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: Knicks/Heat Fight Round 1: Charlie Ward & PJ Brown

May 14th 1997: Knicks/Heat Fight Round 1: Charlie Ward vs. PJ Brown

In the waning moments of a disappointing Game 5 loss against the Miami Heat, Charlie Ward & PJ Brown got into a nasty fight after trying to gain position for a rebound on the free throw line. After Tim Hardaway Sr hit the free throw, Ward rammed into PJ Brown trying to box out and Brown suplexed him to begin the melee. The fight ensued behind the baseline as coach Jeff Van Gundy & the various garbage time players on the floor, including John Wallace, attempted to separate the players.

Not learning the lessons from the 1994 NBA Playoffs, Patrick Ewing, John Starks, Larry Johnson, and Allan Houston all left the bench area to break up the fight. As a result, each of the 4 players were suspended one game each along with Charlie Ward. The NBA suspended PJ Brown 2 games for his role in the brawl.

With the multitude of suspensions, the NBA decided to stagger the suspensions, by last name order, over both Game 6 and 7. Ewing, Houston, & Ward were out for Game 6 and Johnson & Starks were out for Game 7. Although the Knicks were leading 3-2 in the series, the suspensions left the team severely undermanned. The Knicks lost both Games 6 and 7.

Before Game 6, the Knicks filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York to order a stay on the suspensions, arguing that the punishment should be determined in arbitration. The NBA Players Union sided with the Knicks alleging that the rule itself was never approved by the players in the collective bargaining agreement. On game day, the SDNY ruled in favor of the NBA arguing that the rule was plain and clear and within the rights of the league office.

The biggest “what-if” moment was determining how far the team would go into the NBA Playoffs. Had there been no suspensions, the Knicks most likely defeat the Heat and face off against the Chicago Bulls once again. The Bulls easily defeated the Heat in 5 games, but maybe the “new” Knick core of Ewing, Houston, & Larry Johnson provide a better fight.


May 14th 2003: Dave DeBusschere passed away

Dave DeBusschere passed away at the age of 63 after collapsing due to a heart attack. DeBusschere spent 6 seasons with the Knicks and won 2 championships. He was an 8 time All-Star and 6 time honoree of the All-Defensive Team. The Knicks retired his #22 and the NBA subsequently inducted him as one of the 50 Greatest Players in 1996. He was also inducted into the NBA Hall of Fame.

He also served in the Knicks front office and was responsible for drafting Patrick Ewing.

On This Date: Patrick Ewing plays his last game in MSG with the Orlando Magic

April 9th 2002: Patrick Ewing plays his last game in MSG as a member of the Orlando Magic

In what will always be a weird sight in Knicks history, Patrick Ewing played what would be his last game in Madison Square Garden, but with the Orlando Magic. Ewing started for the Magic, for purposes of recognizing the moment, and had 5 points and 5 rebounds in 19 minutes. The Magic defeated the Knicks 108-97.

After playing sparingly throughout the game, Ewing re-entered the game with a minute remaining as the Magic were up 9. Ewing received a roaring ovation from the MSG faithful as his former teammates Charlie Ward, Kurt Thomas, Allan Houston, & Latrell Sprewell were on the floor. Ewing finished the final minute of the game as the crowd roared once again after the buzzer to commemorate Ewing’s career.

Ewing’s final season with Orlando was quite strange to almost any fan of the NBA. The sight of the Orlando Magic uniform and not seeing him in his signature #33 (Grant Hill wore the jersey at the time) was even more bizarre. Interestingly enough, Ewing played with perhaps the most talented and athletic teammate ever in Tracy McGrady. He also reunited with former teammates Monty Williams & Doc Rivers (as coach of the Magic).

The Magic victory helped them clinch a playoff spot and gave Ewing one more opportunity to taste the playoffs. The Knicks missed the playoffs for the first time since Ewing’s sophomore season.