This Friday, the New York Knicks will play their first home playoff game since being dismantled by the New Jersey Nets in 2004. That display was nothing near the stuff we saw in the 90s. Ewing, Oakley, Starks, Mason, triumph, heartbreak and downright bizarre; we were treated to great basketball. Here’s to the ghosts of Broadway and hopes of many more memories in this new era of New York Knicks basketball.
“New York vs. Michael Jordan”
Michael Jeffrey Jordan was Brooklyn born but, on the court, there was NO love or sympathy for the people of New York and the New York Knicks organization. Using “The Mecca” as a stage to showcase his talents, it was on that court that he’d display some of his best moments of triumph. Of the many times that the New York Knicks faced the Chicago Bulls during the Jordan era, they have never prevailed. In the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, the Knicks owned early momentum and had a 2-0 series lead over Jordan and the Bulls. New York was ready, tabloids buzzed, the Knicks bumped their chest. The Knicks were going to own game 3 and 4. Didn’t happen! Michael Jordan’s competitive nature set in. The Bulls rallied back to win 4 straight games and clinch the series against the Knicks. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the greatest play ever (in my opinion) was created right here on the court of “The Mecca”. You remember. When MJ left Starks and Oakley skating at the baseline only to finish right in the grill of our poor “Big Fella” Patrick Ewing. Next subject please!
The Knicks/Bulls battles throughout the ’90s were entertaining even if they rarely resulted in W’s for Knick fans. However, one moment would be forever cemented in the legacy of Knicks basketball. John Starks’ thunderous dunk over Horace Grant and (YES!) Michael Jordan that gave the Knicks a boost of momentum and an early series lead against the Bulls. The Knicks would go on to lose the series, but it was that moment that would define Starks’ career.
“Miller the Knick Killer”
If Reggie Miller were a Knick, I’d love him. He’d be God. But he wasn’t. This pest managed to make Jordan lose his cool and irate Knicks fans with his three bombs and taunts. Reggie Miller’s most memorable came in game 5 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals when he dropped 39 points on the Knicks (25 coming in the fourth quarter ALONE!) and did it all while jabbering away with Spike Lee. The debacle resulted in a loss for the Knicks, however they’d go on to win the series in seven games and advance to face the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals. See, even when the Knicks came out on top, that pest Reggie Miller left a visible permanent battle scar. Reggie would go on to be feared by Knick fans for the rest of his career… especially in the last seconds of a huge game.
“The Four Point Play”
In their second Eastern Conference Finals campaign against the Indiana Pacers, forward Larry Johnson delivered a three bomb that would go on to define the series and push the Knicks towards the Promised Land. LJ had the Garden rocking with a huge game clinching four point play committed after an Antonio Davis hand check in the midst of a three point attempt. The shot sealed the game for the Knicks and they’d go on to capture game 3 and take a 2-1 lead on the series. The shot would become one of many moments that defined the Knicks surprising run to the NBA Finals in 1999.
“The Promised Land”
Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls owned the ’90s; but whenever he was off playing baseball or hung up his Air Jordans, the Knicks were contending for gold. In both 1994 and 1999, the Knicks would put Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers to bed and represent the East in the NBA Finals. The first go round in 21 years pitted the Knicks against Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets. The series was a tough one for New York both physically and emotionally. In Game 6, the Knicks owned a 3-2 series lead when a 3 point shot by John Starks (that could’ve clinched the series and brought the gold home) was contested by Hakeem and took the series to game 7. It was also game 7 where (you guessed it huh…) John Starks would shoot a dismal 2 for 18 and give the Rockets the Larry O’ Brien trophy. Five years later, the Knicks capped a miraculous leap from eighth seed to Eastern Conference champs in a lopsided duel against the San Antonio Spurs. The “Twin Towers” (David Robinson and Tim Duncan) proved too much as the veteran team won the championship on the Knicks home court and sealed the series in five games.
“Turning Up The Heat”
The battles between the New York Knicks and the Miami Heat were a perfect case of irony. Both teams created by Pat Riley were battling clones of themselves. Those were wars! Whereas the Bulls and Pacers rivalries were pure basketball, Knicks and Heat games came down to blows on several occassions. The games were brutal, hard fought and defined the genius of Pat Riley. Of the four meetings in the NBA Finals, New York would be victorious in three of them. One of which will forever remain a footnote in NBA history as Allan Houston’s “Miami Bounce” would make the Knicks the second eighth seed team to upset a one seed favorite in the first round of the NBA Playoffs.
A new era is upon us; and with Amar’e, Melo and “Mr. Big Shot” Chauncey Billups leading the charge, what memorable moments will define the Knicks of the future…