It was 1999. The New Millennium was near and the NBA Lockout had just ended. At the start of the 1999 NBA Season, the New York Knicks planned on building around Hall Of Fame center Patrick Ewing. NYK signed Latrell Sprewell from the Golden State Warriors, as well as FA’s Kurt Thomas and Marcus Camby from the Toronto Raptors. New York also signed Herb Williams to a contract extension. This was the Knicks’ final attempt to win a championship before the 21st Century arrived.
Throughout the season, only 50 games had been officially played by all teams. For the Knicks, they struggled mightily with both Ewing and Sprewell sustaining injuries. As a result, New York had to be resilient all season long and create camaraderie, unlike no other.
The Knicks finished the season with a 27-23 record, good for 8th place in the Eastern Conference. Their first opponent in the 1999 NBA Playoffs was their archrival and top-seed Miami Heat. New York won the series 3-2, thanks to Allan Houston’s game-winner. It was a complete upset, as the Knicks became only the second 8th-seeded team in NBA Playoff history to eliminate the top seed.
Next, it was New York and Atlanta. As usual, the Knicks were the underdogs and fought their way throughout this series. They made a stunning four-game sweep against the Hawks, en route to the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals against the Reggie Miller-led Indiana Pacers.
In Game 2, New York lost by 2 points, as well as Patrick Ewing. This was a huge blow to the Knicks because they always relied on Ewing in the last seconds of the game. However, New York refused to quit. Game 3 changed the course of the entire Knicks playoff run, as Larry Johnson hit a clutch 3-pointer against Antonio Davis that gave them a 92-91 victory over the Pacers. New York went on to win the series 4-2 and advanced to the 1999 NBA Finals against the San Antonio Spurs as the first 8th-seeded team to make the Finals, an unprecedented feat.
Although the Knicks did not win it all, their heart and determination captivated not just New Yorkers, but basketball fans around the world. Their Cinderella run is one to remember.
Author: Paolo Polecina