So yesterday I was got to school early and decided to watch the 30 for 30 documentary titled “Winning Time: Reggie Miller versus the New York Knicks”. I’ll talk about those Pacers another time, but today, I want to talk about the Knicks of the 90’s. Many people don’t remember, but those were some very good teams. If not for Michael Jordan and of course Reggie Miller, they may have won a championship or two. There are a number of reasons why they were so good, so I will highlight each of those.
First thing’s first, it was the players. Looking at those guys, you would have thought they were linebackers or boxers because of how big and muscular they were. They looked like a bunch of bodybuilders. Besides their physical stature, they had a ton of talent and a perfect mixture of rugged tough guys. You had Derek Harper running the point. Harper was a consistent role player at this point in his career, but he was still a big strong guard who could overpower his opponents. At shooting guard was John Starks, who may have been one of the most aggressive defenders in NBA history (you couldn’t blame him when you saw who he was matched up with). At the small forward was Charles Smith, whose massive shoulders and powerful mid-range game made him a handful. At the four was Charles Oakley, who was the enforcer of this team (not that they needed a specialist in that category). And finally at the center was their superstar Patrick Ewing, one of the greatest big men of all time. Their bench was not too shabby either, featuring future all-star Anthony Mason, Greg Anthony, Herb Williams, Anthony Bonner, and even Doc Rivers was with them for a time.
Next was their coach, the Godfather himself, Pat Riley. I have always been a fan of Pat Riley. He just displays so much confidence, and evidence is provided when he guaranteed another championship while coaching the Lakers in the 80’s. Everyone saw Riley as this nice guy who wanted everyone to like him, and it seemed like it too while he was coaching in LA. When he got to New York, however, the real Pat Riley came out. He was now coaching probably one of the meanest, nastiest, and most aggressive teams in NBA history. If anyone came down the lane, they were mauled and probably fouled more than once. They were an unbelievable defensive team, regularly holding teams to under 90 and sometimes under 80 points. It was spectacular to watch. This style of play can be seen in the late 90’s and early 2000’s when Riley was coaching and managing the Miami Heat.
Unfortunately, those Knicks would probably not do well in the league today. With all of the rules regarding hand checks on the perimeter and flagrant fouls, all of these guys would have fouled out within minutes. I would like to see how defenses today would fare against the style of offense the Knicks used. They didn’t shoot a lot of 3’s, but instead pounded the ball down low and tried to beat opponents up on the inside with their size and strength.