Photo Credit: Twitter @theluckyman

Ray McGuire is not only running to be the mayor of New York City, but he’s also a true blue, tried and true New York Knicks fan.

Unless you live in New York City or its immediate surrounding area, then you’ve probably never heard of Ray McGuire. Though born and raised in this great city, I myself wasn’t too familiar with him until earlier this year.

Well, McGuire is now practically a household name in the five boroughs. After a long and successful career on Wall Street, including as a vice chairman of Citigroup, he is seeking something of a promotion: Mayor of New York City.

Except Ray McGuire is no ordinary politician. In fact, his whole platform is based on his not being one. He’s a husband, father, and proud sports fan whose son Cole Anthony plays for the Orland Magic.

But regardless of if you vote for him in Tuesday’s primary (and he certainly hopes you will), there’s one thing every New Yorker and McGuire can agree upon: there’s no better basketball team than the New York Knicks, and no fans better than the Madison Square Garden faithful.

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Ray McGuire for a few minutes and in that time, we learned not only what drew him to the Knicks from a young age, but why he wants to run our great city.

Who is Ray McGuire?

Josh Benjamin: So first of all, you’re not a traditional New York City mayoral candidate. You were born in Ohio and came east later. Growing up, what was New York to you? Was it almost like a dream of a place? Was it just a concept to you? What was New York to young Ray McGuire?

Ray McGuire: You know, New York was always a big city. Bright lights, big city. It was the biggest stage that existed anywhere. And so a young Ray McGuire thought that, “If you ever get to New York and get a chance to compete, then you’ve kind of made it.”

New York is and always has been the most exciting place where you go compete.

JB: Growing up, how aware were you of New York’s sports teams? Did you follow them?

RM: Yeah, everybody was aware of New York sports growing up, man! You had the greats. We were all rooting for Willis [Reed] to come out of the locker. You had Willis, and Clyde [Frazier]. And Earl the Pearl [Monroe]. And [Bill] Bradley. [Dave] DeBusschere. Come on, man. It doesn’t get much better than that!

JB: Didn’t you play basketball too?

RM: Yeah, a lot of it, man. I could cross, step back and take a three. Never saw a slump I couldn’t shoot out of.

JB: Who was your favorite player?

RM: Favorite player growing up? That would probably be Julius [Erving]. Loved Julius.

JB: You went to Harvard, and then you go into finance and eventually serve as a vice chairman of Citigroup. Now, you’re running for mayor as an outsider. An article in the Wall Street Journal was recently titled, “Ray McGuire Says New York City Doesn’t Need a Politician as Mayor.”

Were you drawn to politics before you announced your run?

RM: I was always drawn to service before I decided to run for the mayorship. So I’ve been what my wife says is a “private public servant” for my time in New York. I’ve invested in building schools for disadvantaged kids who come from all five boroughs. A place like De La Salle Academy, I was there at the beginning and at the foundation of George Jackson Academy.

I’ve been invested in and helped to build hospitals. Been on the board of New York Public Library, been helping and investing in getting wifi hotspots into the different neighborhoods as a member of the board of the New York Public Library. And I’ve been invested in the cultural institutions in this city from the Studio Museum in Harlem, to the Harlem School of the Arts, to Art Connection, to Figure Skating in Harlem.

So I’ve been involved in the cultural and educational and economic fabric of this city in a very private way.

Ray McGuire loves the New York Knicks

JB: Stepping back, you’re campaigning for mayor in a time when the New York Knicks are actually good. Fans are happy. Have you noticed a change in the city’s environment, just its overall energy now that the Knicks are back on the right track?

RM: You know, it is the kind of energy that we have longed for on the court. And just one or two more players and with that energy? Listen, man, this is the biggest stage. Everybody wants to come to the Garden. Everybody wants to go up against the Knicks.

So you’ve got die hard fans who have been there from the start. And you have players who are revered. You get Charles Oakley, who’s revered. And you get one of the greatest sports fans that ever existed in Spike Lee.

If you’ve ever been to the Garden and you’ve ever seen how electric the Garden is, I’ve been to other arenas, man. You get to the Garden, and the stuff starts popping. It’s where you want to be!

Sports and change

JB: Sticking with basketball, let’s also shift to family. Your son Cole Anthony plays for the Orlando Magic and also starred at North Carolina. Right as he was preparing for the NBA Draft, not only did a global pandemic happen, but systemic racism reared its ugly, ugly face again. What advice did you give Cole so that he could focus on his preparation, but also be aware of the seriousness of the conversation taking place?

RM: Given how Cole was raised, he’s got a heightened sensitivity to the challenges and the promises. So he understood through his own journey that you have to put in the work. Championships are won when no one is looking. And when issues come up that require a response, he is well-versed on how he ought to think about the world. And he’s been sensitive to that for quite some time.

And in our household, with Crystal, my better three-quarters wife as his mother, there’s a clear understanding of right and wrong. There’s a clear understanding of the challenges, but there’s also a clear understanding of the promises if you put in the work. Nobody’s going to outwork him. Nobody’s going to out-compete Cole, and he’s so attuned to the circumstances of life.

JB: The NBA right now has encouraged its players to speak out on systemic racism, especially following the death of George Floyd and shooting of Jacob Blake. It is fully behind the players. From growing up in Ohio to moving to New York, to see so much change in such a short amount of time, how does that make you feel now that you’re running to serve the public on a larger scale?

RM: I’m encouraged by it because the responses that we’re getting are not about the players. They’re about the people. And one of the things that you experience when you’re out running for mayor is that there’re so many competing agendas, the most of which are from those who have gotten termed out, they’re looking for a promotion, they’ve served in some administration or they’ve run for some office unsuccessfully.

That agenda is a personal agenda. It is not necessarily the people’s agenda. So what I’m attempting to do here in differentiating myself from the others is to let the people know, “It ain’t about me, it’s about we.”

This journey is about New Yorkers. And it’s especially about the New Yorkers who are the most underserved, and some are completely unserved. That’s what this journey is about for me. And if you look at Cole, and Ella, and Leo, who’s 8 years old, they recognize that part of their responsibility is to make sure that the least of these is taken care of, that we care about them.

JB: Alright, Ray, last question. This is the big one. Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley, my two favorite New York Knicks from growing up, have endorsed you. Why should the everyday New York Knicks fan vote Ray McGuire on June 22?

RM: If an everyday New York Knicks fan wants the same energy and electricity to return to New York City that we have at Madison Square Garden, then we need Ray McGuire to ensure that that return is as grand and as big and as inclusive as the courts and the arena at Madison Square Garden is when the New York Knicks are winning.

This is all about winning. This is all about someone who’s got a proven track record of winning. Somebody’s who’s got a proven track record of draining threes on behalf of New Yorkers, on dunking on behalf of New Yorkers, on assisting on behalf of New Yorkers, and on winning on behalf of New Yorkers.

This is about the greatest team that existed on the planet Earth. That is the New Yorkers and the New York Knicks. That’s why they choose Ray McGuire.

Josh Benjamin has been a staff writer at ESNY since 2018. He has had opinions about everything, especially the Yankees and Knicks. He co-hosts the “Bleacher Creatures” podcast and is always looking for new pieces of sports history to uncover, usually with a Yankee Tavern chicken parm sub in hand.