They call it Celebrity Row, the six prime courtside seats in Madison Square Garden reserved for the three most prominent celebrities (plus guests) at any given Knicks game. For the game against the Miami Heat on Jan. 9, they were filled by an actor, a musician and a model: David Duchovny, Paul Simon and Kate Upton.
No other basketball team except the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates the presence of big-name fans at its games as aggressively and as unabashedly as the New York Knicks do. In a city where fame is its own reward, and proximity to fame is nearly as exciting as the thing itself, celebrities in the stands help promote the exceptionalist notion that the city is special, the Knicks are special, the Garden is special and Spike Lee is a better kind of fan than Jack Nicholson.
Celebrities, of course, are different from you and me, and the Garden has developed a well-oiled system of cultivating and cosseting them.
“If you’re an A-level person and we know the fans are going to go bananas when your picture goes up on the scoreboard, then there’s a value having you there,” said Barry Watkins, the Madison Square Garden company’s executive vice president for communications and administration. “We think it’s a big part of the brand. Win or lose, it’s one of the reasons people come to the games.” (In fact, at 15-26, the Knicks have been doing a lot of losing this season.)
While Jack Nicholson may hold the title as the person most synonymous with courtside views of NBA action, there’s no denying that Madison Square Garden invokes the same thoughts when it comes to an institution as a whole. In a recent editorial by The New York Times, the Grey Lady explores just how those hard-to-nab seats are given out – touching on if they’re paid for, who is considered a celebrity, and why Woody Allen is no longer allowed in Suite 200. While a choice except appears below, head over to The New York Times to read the piece in its entirety.