This week The Post takes a fresh look at the “best of” New York sports history — areas that are just as worthy of debate, but that haven’t been argued incessantly. Today’s edition: the best arena or stadium in New York City.
You could be a star basketball or hockey player from New York to anywhere, or any basketball or hockey player or coach, or any boxer, or any broadcaster or announcer. Or you could simply be anybody who dreamed of stepping into and onto the biggest and brightest stage of them all:
The World’s Most Famous Arena.
For the past 52 years atop Penn Station, and on Eighth Avenue between 49th and 50th Street for 43 years before that.
“I can sum it up best with what Frank Sinatra told me,” legendary Garden photographer George Kalinsky told The Post. “He said, ‘There’s no arena or stadium in the world that has the aura of Madison Square Garden.’”
Kalinsky recalls Sinatra, who dreamed of being heavyweight champion of the world, telling him how thrilled he was that Howard Cosell introduced him as “the Heavyweight Crooner of the World” at his 1974 concert that was called “The Main Event.”
Kalinsky also photographed Elton John and John Lennon when they performed together at the Garden, and Elvis, and Mark Messier joyously holding the Stanley Cup to the heavens, and Muhammad Ali, and Willis Reed limping out into New York’s forever heart, and Peggy Fleming for a special show on NBC, and of course Pope John Paul II holding 6-year-old Geralyn Smith by the shins atop the Popemobile in 1979.
“There’s a majesty to it,” Marv Albert told The Post, “whatever the event. There’s a history and a charm that no other building has.”
Marvelous Marv recalls his ears popping the night the Knicks won their first championship. “To this day,” he said, “I’ve never heard a crowd that loud.”
The Mecca of Basketball.
Albert, Brooklyn-born, was enlisted to provide reports on the “Fight of the Century” — Ali-Frazier I — for WNBC radio. Kalinsky had trained Sinatra for his photography duties for Life Magazine. “The Ali entrance, and walking into the ring,” Albert said, “that was a moment that I won’t forget.”
Jeff Van Gundy spent 13 seasons on the Knicks bench as an assistant or as head coach.
“The tunnel,” he told The Post. “I think the tunnel represented history, and all the incredible events that had ever taken place there. Secondly, it was the great moments — Willis’ return, Stanley Cup championship when I was there, to see Mike Keenan flying down the hallway before our game when they had the parade riding a motorcycle in the Garden, right down the hallways … the [Patrick] Ewing tip-dunk to put us in the  Finals … Larry Johnson’s four-point play.
“And then the thing I loved most about coaching there in particular was the passion of the fan base. It was an incredible help to a coaching staff in that you could have won seven, eight in a row back in those days, and if you came out and played a lackluster first quarter, they were gonna let you know. And so you didn’t have to be the one to always try to prod the team.”
Van Gundy recalls how the electricity could crackle in the Garden.
“I’d have to say Larry Johnson’s four-point play, and Pat Riley’s return [as Heat coach], for far different reasons,” he said. “Both of those evoked this incredible intensity.”
For a decade, Adam Graves basked in the warmth of that incredible intensity from the Blue Seaters who worship at the altar of the Rangers.
“The first time I stepped onto Garden ice, the brightness of the lights and the energy of the building was overwhelming,” Graves said. “It’s hard to put into words. It’s a special feeling. I quickly realized how privileged I was as a Ranger to call Madison Square Garden home.”
The Garden rocked during the Big East Conference’s heyday — when Ewing and Chris Mullin and Pearl Washington and Eddie Pinckney played and Lou Carnesecca and Big John Thompson and Rollie Massimino and Jim Boeheim and Jim Calhoun coached.
“When you step onto the court at MSG, you are stepping into the greatest arena in the greatest city in the world,” Carnesecca said.
“There have been so many great moments for me, from the first time I coached there in 1950 to my first Big East Championship in 1982 — the Sweater Game and my retirement banner going up to the Garden rafters in 2001.
“It was an honor to take the same court as so many great coaches like Joe Lapchick, Clair Bee, Nat Holman and Frank McGuire.”
You could be a young, wide-eyed ring announcer when Roberto Duran got ready to rummmmblllle over Davey Moore for the junior welterweight title.
“There I was on the hallowed ground, the Garden, where some of greatest fights in boxing history took place … in the very same ring that Ali and Frazier faced each other twice, along with so many other legends of the sport,” Michael Buffer told The Post. “I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. I didn’t know, or even dare to dream, that over the next four decades I’d experience that thrill so many more times.”
You could be Duke legend Mike Krzyzewski honored after beating St. John’s for his 1,000th win.
“This,” Coach K said, “is the palace.”
The Palace Theatre of New York sports, where Michael and Kobe always gave command performances.
Garden of dreams.