NBA Playoffs 2012: With Rivalry Renewed, Knicks vs. Heat Is Better Than Ever

Matt DienstagContributor IIIApril 28, 2012

I was just a novice sports fan when one of the greatest rivalries in sports was playing out.

It was before I was even 10 years old. Looking back, I couldn't tell you the names of half of my elementary school teachers, where I went on vacation, or what presents I received for birthdays.

But I remember Knicks-Heat like it was yesterday.

The bench-clearing brawl in 1997 that would swing the momentum in the Heat's favor after the Knicks had a 3-1 series lead.

The fight between Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson in the first round the following season, which left a peacemaking Jeff Van Gundy on the bottom of the pile, clinging to Mourning's leg.

The Allan Houston teardrop floater, which clinched just the second time an eighth seed had beaten a one-seed, had every young basketball player dreaming of being as clutch.

The controversial Anthony Carter miracle shot from behind the backboard in the 2000 Eastern Conference Semifinals that gave the Heat a 2-1 series lead.

Over a decade later, the rivalry renews itself with star performers that the previous rivalry had never before seen.

Sure, Ewing and Mourning were two of the top performers in the game at that point, but the star power of LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Amar'e Stoudemire all on the court at once brings a new element to the rivalry.

Anthony and James have been long-standing rivals ever since high school and have constantly been compared ever since they were drafted in 2003.

Both players have a lot to prove.

James spurned the bright lights of New York City in last year's offseason, preferring the easier route in pairing with Wade and Bosh in Miami rather than restoring a franchise with a decade's worth of failure.

The Knicks' faithful will surely hound James throughout this series; will he be big enough to overcome the adversity? He's failed to do so in the past, and if James wants to be considered one of the best of all time, he's going to have to start playing that way consistently in the postseason.

Anthony also has something to prove. The Knicks forward has only won one playoff series in his career, and many have discredited Anthony as a true superstar.

But over the past month and a half, Anthony has played the best basketball of his career. He is dominating on both sides of the ball, just in time to reignite this historic rivalry.

The Knicks-Heat playoff matchups have never disappointed, and I don't expect it to now. Barring injuries to either team, this series has seven-game potential written all over it.

There will be no other first-round series quite as thrilling as the Knicks and the Heat. LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are about to write the next chapter of this historic rivalry.