Game 3 of the 1994 NBA Finals was a fantastic contest.
The Houston Rockets beat the New York Knicks on the road, and the 93-89 victory gave them a 2-1 lead in the series—one that they'd go on to win. And, of course, there were plenty of stars on the court.
Hakeem Olajuwon led the charge for Houston, recording an insane 21 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and seven blocks. On the other side, Patrick Ewing submitted 18 points, 13 rebounds and another seven rejections for the Knicks.
According to Basketball-Reference.com, there have only been 10 seven-block games in the Finals since 1985, and two of them came in the same game—this one. All of a sudden, the Michael Jordan-less series was finally getting really entertaining.
Then Game 5 rolled around after a less-thrilling Game 4.
Olajuwon and Ewing both played fantastic basketball yet again, asserting themselves as unquestioned superstars for the latest time, but they took a backseat to the plummeting star of another household name in the world of sports: O.J. Simpson.
During the middle of the game, the broadcast actually started showing the infamous chase of the white Bronco. And it wasn't like it was shown in a small section of the screen; the game took a backseat to the police chase of the NFL standout who was later to stand trial for murder.
"Appointment television? More like disappointment television," writes Ken Berger in a fantastic, must-read long-form article on CBS Sports. "Then, just as the series arrived at its tipping point, a white Ford Bronco cruised into America's living rooms and captivated the nation."
Later on in the piece, there's this interesting passage:
[Neil] Best, watching from the press seats in the 200 level, noticed that Bob Costas -- the pregame and halftime host in the arena -- had his back turned to the game and was huddled with his staff watching a TV monitor. Costas had suddenly become the traffic cop for NBC's split coverage of the Finals and the O.J. chase, the middle man between [Marv] Albert, color commentator Matt Guokas and Tom Brokaw at NBC News.
"The most bizarre telecast that I've ever been involved in," Albert said. "It was like early reality TV."
Albert has been a part of quite a few telecasts, so that statement isn't meant lightly. And something tells me that the rest of his career hasn't changed that opinion.
"The only people in the country who were seeing the game," Best said, "were the people in the arena."
Nothing like that will ever happen again. The strange mixture of circumstances is just too much to match.