NBA fans love watching their favorite teams play on any night, but nothing gets them more excited than a rivalry game. As a New York Knicks fan, for me this means whenever my team takes on the Miami Heat.
The Knicks-Heat rivalry may seem new in the aftermath of LeBron James' infamous "Decision," but the history between both teams actually dates back to the 1990s, when they often faced one another in the playoffs. The best part about the rivalry is that it is a true one, with both parties absolutely hating each other and stopping at nothing to come away with victory. Naturally, the fans love every second of it.
Now, to further understand the rivalry between the Knicks and the Heat, we'll have to look at another legendary NBA rivalry. This, of course, is the longstanding one that exists between the Boston Celtics and Los Angeles Lakers.
The Lakers and Celtics' history goes back decades, all the way to when they first faced off in the NBA Finals in 1959, when the Lakers still played in Minneapolis. Both teams have since met in the Finals a dozen times, including that first instance, and their fans are rabid with competitive joy whenever the two face off. As of now, Boston leads the NBA Finals series between the two by a 9-3 margin.
However, the Lakers-Celtics rivalry is highly different than that of the Knicks and Heat. First, Boston and Los Angeles play in separate conferences, so they only meet twice pre-playoffs and don't directly affect each other throughout the season.
On top of that, they have played each other so many times on the grand stage that while they are rivals, the rivalry is old enough that both sides have the utmost respect for one another.
The rivalry that exists between the Knicks and the Heat is completely different. Both teams play in the Eastern Conference, and one team slumping can mean a golden opportunity for the other. More importantly, there is no love lost between either side.
As I mentioned before, this rivalry dates back to the 1990s, when the Knicks and Heat met in the postseason four consecutive years. The bad blood began in Game 5 of the 1997 Conference Semis, when Heat forward P.J. Brown body-slammed Knicks guard Charlie Ward after Ward attempted to grab a rebound.
This resulted in an all-out brawl between both sides, and resulted in both parties being ejected. Ward was suspended for Game 6, as were fellow Knicks Patrick Ewing and Allan Houston for leaving the bench during the fracas. John Starks and Larry Johnson were suspended for Game 7, also guilty of leaving the bench.
Throw in a fight between Johnson and Alonzo Mourning in the first round of the 1998 postseason, plus Allan Houston's series-clinching buzzer-beater in 1999, and the differences between this rivalry and Lakers-Celtics are clear.
And yet, the fans eat it all up.
The rivalry that exists between the New York Knicks and Miami Heat may just seem like a prizefight with some basketball mixed in, but the fans enjoy it immensely. Basketball is a physical game, and the Knicks and Heat bring plenty of physicality whenever they face off. LeBron James choosing to play for Miami instead of the Knicks only threw fuel onto the competitive fire.
This type of passion and adrenaline is exactly what NBA fans want. They want to see the teams that despise each other stop at nothing to bring home the win, even if it means playing a little dirty. They want to see both sides play with the same amount of fire, with the game as a whole turning into a contest as to which side is more passionate.
Fans love this type of basketball, and is thus why they love watching the New York Knicks-Miami Heat rivalry take place. It is one of the NBA's best, and the fans' love for it only makes it better.
With New York much-improved and winning the first meeting this season, Miami's quest for another title is about to get a lot more interesting down the stretch.
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