1993-1994 was a weird sports year for me. Fresh off a 2nd consecutive Super Bowl win, Jerry Jones lost his mind and started the downward spiral that we now call the Dallas Cowboys.
The Texas Rangers were just exciting enough to grab fans’ attention, but not quite good enough to make it pay off.
The Dallas Mavericks were awful, and it wasn’t until we finally got cable at our house, that I was able to see the other options out there. To give you a sense of how pathetic the Quinn Buckner run Mavs were, the Cowboys won more games than they did that season.
My mother and I moved to Dallas from the suburbs, and one of the few perks of that move was that we finally got cable (and free pay-per-view, but that is a tale for another site). Now I could not only watch the national games on NBC, but if I wished I could watch WGN (home of the “GOAT” Michael Jeffrey Jordan), and now I could watch ESPN highlights of other teams.
The Suns were fun to watch back then, but the Knicks had a particular appeal to me as well. My dislike for MJ and my respect for Pat Riley forced me to take notice of a budding rivalry growing between the two teams. When I watched the ’92 Eastern Conference Finals,
it was the first time basketball had gotten my hyped about a matchup that wasn’t Cowboys-Niners. I liked that there was an actual team that would stand up to the Bulls and not be intimidated by his “airness.”
The 92 Knicks pushed the Bulls to the brink before they got their asses handed to them in game 6 of the ECF. The Bulls of course went on to beat the Suns in the Finals.
Xavier McDaniel had a cool name and looked cool, and the Knicks jerseys were dope (I also always wanted this T-shirt). I could fuck with these cats.
Now what did I know about basektball back then? Barely anything at all. But I couldn’t stand Jordan. He traveled and refs never called him for it. He was constantly palming the ball, and if you breathed on him, you got called for a foul.
Loving that era of Knicks basketball is akin to thinking about the girls I dated when I was a teenager. I didn’t know anything about romance, love, or basketball. I just went with what felt good (and what was convenient).
Knicks presented an alternative to what everyone else liked, so I went with it. There is no way I’d watch a team like that these days (Grit N’ Grind Grizz maybe the closest thing we have to those Knicks squads).
Compared to the free flowing movement, and teamball played in today’s era, those Knicks teams played mud ball. They were tough, physical, but watching them score was like trying to “squeeze blood from a turnip.”
Much like the Grit N’ Grind Grizzlies though, there were some characters on those squads. Even though I grew up loving the 80’s Hurricanes, Charlie Ward was a dude I respected, because he’d won a Heisman at Florida State, and he’d always given the Hurricanes the fits. The fact that he also was good enough to play professional basketball was very impressive (he, Bobby Sura, and Sam Cassell were the first 3 guard backcourt I’d ever seen).
Anthony Mason (R.I.P.) was like a left-handed poor man’s Boris Diaw, who always had a fresh cut. He was a big man who could handle the rock, was a great passer, and a good finisher at the rim.
John Starks had a bad ass commercial that will forever be a bond for me and my little brother. There was also of course this dunk that will forever be in the playoff pantheon of dunks.
A lot of people dug Patrick Ewing, but I was more into Oakley as a player. I’m not sure if I ever forgave him for not yamming that botched finger roll against the Pacers that would have given them a chance for the Conference title in 1995. Ewing was finesse, but Oakly was a rock, and the team enforcer.
Offensively he didn’t do a whole lot, but he was an underrated passer, and a pretty decent rebounder (though let’s be honest I didn’t know shit about rebounding back then). What I liked most about Oakley though was that no one fucked with him.
The look on his face was enough of a veiled threat that only the biggest and baddest would dare to take him on. This of course was great theater to 15 year old me.
Greg Anthony, star point guard of the UNLV Running Rebels, was my dude. I feel like he didn’t get enough run in New York, but I suspect that it may have been because he was a defensive liablity. When he moved west to Portland, I instantly tuned into more Trailblazers games.
Another reason to root for the Knicks was that at one point, they had at least 3 former Dallas Mavericks on their squad: Derek Harper, Rolando Blackmon, Herb Williams, and even James Donaldson had a cup of coffee and an “Everything” bagel with Whitefish there in New York.
Of that group, Harper was the only one to really contribute anything offensively. “Ro” at this point was too old to get major run, although Herb Williams was decent enough to give 6 fouls as a big man (and as a teenager became code for scoring bud–like “Hey did ya’ll invite Herb Williams to come play pickup with us?”).
Poor Charles Smith will always be known for getting his cookies taken from him.
I was never what you would call a Knicks fan, but I rooted for them. In the summer of 1994, I was either watching a Knicks game, or a New York Rangers game, and I thought it was cool that the city of New York (which back then was still a bit of an absraction that I would never fully comprehend until my first visit there in 2000) could get two major championships within a week’s time span.
I was too removed to be more than mildly disappointed after each playoff loss (always under the weirdest circumstances too, remember this?). By the time they got to the post-lockout Finals, I was barely into sports at all (I affectionately call this period my “foggy” years).
NBA basketball is always more exciting when the Knicks are relevant, and its imperative that I visit Madison Square Garden for a Knicks game sometime in the near future.
The future is bright for Knicks fans. They seem to be moving int he right direction, and believe it or not, I trust in Phil. I hope they make the playoffs this year, and I hope they finally become serious contenders within the next 3-4 years.
Though the 90’s Knicks never won a title, the fact that Pat Riley was able to build something worth rooting for is a testament to how brilliant he is. That team was not very talented at all, but everyone knew their role and worked with the skill set they posessed.
Pat Riley went from “Showtime Lakers” to the bruising style of basketball that epitomized what people thought of New York. Riley just worked with what he had, and it is no accident that the Van Gundy brothers (who worked with Riley) are renowned for their ability to get their teams to overachieve.
Only a fool would call them losers. They got the most out of their abilities and pushed every team they played to the brink. Knicks fans should be proud of those teams despite their perennial disappointing endings. They never laid down, and they always fought to the very end; which is all you can ever ask of any team that you root for.