WHEN MY KNICKS WERE LIKE THE NAMATH JETS -- History of the NBA Finals Part 47
In June, 1998, after the momentous shot (and final forty-three seconds for that matter) of the yeah-I-suppose greatest player to ever play -- Michael Jeffrey Jordan -- he would retire from the game.
The NBA would break down overnight, and this is not an exaggeration.
.The NBA owners are a collection of surprising upstanding people. Initially they were very Obama-like in their approach to things. David Stern, with the money rolling in, was hardly the iron-fisted dickwad that he becomes during times of emergency. 1999 looked to be as promising as 1995 when more then half of the NBA was competitive and filled with awesome, personable stars who pretty much held the fort down until Jordan and Pippen teamed up with Rodman. But now it was summer 1998. The Bulls were broken up. The rest of the NBA had to do what they did again, this time following the act of a trio who became nothing short of the 1985 CHICAGO BEARS OF BASKETBALL.
Amazingly, and this would lead to the lockout, everybody in the NBA in 1995 who was worth a damn -- outside of Shaq, Tim Hardaway, Reggie Miller and Alonzo Mourning -- was off the radar.
The league was left with a still young Allen Iverson, still two years separated from his prime, an up-and-comer Ray Allen...Jason Kidd...and one of the most exciting young players to ever come along...Jason Williams of the Sacramento Kings. But all three would fail to make their teams winners in 1998-99. But it was okay...because the season was only 48 games long anyway...
The lockout of 1998 was stupid because the whiny owners had allowed the players to run over them for eighteen straight years now. There were trends that had grown in this dying league, such as the advent of over 90 percent of the veteran stars salaries coming from endorsements...which meant that a commissioner could no longer threaten the players with the notion of a shrinking paycheck due to cancelled games. The players could keep one of these extended vacations going for months and months versus billionaires who lost millions a day for not opening their ballparks to a paid attendance.
And the people thus responsible for the draws...were the ones with the power.
Just as we've just seen end recently in 2011, the stars could go and play in up to 200 countries if their demands weren't met. Coaches were fired routinely -- something never seen in the other hundred-year-old elders-get-respect leagues like hockey or Major League Baseball. Magic Johnson's indirect dismissal of Paul Westhead in 1982, leading directly to the promotion of Pat Riley, began this trend. The owners would take all their blame out on the coaches, and pay rookies 120 million dollars because college basketball was big enough to make its' stars SUPER stars before playing a single NBA minute. This lead of course to only a handful of players truly matching must less exceeding their potential. Putting career power forwards at the center position...drafting all kinds of unathletic dudes just because they're sixty-seven kilometers tall (which of course leads to them drafting extraordinarily athletically gifted dudes who know it so they slack on 15-67 teams they get drafted by and blame the others on the team because on a 15-67 team you always have a point), the league was hemmorhaging money like you wouldn't believe. And now with Penny Hardaway injured, Charles Barkley less then seventy games away from retiring, Grant Hill onto his 27th surgery, Jason Kidd stuck on the Phoenix Suns who are the unluckiest team in sports, Shawn Kemp on the Trail Blazers because that's real helpful to him, and their best player being a guy -- Karl Malone -- who was rabidly hated in 29 arenas outside Utah -- this was a dying league. The good times were about to be over. Oh yeah...and Larry Bird, who was proving to be the league's best COACH as well as it's best player once...(try that one, Magic and Michael!)...was stuck in Indiana...a team people were surprised to find out even existed and they were winning 95 percent of their freaking games.
The lockout would result in the NBA, which had always divided the money 50-50, to go 47-53 with the players getting the 53. But there was a catch. The current players weren't happy at all, because the 53 was given primarily to former and current draft busts in the league in order to give the owners the substantiated relief necessary to honor those egregious and ill-fated 100 million dollar contracts...and 47 for the owners themselves. Add to that, a salary cap would officially be put in place in the National Basketball Association. To discourage that kind of foul up ever again when it's tempting as a motherf*cker to secure guys like John Wall and Chris Webber and Jerry Stackhouse. Oh I know.
Yet this would prove to be the cause of the 2011 lock-out that just ended last week.
You see...a salary cup is common sense.
But a salary cap...in a league where you can be a FREE AGENT DUHHHHH...
Hey owners...look at all the power you guys got! Ain't it fun to be the one waiting by the phone in high freaking heels every time there's an off-season now? Ain't it?
And so what happens in 1998 is a bandage. Bandages are not meant to be on your skin permanently.
Yet when the season finally got underway, it would turn into the greatest sports year ever. Why? Because of your one and only New York Knicks.
It a pain in the ass to talk about them because they're my all time favorite team, I lived in Bedford-Stuyvesant, then Flushing Meadows, then East Manhattan until I was sixteen, I totally don't give three shits about any team in New York outside of the Knicks, and it was really really lousy to see them lose to the Chicago Bulls all the time in the 80s and 90s. I had a hollow feeling throughout the 1994 season because Jordan had left and thus of course we were gonna win that title, what a victory, I'll sure savor it PWWWWW and then we didn't even win any f*cking way.
Then Pat Riley's bitch ass left us and we had to deal with stupid ass Don Nelson, a legendary Celtic from the 60s who had already pissed off Chris Webber once and now he's trading John Starks away?! Of course Starks gets almost as far in the stupid playoffs as the Knicks do in 1998 and with the god damn Cleveland Cavaliers. But in 1999, once I stopped crying and moaning about Starks, we were left with a coach who I was sort of getting used to named Jeff Van Gundy. I always thought Van Gundy was a cool dude but what Pat Riley had done during his tenure with this sorry ass bunch really made people's hearts glad. The Knicks were a team that at long last didn't take any shit from anybody. I could finally hate Michael Jordan again which was customary during the few instances when there were better things on.
But by this, January, 1999, a few games into the lock-out-shortened 98-99 NBA season, the Knicks were a brand new bunch.
Latrell Sprewell would be acquired after he choked the shit out of P.J. Carlesmo, the coach of the Golden State Warriors, (and I mean he left deep bruises in his neck). And so of course he comes to New York because why not!
And then Allen Houston who was our best scorer, alright, we got Sprewell and Houston, what else. How's Ewing these days by the way?
Ewing was in Willis Reed-style pain with both his legs and his absolutely genius career was tarnished beyond repair for being the steppingstone of the Chicago Bulls dynasty which are long retired so he can't ever get revenge, how are you?
Charlie Ward -- the star quarterback of the 1994 Florida State Seminoles who won the national title over Nebraska even though they got beat by Notre Dame but he's now the starting point guard of the New York Knicks it's not even the same sport so give him a break.
Marcus Camby and Larry Johnson -- if I could be like either one of you, all I would do is have sex. With everything.
The Knicks struggled all season, lots of close games, but Ewing's knees and his achilles tendons and his thighs were almost completely defective.
Trivia -- who's the greatest pressure performer in NBA history outside of Larry Bird?
A: Patrick Ewing. We were down by one in the final seconds of like every single game since I was eight years old. He always always always came through.
He screwed up at the end of a one-point Game 7 in 1995 against the Pacers, but if anyone's entitled it's Patrick Ewing.
When the NBA regular season ended, the top teams in the league were San Antonio, league's best record, and the Miami Heat with Pat Riley coaching, Alonzo Mourning the center, Tim Hardaway the point guard, Dan Majerle at the two guard, Clarence Witherspoon at small forward, and whatever else. I'm really only mentioning them because in Round 1, with the Knicks struggling to make the last spot and finally clinching it on the second to last day, it will be the Miami Heat that they have to take in a best of 5 series in order to make sure Jeff Van Gundy gets to keep his job.
Knicks are down in the series 1-2.
They tie it in New York.
They go to Miami and are trailing by one in the waning seconds. It's been annoying as hell as they begin with nine seconds to set up a play, and now it's down to three because Miami keeps knocking Sprewell's inbounds passes out of bounds.
So here we go. Three seconds. Come on Spree.
He throws it into Allen Houston.
Majerle goes in on him.
Houston gets Majerle leaping.
Houston puts up a shot...
GOT IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WITH EIGHTH-TENTH OF A SECOND LEFT!!! 00.8!!!!!! YEAH!! YEAH!!!! YEAH!!!!!
Houston runs down the court and up to recording artist Jimmy Buffet sitting in a multi-thousand dollar seat behind the Heat basket...and PUMPS HIS FIST right at him.
The other Knicks converge on him and give him a hug.
And the Heat blow it with no time to do anything.
Knicks advance and holy crap I can't believe it.
I was feeling so freaking good, just pacing back and forth around my apartment, thinking about how pathetic it was that I was gonna get my d-ck s-cked in three hours and the thing I was excited about was this injured ass Knick team moving on to Round 2.
A 4-0 sweep over Atlanta.
HAHAHAHAHAHA. It was onto play the Pacers again who we beat in 94, but lost to in 95.
We win in six.
We're going to the Finals.
Sprewell is averaging like a hundred points a game.
It's incredible. New York Knicks, the eighth seed, needed the extend of a two-week run just to make the playoffs in April were one of the only TWO TEAMS LEFT IN JUNE.
But we had to play San Antonio who piss me off because they bore me.
Shaq called them a WNBA team. Damn right they are.
Shaq also called Chris Bosh the "RuPaul of NBA big men".
Is it me or are you liking Shaq more and more?
But the Spurs win in 5 games. Steve Kerr and Will Perdue both got to have another title they didn't deserve, Avery Johnson hit a three with the game tied and 48 seconds left after Sean Elliot won Game 2 being down by 2 (hitting a three in the final seconds), god the Spurs bore me so bad I can't even get through this without getting tired.
YAWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWN they win three more titles before you stop being jealous of Tony Parker with his hot wife Eva Longoria.
Oh yeah, the San Antonio Spurs are the 1999 NBA World Cham
God just thinking about the Spurs makes me not even feel like finishing sentences. So boring.