'When the Garden was Eden' hits ESPN

Originally published April 22, 2014; updated Oct. 21, 2014

Phil Jackson is known for giving homework assignments to his players and staff both during the season and in the offseason.

So it wasn't a surprise that a screening of "When the Garden was Eden" was part of the agenda at Knicks camp this year.

Michael Rapaport's film, based on the book by New York Times writer Harvey Araton, debuted at the Tribeca Film Festival in April. It debuts tonight at 9 on ESPN.

“The reason the movie was made is that the new Knicks haven’t won,” Rapaport said after one of the Tribeca screenings, which got a standing ovation from a near-full house at the AMC Loews Village in downtown Manhattan. “The old Knicks are like wine. What they did was something special.”

The film focuses on the Knicks' championship teams of 1970 and 1973 and features interviews with all of the key participants, including Jackson, who was at one of the screenings and gave the film a thumbs-up.

The movie has in-depth interviews with everyone from Willis Reed, Bill Bradley and Walt Frazier to key reserves Jerry Lucas and Dean Meminger (who died last year while the movie was still being made).

“We cast a shadow over the Knicks,” Frazier said during the film. “If they win, they talk about us. If they lose, they talk about us. There’s no way to escape it.”

The film also includes rare footage, such as that of Reed punching Rudy LaRusso in a famous fight, and the 1973 championship parade and welcoming at City Hall.

The younger fan will be able to relate to the arrival of Bradley to the team, as Frazier compared it to the Linsanity that Knicks fans dealt with a few years ago with the appearance of Jeremy Lin.

Expect to hear a lot of talk about the old Knicks in Jackson’s tenure as team president.

“The thing that was really important to the fans was that we were a part of the city,” Jackson said.

That figures to be a priority for this team moving forward.