Once upon a time the New York Knicks were considered a real basketball team.
Led by Hall-of-Famer Patrick Ewing from the late ’80s to the year 2000, the team was a genuine rival for the likes of the ’90s Chicago Bulls, making 13 consecutive playoff appearances and making it to the NBA Finals in 1994 and 1999.
Since that time, the team has consistently struggled to make the playoffs at all and has generally been knocked out of contention in the first round when they do. The Knicks’s poor reputation has become so universally recognized that they were recently the butt of a joke in Pixar’s Soul. Needless to say, this has made it a struggle to attract talent.
Pixar Soul || Clip Ruining The NY Knicks Game www.youtube.com
But how did things get so bad? Strangely much of their downfall can likely be traced to one terrible rock band — JD & the Straight Shot.
In many ways, JD & the Straight Shot could appear to be the most successful band you’ve probably never heard of. They have gone on international tours, opened for the Eagles, ZZ Top, Jewel, and the Allman Brothers; and they have written songs for TV shows and movies, including respected works like Hell on Wheels and August: Osage County.
Despite all of their apparent achievements, their fifth album, Ballyhoo!, sold fewer than 200 copies in the four months following its 2016 release. And if you check out some of their music videos, the issue might become clear as you take in their unusual frontman…
But then, what is it that makes a frontman unusual? That role can be assigned on the basis of talent, looks, or pure attitude. A frontman’s only real job is to appeal to the audience, so there aren’t a lot of restrictions.
JD & The Straight Shot – Better Find A Church (Official Music Video) www.youtube.com
Still, it is generally considered odd for a band’s frontman to be an aging, overweight billionaire who has hired the rest of the band for the Sisyphean task of making him look cool. But that just about sums up the situation with Knicks Owner and Madison Square Garden Sports Chairman, James L. Dolan, and his vanity project of a blues rock band.
Dolan is the quintessential failson. His father, Charles Dolan, is the wealthy founder of Cablevision, and Dolan took a role in the family business from a young age after giving up on a career in music and getting a degree in communications… Except that he never really gave up on that career in music.
Through various struggles in business and his personal life, Dolan apparently never gave up on the dream of being the lead singer in a rock band, despite having a singing voice which one critic described as sounding “like he’s trying not to cough.” In the late ’90s Cablevision took full control over MSG Sports, which includes managing control of the Knicks and the Rangers. Things went downhill quickly, and in the case of the Knicks, they have never truly bounced back.
Some of that may be down to bad luck or simple incompetence — and sports fans are known to focus on the latter, placing inordinate blame on coaches, managers, and owners for every decision that hindsight reveals to be a mistake. But few owners are on the receiving end of as much bile as James L. Dolan. Even ESPN once sided with a fan who was threatened with a ban from the Garden for shouting at Dolan to “sell the team.”
NBA should make James Dolan sell the Knicks after fan run in – Max Kellerman | First Take www.youtube.com
But along with screw-ups like letting the Houston Rockets poach point guard Jeremy Lin and signing a long-term contract with controversial GM and head coach Isiah Thomas, there is reason to believe that Dolan has been distracted from his role in MSG Sports by his devotion to the music “career” he launched in 2005. That’s the year JD & the Straight Shot were brought together by the magic of music, and by then 50-year-old Dolan’s decision to hire some competent and attractive young musicians to make his “lyricism” and “vocal talents” really pop.
Since that time Dolan has focused his power as an executive with an estimated net worth of $2 billion to prop up his band. He has booked himself to open for actual rock stars at MSG and used his friendship with a powerful Hollywood executive to get their songs in movies. As for Hell on Wheels, that airs on AMC — a network owned by Charles Dolan.
It’s gotten so bad that in 2019 MSG shareholders sued Dolan for treating his multi-million-dollar gig as chair as a part-time job — focusing on touring with the young musicians he pays to look like they’re his buddies. JD & the Straight Shot were even playing a show while the 2017 NBA draft was taking place and reportedly told one attendee that he wasn’t even checking in on the process.
It doesn’t matter that JD’s approach to songwriting has never advanced beyond a 14-year-old’s idea of deep poetry; it’s his passion! And with lyrics like, “Behind locked doors, the eyes of men / who take what don’t belong to them / from those who seek the bright and starry / are threatened with: you will be sorry,” who can blame him for pursuing that passion?
If that bit of broken grammar from 2018’s “I Should Have Known” sounds like it might be topical, you should know that the Hollywood friend who put JD & the Straight Shot’s music in at least three movies was none other than Harvey Weinstein… And that ballad on the revelation of decades of sexual assault takes on another level of awfulness when you find out that in 2007 Dolan lost a massive lawsuit filed by a former employee whom he allegedly fired out of spite after she complained about Isiah Thomas sexually harassing her.
All in all, the fact that the downfall of a once great NBA team can largely be blamed on one awful rock band — no shade to the other members, as Dolan is obviously dragging them down — is perhaps the least absurd aspect of JD & The Straight Shot. It is a vanity project that’s beyond parody. Even Tim Heidecker‘s intentionally ridiculous Dekkar/DKR pales in comparison to the real thing.
Oscar Medley | On Cinema 4th Annual LIVE Oscar Special | Adult Swim www.youtube.com
For Knicks fans the only hope may lie in 65-year-old James Dolan coming to grips with the fact that he’s never going to be a rockstar. But for fans of pure cringe, JD & the Straight Shot should never stop touring.