The New York Knicks’ famous anthem was written by this Jewish entrepreneur


(New York Jewish Week) – As the Knicks take the court in their second second-round playoff game against the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night, fans throughout Madison Square Garden will be singing a familiar anthem: “Go, New York, Go!”

The theme song — which starts with the phrase “We are the New York Knicks” — feels timeless and as baked into the legacy of the Knicks as their orange and blue jerseys.

But every song has an origin story. This anthem was written by the Jewish rapper, author and entrepreneur Jesse Itzler, who grew up the youngest of four children in Roslyn, New York. After graduating from American University in 1990, Itzler, 55, signed with Delicious Vinyl Records as an artist under the name Jesse Jaymes, releasing “College Girls (Are Easy),” a club hit, and “Shake It Like A White Girl,” which broke into the Billboard Hot 100.

But as a New Yorker, he had his sights on penning something closer to home. As he recalled in a Instagram post, “31 years ago, I had an idea to write a theme song for the Knicks,” he said. “Through a relationship, I got to have a meeting with the front office. I recorded a demo in my closet literally in New York City.”

In 1993, the Knicks’ general manager was Ernie Grunfeld, the son of Holocaust survivors who grew up in Forest Hills, Queens. Before becoming the team’s manager, Grunfeld was also a player on the Knicks from 1982-1986.

The team was skeptical about the song, but Itzler assured them that, at the very least, “it’s not gonna cost a lot.”  

“The Knicks paid me 4K to own it outright. That was 10 months of rent for me…LITERALLY. Done deal!,” he wrote in a different Instagram post.

According to Itzler, the team played it right after that year’s All-Star Game. “And, voila, this thing caught fire,” he wrote. 

The song, which has additional rap lyrics that name drop the 1994 Knicks team (“We ain’t neva’ look sharper/With Hubert, Bonna’, Greg, and Harper”) took off that season as the Knicks made a run in 1994 NBA playoffs. 

“When this song played in the Garden for the first time, I flipped out. I couldn’t believe it,” Itzler wrote.

That year, the Knicks ultimately lost in the finals to the Houston Rockets. Nonetheless, the song stuck. Itzler knew he had something special on his hands, and reached out to over 50 professional sports teams across the country to start composing theme songs for them. That launched his first company: Alphabet City Sports Records, which mixed arena songs with famous play-by-play calls. He also wrote “I Love This Game,” which became the de facto NBA theme song in ad campaigns throughout the ’90s.

Around the same time, Itzler became the manager of rap group Run DMC, where he hired an intern named Curtis Jackson, an upcoming rapper who was looking to gain some business experience. These days, Jackson is better known by his stage name: 50 Cent.  

Itzler went on to found four other companies, including Marquis Jets, a private jet company that was sold to Berkshire Hathaway, and Zico coconut water. In 2008, Itzler married Spanx founder Sara Blakely. The two live with their four kids in Atlanta. 

These days, Itzler is still involved in basketball as a minority owner of the Atlanta Hawks. He is also an ultramarathoner, motivational speaker and author of two books, “Living With a SEAL: 31 Days Training With the Toughest Man on the Planet” and “Living With the Monks: What Turning Off My Phone Taught Me about Happiness, Gratitude.”

Now, with the Knicks in the second round of the playoffs for the second time since 2000, “Go, New York, Go!” is more popular than ever — and Itzler still feels like the 24-year-old Knicks superfan from Long Island.

“31 years later, man, they’re still playing that song,” Itzler recalled on Instagram. “Still my voice, still the same song, but a brand new Knicks team and I’m rooting for you, New York.”