Stir the Echoes
Man the 90’s, right you guys: sky pagers, Girbaud jeans, Sam Elliott as a sex symbol; and Bulls v. Knicks. For anyone who followed basketball in the early 90’s, Bulls vs. Knicks was the defining rivalry in basketball and possibly the second most important one in NBA history. The best team and player in all of sports playing for the “Second City” against their bitter rivals in New York, a consummate team with a mean attitude that matched the pride of the city.
But rivalry only matters when the teams matter which is what made Easter Sunday at the Garden such a nostalgic aberration.
We know the Bulls matter. Best record in the NBA, an MVP, a coach of the year, and enough recent success to make long standing Bulls fans like me forget about the dismal eight years pre-Rose, post-Jordan (I go way back like Granville Waiters bald spot).
Of course a rough patch is not unexpected once a franchise loses the greatest player in league history and its most successful coach.
Then there are the Knicks, a franchise that has been clawing its way back to respectability these last two seasons, using every resource imaginable – house renovations, celebrity recruitment, and quite a lot of coin – anything to erase what came before, a decade of constant losing preceded by a decade of constant almost winning.
Now, despite their tumultuous season, the Knicks are within reach of a #7 or #8 seed, and might be the third or fourth best team in the conference.
Full disclosure, I love Knicks fans. Because they love basketball. It’s one of the most dedicated yet tortured fan bases in sports. And New York was always on the wrong end of razor thin margins against Chicago. Yes, they beat the Bulls, once. But they never beat THE Bulls, not even once.
By contrast, loyal Bulls fans went from ashy to classy so fast it’s like Brad Sellers got mind wiped out of existence. “Weren’t we just an #8 seed? And who is this Scottie Pippen fellow selling me subs?”
Great games, great moments, and great teams now forever encased in amber (YouTube). And be it a Knicks fan or Bulls fans, both sides can simultaneously point to them with either exaltation or regret, but not without a shared respect. I live in New York now. Went to my first Knicks game last month against Orlando where I gave Patrick Ewing a standing ovation (willingly); Carmelo Anthony yesterday afternoon, not so much.
BTW, New York at Chicago tomorrow night at 9:30pm. ESPN. See you there.