Ken Berger of CBS Sports wrote a tremendous article on the 1994 Finals. One of the most competitive Finals in NBA History. One of my favorites as well.
The NBA, in my opinion, reached it's second "peak" with the first run of the Chicago Bulls from 1991 to 1993. The two championships that were won by the Houston Rockets in 1994 and 1995 are but blips on the radar ... but for me, their first championship came during my favorite year of watching NBA basketball. Both conferences in the NBA were highly competitive, featuring knock down, drag out high pressure series that are some of the most memorable in recent NBA history.
My second favorite team of that era (after the Denver Nuggets of course) was the ... New York Knicks. I know that sounds blasphemous to say, but there was something that appealed to me about that particular team. Be it Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason, Greg Anthony or Charles Smith ... dunno. For me that team was more appealing than the Chicago Bulls teams that had been dominating the Eastern Conference. While everyone loved Michael, I was partial to John Starks.
That's just the way I'm wired. From 1992 to 1993 the Knicks and the Bulls met in the playoffs. Both won by the Bulls. Yet, both of those series (and the Knicks series against the Pacers) I still hold dear as my favorite series of all time (after the Nuggets two series in 1994 vs the Seattle Supersonics and Utah Jazz). I loved the tough, competitive and ROUGH way those teams played each other. It was appealing to me on a primal level I think. We can argue if it was "ugly" basketball ... but for a kid of 16 it was major fun.
The Houston Rockets a different breed. Lead by Rudy Tomjonovich and all-time great Hakeem Olajuwon, Kenny Smith (yes ... THAT Kenny Smith) Otis Thorpe, Mario Elie, Carl Herrera and a very young Robert Horry. The Rockets had been on the rise for years. In 1993 they had lost a gut wrenching semifinal series against the Sonics (who then played an epic 7 game WCF series against the Charles Barkley lead Phoenix Suns in 1993). The Rockets had to slug their way through an ultra-competitive Western Conference that smelled an opportunity with Jordan no longer in the NBA.
The series itself in 1994 was a slug-fest. Ugly. Dirty and each game was extremely competitive. No game featured a margin over 8 points in victory. No team scored over 100 points. Game six was a two point game that should have been won by the Knicks. It was amazing in it's own way. Featuring an incredible defensive play by The Dream on John Starks.
Yet, it's mostly remembered for OJ Simpson's white Bronco chase down a Los Angeles freeway while a pivotal game was going on. It's amazing the things that happen in life, and this was a very unfortunate moment for the NBA.
Yet, it's my feeling you have to be a true basketball fan ... love the NBA for all it's glory AND it's faults, to really appreciate that wonderful series. Since 1994 there have only been 3 Finals series that have gone the full seven games (Pistons vs Spurs in 2005, Lakers vs Celtics 2010, Spurs vs. Heat 2013). You could say that the 1994 Finals were by far the most competitive of the four.
What are your memories of that series? (if you are old enough).
Read Ken Berger's entire article right here. Great stuff