NEW YORK (AP) - New York Knicks owner James Dolan promised U.N. ambassadors tickets to every game if the team won Tuesday night.
So much for that.
With Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and several VIP diplomats on hand, the Knicks went down to their seventh straight loss. As kind of a bonus, the dignitaries got to see what a New York crowd can be like when it turns on the home team.
Fans at the Garden booed relentlessly throughout the game and chanted for coach Isiah Thomas to be fired.
Despite the scene, it was a night for new and old members of the U.N. Security Council and top U.N. officials to forget about global conflicts and crises and watch cheerleaders, a dance contest and some great plays by the Golden State Warriors.
``The important thing is to have a good time,'' said Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations who kept up a tradition started by his predecessor, John Bolton, by inviting the envoys to Madison Square Garden for a rare night off the diplomatic circuit.
They didn't take the night off from being diplomatic, though.
``Of course, we're neutral, but given the offer we got, we favor the Knicks right now,'' Khalilzad said at the start of the game. ``Maybe our presence will help them, cheer them on, motivate them, energize them!''
Or not. The Warriors won by a lopsided score of 108-82.
Ban, who was excited at attending his first sports event at the Garden, said after the game: ``I'm sorry that the New York Knicks lost. They've been playing poorly, very poorly, and (I'm) disappointed.''
The Knicks have been embroiled in a series of dramas. Thomas was involved in a sexual harassment trial over the summer, then star guard Stephon Marbury was benched and skipped a game last week.
Before Tuesday night's game, Dolan said Marbury would be in the starting lineup, adding: ``Even the Knicks have to practice a little diplomacy inside their own organization to get everybody going.''
NBA commissioner David Stern, asked about the Knicks' troubles, said: ``Everybody has some troubles, but that's what the U.N. is for, to really deal with all of the world's problems and work it out diplomatically.''
Several former NBA stars who were helping to host the U.N. officials were less, well, diplomatic.
``They need a lot of help and their problems are not confined'' to how they pass the ball and cut defenders off, said Bill Walton, who played for 14 seasons with Portland, the Los Angeles Clippers and the Boston Celtics and is now an ESPN and ABC commentator. ``They have personnel and coaching issues that need to be addressed quickly.''
Clyde Drexler, who played for 15 seasons with the Houston Rockets and Portland Trail Blazers, said: ``There's plenty of time to right the wrongs and to get back on the right track. They've been a team in transition. Hopefully, they can get their act together and make a good run in the second half of the NBA season.''
As for Marbury, Drexler said, ``I think the answer is to keep him on the floor, keep him out there for 48 minutes so that he's so tired that he doesn't have enough energy to complain about anything else.''
Despite the disappointment and carping about the Knicks, there was a lot of talk about sports and diplomacy.
``I think this shows that basketball is very much the international language, and it's nice to have the delegates to the United Nations, all of the ambassadors, have a good time together,'' Stern said. ``This is what we call the softer side of basketball diplomacy.''
Ban, the U.N. chief, said ``sports does not have any boundaries.''
``I think sports really helps people overcome all differences of opinion,'' he said. ``People just enjoy.''
Indonesia's U.N. Ambassador, Marty Natalegawa, the current Security Council president and a Knicks fan, said: ``Sports brings people together, brings countries together. The NBA is a global brand. It's watched all over the world. Sport doesn't recognize political boundaries. ... That's what makes it so fantastic.''
Like Ban, Natelegawa was disappointed at the Knicks loss.
``They're a team in trouble,'' said Britain's U.N. Ambassador John Sawers, ``but great teams always find a way back.''
Slovakia's U.N. Ambassador Peter Burian, a basketball fan, noted that the two previous times the Security Council came to the Garden to see the Knicks the team also lost.
``Apparently, the presence of the Security Council members doesn't help Knicks to perform well,'' Burian said. ``Maybe if we leave, Knicks will do better!''

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