The Forgotten Finals
Two of the greatest of all-time battled for the NBA title... and the world watched something else.
When the day came for the two giants to be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the long, intertwined paths traveled by Hakeem Olajuwon and Patrick Ewing collided once more.
"Everybody was complaining that the scoring was low, but what the hell you expect? You had the two best defensive teams in basketball going at each other."
The Knicks' practices leading up to Game 1 of the Finals were like rugby matches.
In New York, the city was in a frenzy over the possibility of the Rangers winning their first Stanley Cup title in 54 years.
"The city was at an all-time high"
"You just saw the televisions on the sideline and the chase going by. And I'm screaming on the bench, 'Hey guys, O.J.'s on the run!' And they're like, 'What?' " In the middle of the NBA Finals, we're talking about O.J. on the run."
Between Games 6 and 7 in Houston, the Knicks had another party for the media -- this time, renting out the Johnson Space Center. Stern remembers the streets of Houston being abandoned in the hours before the seventh game.And if Starks had passed to Ewing? In the what-if world where Starks and Ewing have been living for 20 years, Smith said it wouldn't have mattered."He would've been able to get back and block the shot," Smith said. "I've seen it. We saw it in practice. He was a point guard in a 6-10 body."Tomjanovich can only laugh now as he recalls the elation he felt -- the enduring image of him running onto the court in "that weird green suit," he said."Boy, what a relief that was," Tomjanovich said.GAME SEVEN: DREAM'S REDEMPTION"The town was as quiet as can be," Stern said. "There was nothing on the streets. People were either going to the arena or going to their homes to watch the game. Weddings were canceled, as I recall."For Starks, who's been running Olajuwon's block back in his mind for 20 years, those two days between games had been impossibly long."I didn't go out there and play a relaxed game like I did in the six games before then," Starks said. "I just was thinking about that game for the last two or three days before (Game 7) started. And when I come into a game not relaxed like I normally am, I don't play as well. And obviously, it showed."The clutch, confident player who'd shot the Knicks to the brink of a title in Game 6 didn't make it to Game 7. Starks' body did, but there was nothing inside."For so long, I was just running away from that game," Starks said. "And when you run from things like that, it tends to come back and bite you."The shots that had gone in with such deadeye precision for Starks, at such crucial moments of Game 6, were clanging off the rim in the series' deciding game. One after another after another after another, he kept shooting -- and kept missing.
"It was just something that was like turning my soul, because this is something that as a kid you dream about doing -- playing in a Game 7 and performing at a high level. And unfortunately, I wasn't able do that."
"In a perfect world, you wish it would've ended a different way. But that's the way it ended."
"I beat him in college, he beat me in the NBA. I'm still mad about it. I got him on one level, he got me on the next level."