On This Date: Allan Houston’s Game Winner shocks the Heat and the NBA

May 16th 1999: Allan Houston hits the game-winning basket to upset the #1 seed Miami Heat and shock the NBA

Allan Houston made his mark in Knicks history with the game-winning basket with less than 5 seconds remaining to sink the Miami Heat 78-77. The Knicks became the 2nd #8 seed to upset the #1 seed in NBA history.1

The original play did not involve Houston hitting the game-winning basket. Latrell Sprewell originally had the ball in isolation, expecting to hit the game-winner. However, Spree nearly turned the ball over and the Knicks consequently reset possession with less than 5 seconds remaining. Charlie Ward fed Houston behind the three point arc. Houston then threw up a running floater that bounced off the front rim, then hit the back rim, and went in to put the Knicks ahead by 1 with 0.8 seconds.

The most iconic moment was Houston running to the other side of the floor pumping his fists in celebration with his teammates. The Heat crowd, teammates, and coaching staff were all left in shock after that basket. The Heat got one final opportunity to win the game, but Terry Porter missed the 35 foot heave and the Knicks clinched the ultimate playoff upset.

The Knicks were the underdogs throughout the entire regular season. The combo of a relatively new roster, shortened season, and an aging Patrick Ewing led to significant growing pains. There was a significant risk that the Knicks would miss the NBA playoffs for the first time since 1987. Additionally, there were rumblings regarding Jeff Van Gundy’s job security due to disagreements between him and Ernie Grunfeld. This victory calmed a lot of nerves within the Madison Square Garden faithful. For Van Gundy, this victory most likely helped secure his job with the organization.

On This Date: Ewing scores 37 to squeak victory against the Pacers

March 30th 1999: Patrick Ewing scores 37 points to lead the Knicks past the Pacers

Patrick Ewing led the Knicks with 37 points, 15 rebounds, and 2 blocked shots to help the Knicks secure a 94-93 victory at home against the Indiana Pacers. The 37 points were the most Ewing scored since March 1997, before he tore his Achilles. The game was very close over the the entire game, with neither team securing more than a 5 point lead.

With less than 2 minutes left, the Knicks trailed 93-90. Latrell Sprewell, who scored 18 points off the bench, scored the final 4 points in the game to help the Knicks secure the victory. Spree first scored a layup off a Miller miss to cut the deficit to one. After the Pacers missed their next 3 shot attempts, they fouled Spree after grabbing a rebound to send him to the line to hit the go-ahead free throws.

In what was just another norm in the Knicks/Pacers rivalry, Ewing got into an altercation with Jalen Rose. The two players tussled with each other grabbing a rebound. Ewing pushed Rose down after grabbing the board and Rose subsequently tripped Ewing as he ran up the court. The two went to confront each other with referee Dick Bavetta attempting to mediate. Rose went to throw a punch, but instead accidentally struck Bavetta in the nose, requiring surgery. Ewing didn’t throw a punch. The NBA only fined Ewing $2,500 for the altercation, but suspended Rose for 1 game and fined him $5,000.

The win put the Knicks at 17-14 as they continued to fight for a playoff seed. The loss still kept the Pacers 1.5 games behind the Orlando Magic with the best record in the Eastern Conference. As we know quite well, the Knicks would face the Pacers again in the playoffs and would upset them on the way to an unprecedented NBA Finals trip.

On This Date: Chris Dudley throws a basketball at Shaq

March 28th 1999: Chris Dudley throws a basketball at Shaq

In a generally frustrating, nationally televised 99-91 loss against the trio of Kobe Bryant, Glen Rice, and Shaquille O’Neal, Chris Dudley had one of his most memorable moments as a Knick. Shaq gave Dudley many problems on the defensive end. During one stretch, Shaq received the ball in the post and easily dunked over Dudley. After the dunk, Shaq inadvertently pushed Dudley to the floor. Dudley immediately threw the ball, like a quarterback, at Shaq’s back and was immediately ejected from the game. In a truly Shaqtian manner, he didn’t realize Dudley hit him and laughed off the moment.

The game was a bit chippy earlier in the game. Kurt Thomas was ejected after tussling with Dennis Rodman attempting to box out for a rebound, as shown below:

For some reason, Kurt decided to push Rodman to the floor and ripped his jersey in the process. In typical Rodman fashion2, he walked away knowing that he just ejected another player.

Fortunately this was not the only fight between both teams as Chris Childs would show Kobe Bryant the art of the jabs next season.

On This Date: Latrell Sprewell trade, Knicks defensive streak, Remembering Ned Irish

January 21, 1999: The New York Knicks acquire Latrell Sprewell 

On the first day after the end of the 1998-99 NBA Lockout, the New York Knicks acquired the talented, but highly controversial Latrell Sprewell from the Golden State Warriors. In return, fan favorite John Starks, Chris Mills, & Terry Cummings departed for the Warriors. Sprewell spent most of the 1997-98 season suspended as a result of choking his coach PJ Carlesimo in practice. The Warriors shopped Sprewell to teams since the suspension. The Miami Heat and San Antonio Spurs were the other potential suitors in trade rumors, but the Knicks ultimately provided the best offer.

Sprewell, then 28 years old, provided a combination of explosive scoring, youthful athleticism, and tenacious defense. He definitely had baggage, which included question marks about his character, his position on the team (Allan Houston was the starting shooting guard), and overall team chemistry. However, no one could question his potential and overall ceiling to a team on the cusp of contention trying to claw back into the NBA Finals in the waning years of the Patrick Ewing era.

Starks was undoubtedly a fan favorite and one of Ewing’s closest friends. Cummings & Mills were both serviceable bench players for the team. Knicks GM Ernie Grunfeld performed a significant facelift of the roster before the 1998-99 season. He noticed how the Miami Heat (Tim Hardaway, Jamal Mashburn, Alonzo Mourning) and Indiana Pacers (Antonio and Dale Davis) outhustled the tired legs of the older Knicks. Grunfeld determined it was necessary to sacrifice some veteran savvy for youthful athleticism to push for another NBA Finals run. As a result, the team swapped John Starks & Charles Oakley for Latrell Sprewell & Marcus Camby.

Sprewell came off the bench2, but became a pivotal player in the playoffs, especially after Patrick Ewing suffered a torn Achilles. He later became a starter for the Knicks and made the 2001 NBA All Star team.


January 21, 2001: The New York Knicks hold opponents to under 100 points for the 33rd straight game

As a testament to the defensive mentality in the Jeff Van Gundy era, the Knicks pulled off a 33-game streak of holding opponents to under 100 points. Their last game was on this date in a 87-74 loss against the Indiana Pacers. The Knicks began the streak by holding the Charlotte Hornets to 67 points on November 11, 2000. During the streak, the Knicks held opponents to 70 points and below three times and held ten additional opponents to under 80 points.

The streak remains as the 2nd longest streak in modern NBA history (post-1960). Only the 2003-2004 Detroit Pistons held opponents to under 100 points longer (38 games). As the NBA emphasizes more scoring and a pace-and-space game, I don’t believe any team will match the Knicks streak.


January 21, 1982: Ned Irish passed away

Ned Irish, the founding owner and president of the New York Knicks, passed away on this date at the age of 77. He started his career covering basketball games and promoted games at Madison Square Garden in the 1930s. His role as promoter helped spread awareness of the game heading into the 1940s.

Irish was one of the founders of the Basketball Association of America which later became the NBA in 1949. He was behind naming the Knicks as the New York Knickerbockers. The word “Knickerbocker” was used as a reference to New Yorkers and their Dutch heritage.

As owner and president of the Knicks, Irish left a lasting legacy in the NBA. He was responsible for allowing teams to keep their share of admission revenues. This proved beneficial for a major market team such as the Knicks. He was also instrumental in urging the American Basketball Association (ABA) to merge with the NBA.

Irish was originally a more hands-off owner, but became more hands-on in the 1950s heading into the early 1960s, similar to other familiar NY team owners (George Steinbrenner, James Dolan). His greatest move was convincing Red Holzman to coach the Knicks. He ceded control to Red and the Knicks won 2 championships under his ownership.

Irish was not an owner with much personality or candor. He was known to be unapproachable and cold at times, as discussed in Alan Hahn’s 2012 book “New York Knicks: The Complete Illustrated History.” However, his legacy is unquestionable. He became a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1964.