New York Moment – The Four-Point Play
As a Knicks fan, reminiscing on the 1998-99 season brings both great joy and sorrow to my heart. It brings great joy because it was the first (and last) NBA Finals appearance I would remember seeing, and that team was built on pure grit. However, it brings great sadness because every time I re-watch the four-point play I think about all the wasted years and decades that Knick fans have had to go through yearning for a moment like that again. Whether it be the Isaiah Thomas years or the Phil Jackson debacle, there hasn’t been a lot to cheer about as a Knick fan for almost two decades.
Let’s set the scene here, shall we?
It was Game Three of the Eastern Conference Finals between the Indiana Pacers and the upstart New York Knicks. The Knicks had barely snuck into the playoffs and were supposed to be swept in the first round by the Miami Heat. They beat the #1 seed Heat then the Atlanta Hawks to advance to the ECF. They had to face their old foes, the Indiana Pacers again in what seemed like an endless set of battles in the playoffs. Just a few years earlier, the Pacers had their own miracle, with Reggie Miller scoring eight points in just under ten seconds to completely shock the MSG crowd and send the Knicks packing.
Larry Johnson was a newcomer to the Knicks, coming over from the Charlotte Hornets. He was an established star but like the rest of the Knicks, wasn’t a superstar. They had guys like Latrell Sprewell, Allan Houston, an aging Patrick Ewing and an upstart Marcus Camby. Johnson was just another piece of the puzzle, but on this night he was the hero the Knicks needed.
Johnson had a Charlie Ward pass tipped to him with just under 12 seconds to go in the game. The Knicks were down 91-88 and were on the verge of going down 2-1 to the Pacers. Johnson calmly dribbled the ball past Antonio Davis, pulled up behind the three point line, and the rest is history;
Johnson nails the three, tying the game and sending Knicks fans into a frenzy. He calmly slows his teammates down as they begin to celebrate, because he still needs to hit the free throw to take the lead. He steps to the line, nails the free throw and wins the game for the Knicks.
It’s one of the best moments in Knicks history, and probably the best moment this team has seen in 20+ years. The Knicks would go on to get embarrassed by the San Antonio Spurs, led by Tim Duncan and David Robinson. No matter the outcome, that Spurs team can never take away the night Larry Johnson made himself a Knick hero forever.
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