. John’s, can become relevant together by way of the Red Storm’s success. But this isn’t the discussion today. The question here is whether Madison Square Garden is still a viable recruiting tool for the Johnnies to use to lure recruits to dress in the red and white.
The sad truth is the days of 8 year-old kids dribbling a basketball at their local court, pretending they’re hitting a game winning jumper in the Garden, are long gone.
The proof can been seen not only at the collegiate level but at the highest level of basketball, the NBA. Superstars in the NBA, especially ones under 30, during their free-agency recruitment, rarely factor in MSG while considering playing for the New York Knicks. What concerns them is the market that is New York City. In fact, the Garden is considered a dinosaur in comparison to the state of the art arenas the rest of the NBA has to offer. It’s more of a deterrence for a free-agent than a reason to sign.
Unfortunately for St. John’s, the lure of New York City as a market has a limit to the importance to a student-athlete. The reason playing in New York City is so important to an NBA player is that, in theory, because of the market size, it will add the most amount of national exposure for the player, increasing his advertising worth. An amateur player can’t except any money from sponsors, so the city does them no good. Making the Garden an even harder sell without having the city’s “market” to back it.
Essentially your pitch to an 18 year-old kid, who doesn’t care about the history of the Garden, is “Hey, come play in our out of date building, but you will be playing in New York City. Which really, if you think about it, does you absolutely no good to you. You’re a student-athlete who can’t accept money”.
Might sound harsh, but it’s the truth. Madison Square Garden only has history to offer, which is only important to people who care about that kind of thing. A recruit, who’s ultimate goal is getting to the NBA, cares more about who his coach is not where he’s shooting an 18 foot jumper.
I’m a strong believer in the mythological feel of “The World’s Most Famous Arena”, but I’m also pushing 30. I love everything about MSG. The history, the crowd, the city that comes with it.
Sadly, I’m in the minority and the recruiting tool known as “The Garden” is no longer useful for St. John’s.
Joe follows St. John’s and the Big East for Rant Sports. Follow him on the Twitter machine @JosephNardone