NBA in the 1990s: Revisiting the Chicago Bulls-New York Knicks Rivalry
Nowadays, a Chicago Bulls vs. New York Knicks game isn't quite "must-see" TV. The Bulls are competing for the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoffs and the Knicks currently own one of the NBA's worst records.
However, in the 1990s—back when the NBA was actually exciting—the Bulls and the Knicks had a very intense rivalry going on.
The two teams faced each other in the playoffs five different seasons during the decade: '91, '92, '93, '94, and '96.
The rivalry was stuffed with "in-your- face" defense, spectacular dunks, and trash-talking wars.
Is it the NBA's best rivalry of all time?
No, that award would have to go to the legendary Boston Celtics vs. Los Angeles Lakers battle of the 1980s. But Bulls vs. Knicks probably finishes in second place.
The following slideshow will take you down memorable lane.
Patrick Ewing and the Knickerbockers vs. Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and the Bulls.
Jordan, Bulls Sweep Knicks
The top-seeded Bulls swept the eighth-seeded Knicks 3-0 during the first round of the '91 playoffs.
The series was highlighted by perhaps one of the greatest plays of Jordan's career. In game three, the Bulls superstar shook off two defenders—John Starks and Charles Oakley—spun on the baseline, and then threw it down over Ewing.
That year, Chicago went on to win the first of three straight titles as they defeated the Lakers in the finals.
In the offseason, the Knicks hired former Lakers head coach Pat Riley to replace John MacLeod.
Riley's Lakers, who won five titles in the '80s, were not not known for defense. However, Riley employed a hard-nosed defensive system upon his arrival in New York.
The Knicks also picked up two key reserves in Greg Anthony (draft) and Anthony Mason (free agency).
Knicks Force a Game Seven
The Bulls and Knicks met up in the semi-finals of the '92 playoffs. In game one, Ewing led New York to a 94-89 win and finished with a game-high 34 points, 16 rebounds, and six blocks.
Chicago won three of the next four games.
In game six, Ewing, playing with a sprained ankle, scored 27 points to lead the Knicks to a 100-86 victory. Starks scored 27 as well and held Jordan to just 21 points on 9 of 25 shooting.
The Knicks forced a seventh and deciding game in Chicago.
X-Man and Jordan Exchange Words
In game seven of the '92 series, Knicks forward Xavier McDaniel and Jordan got into a heated verbal battle, however no punches were thrown. Both players received technical fouls.
Later, Starks and the Bulls' B.J. Armstrong got into it as well.
Chicago wound up winning the game 110-81. Jordan scored 42 points and Pippen recorded a triple double with 17 points, 11 rebounds, and 11 assists.
Ewing led New York with 22.
Knicks Pound Bulls By 37
Prior to the '92-93 season, the Knicks—trying to finally dethrone the Bulls—decided to retool their roster.
Mark Jackson, Xavier McDaniel, and Gerald Wilkins were replaced with Doc Rivers, Charles Smith, and Rolando Blackman.
The Knicks stomped Chicago in the teams' first meeting of the regular season.
Ewing finished with 26 points and 15 rebounds and Oakley grabbed 16 boards as the Knicks won 112-75.
Jordan struggled mightily scoring only 17 points on four of 20 shooting.
New York and Chicago met up in the '93 Eastern Conference Finals. The Knicks came out strong winning the first two games in New York.
In game two, Starks performed one of the greatest dunks in NBA history as he jammed over both Horace Grant and Jordan left-handed.
Starks Gets Ejected
Game three of the '93 series was full of altercations.
First, Ewing and Chicago's Stacey King got into it and later Starks got in the face of Pippen and eventually was thrown out after picking up two technical fouls for charging after Jordan.
The Bulls won the game 103-83 and forced New York to 20 turnovers.
Jordan lit up the Knicks for 54 points in game four as the Bulls won 105-95. MJ was 18-of-30 from the field and 12-of-14 from the foul line.
Ewing and Starks led the Knicks with 24 points apiece.
Smith Comes up Short
Game five of the '93 series proved to be a disappointing loss for the Knicks.
Charles Smith missed four consecutive shots near the basket in the final seconds of regulation as the Knicks fell to the Bulls 97-94.
Jordan recorded a triple-double for Chicago with 29 points, 14 assists, and 10 rebounds. Pippen added 28 points and 11 rebounds.
Ewing led the Knicks with 33 points in a losing effort.
The Bulls won game six (their fourth straight win) and advanced to the finals where they beat Charles Barkley's Phoenix Suns for their third consecutive NBA title.
Jordan Hangs 'Em Up
In October of '93, Jordan retired from the league and later pursued a career in professional baseball.
Jordan's absence opened the door for the Knicks to emerge as one of the favorites to win the championship.
Surprisingly, the Bulls, a team that everyone had written off before the season, won 55 games and ended up squaring off with the Knicks in the '94 semi-finals.
Kukoc Drills a Buzzer-Beater
The Knicks won the first two games of the '94 series, but lost in game three thanks to the Bulls' Toni Kukoc. Kukoc hit the game winning three-pointer as Chicago won 104-102.
This game also included a second-quarter brawl centered around Chicago's Jo Jo English and New York's Derek Harper. Harper was suspended for two games, while English was suspended for one.
Ewing is Posterized Once Again
In game six of the '94 Eastern Conference Finals, Ewing was posterized by another Bulls star. This time it was Pippen instead of Jordan.
The Bulls won 93-79.
New York closed out the series in game six and went on to reach the NBA finals, where they lost to the Houston Rockets.
MJ Returns, Puts on Memorable Performance at MSG
Jordan announced his return to the NBA on March 18, 1995. Ten days later, he led his Bulls to New York to face the Knicks.
The Bulls won 113-111 as Jordan scored 55, which was the most points he had ever scored in Madison Square Garden.
Ewing was the only bright spot for the Knicks, finishing with a team-high 36.
That year, the two teams did not meet in the postseason for the first time in five seasons. It was also the first time in five years that neither team reached the NBA Finals.
Bulls Knock off Knicks in Five
In '96, after the Bulls won a record-breaking 72 regular-season games, Chicago and New York faced each other in the playoffs for the fifth and final time.
The Bulls won in five games making it the shortest series of the rivalry since the Knicks were swept in '91.
Jordan scored 44 points in game one and 46 in game three.
The Bulls went on to win their fourth NBA title.
The "Jeff Van Gundy" Game
During the 1996-97 season, then-Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy stated that Jordan was a con artist who befriended his opponents off the court and then physically tried to destroy them on it.
Jordan responded a few days later by torching the Knicks for 51 points in Chicago.