By Kevin Cottrell Jr.
Some of the NBA’s marquee franchises are known for having famous faces sitting court side at home games. The Los Angeles Lakers have Jack Nicholson, the Brooklyn Nets have Jay-Z and the Chicago Bulls have President Barack Obama. Spike Lee is often synonymous with the New York Knicks, but this season Dennis Doyle trumps them all.
Doyle, a 32-year-old Westchester, N.Y. native, has taken the phrase “following your team closely’ to another level. Doyle plans to attend all 82 Knicks games this season, a six-month journey with spans three countries, 23 states and 29 NBA cities.
He recently hit the halfway mark attending game No. 41 in London after the season began in the friendly confines of Madison Square Garden. Since then, just about every mode of transportation has been put to use.
“I travel by mostly planes, car rentals, and a bus from D.C. to N.Y,” Doyle said. “The only one I haven’t done is by boat.”
While he has avoided large bodies of water, some would say he’s joined a sinking ship by witnessing what could be one of the team’s worst seasons ever. At 7-36, the Knicks are the East’s worst team and have the second-worst record (trailing only the Minnesota Timberwolves) in the NBA.
Combining his love of travel, writing and the Knicks, not even Doyle could ignore the pull of this trip. When the Queens-based lawyer lost his job after three years with a Manhattan law firm, he decided it was time his dream became a reality.
“I felt like this was the perfect opportunity with no other commitments,” he said. “I’m single, no mortgages and decided I wanted to do something radically different. It was like a revelation, the light bulb went off and I don’t think I’ve heard of anyone ever doing this. I had the money to do it and wanted to get away from the depressing 9-to-5.”
The self-proclaimed die-hard Knicks fan, who has been following the team since the 1993-94 season, estimates this tour will cost him $25,000. Some may view this as a waste of money, but the Georgetown Law alum was smart enough to temper his expectations prior to the start of the season.
“I thought they had a chance to win, like, 41 games,” the jet-lagged Doyle said. “Sounds like high expectations compared to what’s going on now. They won 37 [games] last year, so I thought it couldn’t be as bad as last year!”
After a 2-1 start to 2014-15, the Knicks fell fast and eventually were in the midst of a team-worst 15-game losing streak. The players were obviously sick of all the losing. On Jan. 19th, they took their frustrations out on the New Orleans Pelicans at MSG to end the streak. Doyle, exhausted from travel and a quick turnaround from London, was nearly too sick to witness the victory.
“If I were working I definitely would have called in sick,” the first-time season-ticket holder said. “So I dragged myself to the game. It was great to see them win. It made me feel a little bit better. It was my flu game basically. You feel the joy of winning, but you feel really, really sick.”
While Doyle may use Michael Jordan references, he doesn’t consider himself to be one of the greatest fans of all time. In fact, he’s met people along the way that may deserve the title, such as the Knicks memorabilia collector in Portland or the Knicks fan in Toronto that offered him a court side seat. Doyle categorizes himself as an emotionally invested fan that usually attends a couple games a year. So no he’s not delusional and, yes, at one point, he second-guessed this trip.
“First game. Home opener. They [Knicks] got blown out by Chicago,” a dejected Doyle said. “They were trailing by 30 at some point and after that game I was like what have I gotten myself into? This could be a really long year.”
While the losing drags the season out, the support from fans via Twitter and e-mail has made his journey that more enjoyable. Theoakmancometh.com is where Doyle maintains a blog to illustrate his experiences throughout the 82-game schedule. His high point? Watching the Knicks spoil LeBron James’ Cleveland homecoming in the Cavs’ season opener. The low point? Obviously, the 15-game skid.
Optimism remains as he’s excited about the prospect of having a potential top-five pick in the 2015 Draft. As for the rest of the journey, Doyle is looking forward to stops in Miami and Orlando, for the last two games before a much needed All-Star break.
The lawyer-turned-writer hopes to land a book deal to avoid a return to the workforce after the journey concludes. Regardless of his occupation, his first year as a Knicks season-ticket holder will likely be his last.
“I don’t plan on renewing my season tickets for a few reasons,” he said “Money, I miss watching on TV, and I think I’ve attended enough basketball games this season to last me a lifetime.”