By Ben Horney, Knicks fan since '94
Yesterday at Madison Square Garden, Patrick Ewing -- sitting courtside -- got a rousing ovation from the Garden faithful, who lavished him with chants from the past (Pa-trick Ew-ing!, Pa-trick Ew-ing!). Now that he's 50 years old, that's as close as he'll get to the court for the Knickerbockers.
In Ewing's honor, let's take a moment to look back in history and appreciate one of the many reasons that he still gets showered with cheers every time he steps in the building.
On May 6, 1994, just two days after a heartbreaking overtime loss, the Knicks rebounded on the road, beating the Nets, 102-92, in Game 4 of the first round of the playoffs.
With the victory, the Knicks eliminated the Nets and advanced to the Eastern Conference Semifinals where they would play (and beat!) the Michael Jordan-less Chicago Bulls (they'd go on to beat the Pacers in the Conference Finals before ultimately losing to the Rockets in the NBA finals).
Then-31-year old Ewing led the way for the Knicks with a typically herculean performance of 36 points, 14 rebounds and 5 blocks. But Ewing didn't do it alone; he had plenty of help. Charles Oakley lent 16 points and 9 boards, and Charles Smith and John Starks contributed a combined 34 points off the bench.
Derrick Coleman’s 31 points and 9 rebounds led the Nets, who were fighting for their playoff lives. The gaudiness of Coleman’s numbers is somewhat lessened, though, when you see that he shot just 5-for-15 from the field, and that 21 of his points came on free throws. Besides Coleman, the Nets struggled, with only Kenny Anderson and Armen Gilliam scoring in double figures (12 and 10 points respectively).
Both teams had legendary coaches. Pat Riley stalked the sidelines for the Knicks, while the late Pistons and Dream Team coaching legend Chuck Daly helmed the Nets.
1993-94 was the last time the Knicks had won their division until this season. And what were some of our current Knicks up to at the time? Jason Kidd could sniff the NBA, but he wasn’t quite there yet. Playing his sophomore (and final) season as a California Golden Bear, Kidd would be named a First Team All-American and Pac-10 Player of the Year. Pablo Prigioni's professional career in Argentina wouldn't even begin for another two years.
Oh, and Carmelo Anthony, the hopeful heir to Ewing’s “King of the Knicks” throne? He was nine years old.
If all goes well, Melo will also be sitting courtside in 20 years, having his name chanted while he looks up at his number (and perhaps a championship banner or two) hanging from the rafters.