Throughout the 1990s, the New York Knicks were perennial title contenders. The final year of that decade was a very special one as a Knicks fan.
During the 1990’s, the New York Knicks were always considered to be in contention for an NBA title. Although they would never be able to achieve basketball immortality, they were always competitive and gave opposing teams nightmares.
Thought to be much improved from the previous season, the Knicks were expected to once again compete for an NBA title in 1998-99.
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Because of a lockout, however, the season wouldn’t start until February 5. The season was limited to only 50 games.
The Knicks started off well by winning seven of their first 10 games. Then, they would only win four of their next 10, including a loss to the worst team in the league, the Chicago Bulls—remember, this was post-Michael Jordan—where they only put up 63 points.
During this period, the Knicks were hit with many injuries, including those sustained by Patrick Ewing and Sprewell.
40 games into the season, they were fighting for the No. 8 and final seed in the Eastern Conference—an outcome that many didn’t anticipate.
New York finished the season with a 27-23 record after winning six of their last 10 games with two wins coming against the rival Miami Heat.
Come playoff time, the Knicks were once again matched up with their rival.
After splitting the first four games, with each team winning a game on the road, the series game down to a pivotal Game 5 to see which team would advance.
With the Knicks trailing 77-76, Allan Houston hit a running floater to give the Knicks the series.
The Knicks would then go on to sweep the No. 4 seed Atlanta Hawks. Again, New York would be matched up against the Indiana Pacers in a postseason series.
This time around, it was a Knicks player who would make one of the most iconic plays in NBA history—and not Reggie Miller.
In Game 3, with the Knicks down by 3, Larry Johnson hit a 3 as he was fouled and sealed the victory for the Knicks.
The Knicks would go on to win the series 4-2 and would become the first and only No. 8 seed in league history to make the NBA finals.
Unfortunately, the fairy tale season was met with anguish as the Knicks fell in the NBA finals to the much better San Antonio Spurs 4-1. Tim Duncan dominated as Ewing was forced to sit out the entire series due to injury.
Although this fairytale season ended in despair and anguish, it remains one of the more positive moments in Knicks history.
No other team in NBA history has made the NBA Finals as a No. 8 seed. Not before and not since.