NY Knicks: The Top 10 On-Court Fights in New York Knicks History
Sounds like a road to the NBA Finals.
But not here. I'm talking about boxing and wrestling.
Slams (body slams, that is). Elbows. Head-butts. A torn Pat Riley Armani. A bloody Van Gundy. A Kobe Bryant one-two combo. A John Starks ejection—or two, or three.
The Knicks history includes some of the best fights in NBA history. Here's a rundown of the top 10.
But before we get to the Main Event, there’s five quick fights on the undercard…
Photo: Current teammates Carmelo Anthony and Jared Jeffries in the Knicks-Nuggets Brawl of '06 (AP)
Undercard 1: Shawne Williams vs. Marvin Williams / Ron Artest, Jan. 2010
These are just a couple of minor Shawne Williams incidents from the 2010-11 season to get things warmed up.
The most recent Knicks' skirmish came on January 28. This fan video from the Knicks-Atlanta Hawks game offers a great seat for the scuffle.
In the foreground of the video at about 15 seconds, seemingly out of nowhere, Marvin Williams shoves Shawne Williams in the back of the head. To be fair, we don’t know how much hard shoving and trash talking preceded this play, but one thing is definitely certain—Williams was to blame.
The Knicks lost 111-102.
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A few weeks prior, in early January, the Knicks met the Lakers in L.A. New York carried a three-game winning streak into the Staples Center, including a league-noticing beatdown of the NBA-best San Antonio Spurs.
Ron Artest must not have liked that.
In the first quarter, he picked up the tech for sort of giving Shawne Williams a choke. The incident was quickly squashed.
Later in the game, Artest picked up the flagrant for sort of giving Amar’e Stoudemire a clothesline.
So much for therapy.
The Lakers took the game 109-87.
Undercard 2: John Starks vs. Reggie Miller, 1993 Eastern Conference First Round
This ESPN Films piece "classically" recalls the John Starks headbutt to a dramatic Reggie Miller in the first round of the 1993 playoffs.
It was the first time these Knicks and Pacers met in the postseason and the beginning of a long, intense playoff rivalry.
Undercard 3: Charles Oakley vs. Xavier McDaniel, Dec. 1989
What started out as a weak slap fight between Knicks' thug Charles Oakley and Seattle SuperSonics' thug Xavier McDaniel escalated.
"The two then began swinging at each other and wrestling. They ended up amid the courtside crowd while both benches cleared and other players joined in." (NY Times)
There's a quick clip of the Oakley-McDaniel toe-to-toe in a video compilation that's a spoiler, so it's saved for a later slide.
Undercard 4: Kenny "Sky" Walker vs. Scottie Pippen, 1989 Eastern Semis Game 6
Before the other two well-known Chicago Bulls fights, both later on the list, there was this quick spat between Scottie Pippen and one-time slam-dunk champ Kenny Walker.
It was 1989, before Michael, Scottie and the Bulls had won a title.
Undercard 5: Willis Reed vs. Rudy LaRusso, 1966 Home Opener
Willis Reed, the man, the MVP, the champion, the limping legend himself got in a mad tussle once.
He was getting tired of the Lakers' Rudy LaRusso's elbows and they tangled. It lead to blows and a broken nose.
The Main Event: The Top 10 on-Court Fights in New York Knicks History
And now, the Main Event.
Chock full of some good fighting and surprise cameos, like Michael Buffer, a fully-quaffed Mike Tirico, a local Linda Cohn, a three-point shooting Rick Carlisle, a stern David Stern and so much more...
Round 1: NY Knicks vs. Chicago Bulls, 1993 Eastern Conference Finals Game 3
The Weigh-In: Earlier in the season, the Knicks fought with the best of the West: the Phoenix Suns (later on the list). In the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, the Knicks would fight with the best team in the East (and eventually in the NBA).
The Fight: A good place to start is at 6:40 of the video with Scottie Pippen’s running jumper. Afterwards, John Starks and Scottie Pippen get a little tangled up and Starks gets in Pippen’s face.
Over the next three minutes of the tape, various scuffles break out involving Patrick Ewing, Stacey King, Anthony Mason, Tony Campbell and Pippen. The cold war culminates in a Michael Jordan-John Starks confrontation that results in Starks’ ejection.
The Aftermath: The Bulls won Game 3, 103-83, and then the next three games to win the Eastern Conference title. Then they won the NBA title, beating the Phoenix Suns four games to two.
Round 2: Chris Childs and the Knicks vs. Kobe Bryant and the Lakers, Apr. 2000
This was the fourth year Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O'Neal were paired, both still searching for their first ring.
The Fight: It is more evident on the replay: While the game is on, Chris Childs and Kobe Bryant start arguing with each other, literally right behind the unfolding play—a Shaquille O’Neal jumper. They are oblivious to the game action, as if a time out has been called.
It gets ugly when Kobe throws an elbow and Childs retaliates with a well-landed one-two right-left combo. All hell breaks loose and in an acute moment of intensity, players jump around trying to figure out what happened.
If you look closely, notice how Ewing grabs Bryant’s shirt to hold him back—which in turn gets Shaq involved. At the end two referees are needed to hold Bryant back.
The Aftermath: The Knicks lost 106-82. Childs was suspended two games for instigating. Bryant was suspended one. (Chicago Tribune)
The Lakers, on the other hand, would go on to win their first of three titles in a row.
Round 3: Charles Oakley and the Knicks vs. Doc Rivers and the Hawks, Dec. 1988
The Weigh-In: Doc Rivers was not known for being a dirty player, and he’s a pretty composed coach today too, but here he is as an Atlanta Hawk, throwing down with Knicks’ tough guy Charles Oakley.
After going 24-58 in 1984-85, New York drafted Patrick Ewing with the No. 1 pick in the 1985 draft. The Knicks still had three more losing seasons after that, but at least had made the playoffs in 1988.
After four straight losing seasons, the Knicks began the 1988-89 campaign 18-7. The Hawks were a half game behind at 18-8, and after years of futility, New York was not about to give any team ground. The Knicks had scored 120 or more points in seven of their last 15 games, including 141 against the Indiana Pacers.
The Patrick Ewing era truly began this season, and two days after Christmas in 1988, the Knicks let it be known.
The Fight: It starts when Oakley comes down hard off a rebound grab and pushes Doc Rivers out of bounds a little too roughly. Doc retorts with an “errant” blind fling of the ball at Oak. Oak returns the favor—and it’s on. Wild swings eventually give way to a rugby-like scrum at the scene of the incident.
The Aftermath: Things sure have changed: Doc and Oak only got technicals and stayed in the game. Dominique Wilkins of the Hawks also got a technical.
The Knicks lost the game 128-126 and would go on to lose in the second round of the playoffs…to Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.
The Hawks lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in Round 1.
Round 4: Marcus Camby and the Knicks vs. Danny Ferry and the Spurs, Jan. 2001
The Weigh-In: Two of the best teams in the NBA meet in mid-January.
The Fight: In the fourth quarter, Danny Ferry swings a seemingly unintentional hand that poked Marcus Camby in the eye. After the initial shock wore off, Camby chased after Ferry, but was stopped by referees.
It appeared the danger had passed, but Camby snaps at the sight of Ferry on the sidelines and charges him a second time.
Knicks’ coach Jeff Van Gundy gets caught in the mix and suffers what looks like a Marcus Camby shoulder to the head.
The Aftermath: Van Gundy’s bloody wound would require 12 stitches and Marcus Camby’s outburst would require a five-game suspension per the NBA powers that be. Ferry’s slap received a slap on the wrist: a one-game suspension. Both players were fined. (NY Times)
This was one of those rare occasions when the Knicks wound up on the winning side of a basketball bout: They beat the Spurs soundly 104-82 and went on to go 48-34, their last winning season until the Amar’e Stoudemire-led 2010-11 Knicks.
New York took the No. 4 seed in the East, while San Antonio finished at 58-24, the best record in the league.
The Knicks were bounced from the playoffs in the first round by the underdog Toronto Raptors, (who had a familiar fighter on their squad, Charles Oakley) while the Spurs went home after meeting up with the eventual champion Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals.
Round 5: Doc Rivers and the Knicks vs. Kevin Johnson and the Suns, Mar. 1993
The Weigh-In: The New York Knicks were the beasts of the East in 1992-93. They wound up finishing the season at 60-22, taking the top seed and matching the franchise’s best record ever (the championship 1969-70 team).
The Phoenix Suns were no slouches either—they were better than the Knicks in fact, finishing the season 62-20 for their best franchise record.
New York had won nine in a row, and Phoenix eight of 10, when both teams stepped onto the court—and into the ring—on March 23 to find out who ruled the NBA roost.
The Fight: Just before the end of the half, Knicks’ guard Doc Rivers brought the ball up on offense, passed to John Starks and was planted by a hard Kevin Johnson shoulder.
Doc then ran across the court to catch up with KJ, and it got way out of hand fast. The benches totally cleared, and not just of players either.
Before Jeff Van Gundy, there was Pat Riley—and he got so deep in the mix here that his (surely expensive) suit is torn.
Then, before you know it, a street-clothed (read: Hawaiian-shirted) Greg Anthony came flying out of nowhere causing a pile up the LIE would be proud of.
The Aftermath: This fight covered the whole court. 12 technical fouls were called in the game. Doc Rivers, Kevin Johnson and Greg Anthony were ejected (Anthony from the arena) and suspended. Anthony Mason, John Starks and Danny Ainge were ejected. The NBA fined players and teams a total of over $160K. (NY Times)
The Knicks lost the game 121-92, would recover and finish the season 15-3, but lose to the Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Suns would lose to Michael Jordan and the Bulls, too, in the Finals.
Recognize Linda Cohn? She does a great job here. No wonder she went national.
Round 6: Charlie Ward & the Knicks vs. P.J. Brown & the Heat, 1997 Semis Game 5
The Weigh-In: This series was hot from the start as the Knicks-Heat rivalry had been building for years, and the fireworks finally exploded in the fourth quarter.
The Fight: At about 6:40 is a good place to start on the video…with P.J. Brown’s rebound put-back.
On the ensuing Knicks possession, the Miami Heat’s Tim Hardaway flops on a soft Charlie Ward push and the foul is called. Charles Oakley and Alonzo Mourning scuffle and Oak gets called for the technical and is ejected. Meanwhile, P.J. Brown and Chris Childs begin to jaw.
As Hardaway throws up the second technical, Brown and Ward jostle for position under the basket, with Ward using his whole body on Brown’s legs. When the free throw drains, Brown throws Ward head over heels, essentially body-slamming him.
The Knicks and Heat join in from the bench and a wrestling match in "photographer’s row" breaks out.
This fight was subdued pretty quickly though—not so for the Heat-Knicks rematch later in the list.
The Aftermath: Brown, Ward and John Starks got called for the technicals and were ejected. Brown and Ward and Patrick Ewing and Allan Houston, who left the bench, were suspended for Game 6. Larry Johnson and John Starks also left the bench and they were suspended for Game 7. The Augusta Chronicle called it “the harshest punishment in NBA Playoff history.”
Miami would win Game 5 96-81, and then the next two, to take the series from woefully undermanned New York. Tragic really.
The Heat would then lose to the title-bound Chicago Bulls in the Eastern Conference.
Round 7: Pat Cummings and the Knicks vs. A.C. Green and the Lakers, Jan. 1988
The Weigh-In: For the Knicks in 1987-88, it looked like more of the same old. Despite winning the lottery jackpot, Patrick Ewing, two and a half years prior, they continued to lose. The Knicks were 14-24 for the season heading into this game with the Los Angeles Lakers, and 80 games under .500 (61-141) since Ewing joined the team.
The Lakers on the other hand—with Magic, Kareem, Worthy, Green, Cooper and more, and Pat Riley as coach—were 28-8, and they were the current NBA champions. They’d win it again in June.
Before the “Malice in the Palace,” there was this melee in L.A.
The Fight: After the Knicks hit a jumper, the Lakers’ A.C Green roughly tosses the Knicks’ Pat Cummings while both teams transition.
Cummings comes back with a punch at Green and the Lakers’ Michael Cooper jumps in. Before you know it, both Cummings and Cooper are wrestling in the stands as players from both teams join the melee.
The Aftermath: “Seven members of the Knicks and eight Los Angeles Lakers were fined a total of $16,750,” according to the New York Times. Cummings and Cooper received one-game suspensions.
The Knicks would lose this game 113-112, but make the playoffs for the first time in four years (and for the first of 14 consecutive trips).
The fight in the video is about the first four and a half minutes, but if you make it to the end, you’ll see a cameo by current Dallas Mavericks coach, Rick Carlisle, hitting the final shot.
Round 8: Derek Harper & Knicks vs. Jo Jo English & the Bulls, 1994 Semis Game 3
The Weigh-In: The Hope Diamond. The Sistine Chapel. Knicks-Bulls Game 3. David Stern’s Face. Priceless sh*t.
The Fight: After a Horace Grant foul, the Knicks’ Derek Harper and the Bulls’ Jo Jo English get into it at the three-point line and are yelling in each other’s faces. They push off each other and abruptly go at it, causing players from both teams to make a beeline to the heart of the action.
Harper throws English to the ground as the players join the fracas, the momentum of the hoarde carrying everyone into the first few rows of the crowd, literally at the feet of NBA Commissioner David Stern.
The usual cast of characters features prominently—Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason and John Starks.
For Chicago, it was mostly Bill Cartwright, Scottie Pippen and the United Center security staff.
Only the fight starters, Harper and English, were ejected though.
The Aftermath: Thanks to Tony Kukoc’s game winner at the buzzer (see Mike Tirico's hair here), the Bulls took Game 3, averting a 3-0 hole. Derek Harper would be suspended for the next two games, and Jo Jo English for one. (NY Times)
Chicago took Game 4, evening up the series 2-2.
But it was the Knicks time this time: They took two of the next three, including a thrilling 87-86 Game 5 win and the Game 7 clincher at Madison Square Garden.
Game 7 of the Finals was not as fortuitous for the Knicks—they lost it to Hakeem Olajuwon’s Houston Rockets.
Round 9: New York Knicks vs. Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets, Dec. 2006
The Weigh-In: Awkward.
The Fight: With the Knicks down by 19 to Carmelo Anthony and the Denver Nuggets, and just over a minute left in the game, the Knicks cough up the ball and the Nuggets recover. J.R. Smith takes the ball on the fast break, but when he goes up with it to score, he is mugged by the Knicks’ Mardy Collins and mayhem ensues.
All players on the floor join in the rumble, but especially Smith, Collins, Nate Robinson, Anthony and Jared Jeffries.
Smith leaps at Robinson, tackling him into the stands while Carmelo Anthony waits for the right moment to clock Collins in revenge.
At that point the skirmish spreads out across the floor, with an incensed Jeffries in hot pursuit of Anthony.
The Aftermath: Everyone on the floor (no one left the bench) was ejected. All 10. Seven players were suspended: Anthony (15), Smith (10), Robinson (10), Collins (6), Jeffries (4), Nene (1) and Jerome James (1).
That punch cost Carmelo Anthony over $600K and both the Knicks and Nuggets $500K a piece. (ESPN.com)
The Nuggets won the game 123-100. The Knicks finished the 2006-07 season a woeful 33-49. The Nuggets were a No. 6 seed and were bounced in the first round.
Round 10: Larry Johnson, Jeff Van Gundy vs. Alonzo Mourning, 1998 Rd. 1 Game 4
The Weigh-In All the years of the Knicks-Heat rivalry finally erupt when ex-teammates (who didn't exactly like each other in Charlotte) Larry Johnson and Alonzo Mourning tee off on each other.
It's the Mount St. Helens of the Knicks-Heat rivalry.
The Fight: With under 10 seconds left in Game 4 and the Miami Heat down by five, Tim Hardaway busts a way-off three from way out there. Under the arc of the ball, you can see Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson getting rough. The next thing you know, they're throwing punches.
As John Starks booked down the court with the rebound, one of the wildest fights in NBA history (No. 1 according to ESPN) began with a flurry of swings. Play abruptly stopped and all players—and Jeff Van Gundy—immediately converged upon the scene.
Charles Oakley jumped in between Johnson and Mourning. Knicks’ coach Jeff Van Gundy tried restraining Mourning, but slipped to the ground, where he grasped the Heat center’s leg like a balding, lustful poodle.
While Oakley and Mourning sparred, one of the most recognized? Uh, interesting? Uh, bizarre? scenes in NBA history unfolded: Van Gundy clutching Mourning’s leg and being trampled upon until the fight ceases.
The jawing continues after the physical activity, with a livid Van Gundy ready to take on ‘Zo, but the game ends and everyone disperses.
The Aftermath: The Knicks won Game 4, 90-85, to tie the best-of-five series at two. Larry Johnson, and the Knicks’ forward Chris Mills, who left the bench, were suspended for the deciding Game 5 along with Mourning.
The Knicks went to Miami and took Game 5 convincingly 98-81.
Alas, New York would lose to Reggie Miller and Indiana in the Eastern Semis.
One bonus video: ESPN's Top 10 Memorable NBA Fights...
From a few years back, this is ESPN's top 10 memorable NBA fights.
It includes the Oakley-McDaniel clip, a couple of the other Knicks fights, as well as some classics involving Larry Bird, Bill Laimbeer, Charles Barkley, Dr. J and more.
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