The Knicks of the Nineties

Ewing, Oakley, Starks and the Brawlers That Almost Won It All


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About the Book

The Knicks of the 1990s competed like champions but fell short of their goal. An eclectic group who took divergent, in many cases fascinating paths to New York, they forged an identity as a rugged, relentless squad. Led by a superstar center Patrick Ewing and two captivating coaches—Pat Riley and Jeff Van Gundy—they played David to the Chicago Bulls’ Goliath. Despite not winning a championship, they were embraced as champions by New Yorkers and their rivalries with the Bulls, Indiana Pacers and Miami Heat defined NBA basketball for a decade. Drawing on original interviews with players, coaches and others, this narrative rediscovers the brilliance of the Knicks, Ewing and his colorful supporting cast—Charles Oakley, John Starks, Larry Johnson and Latrell Sprewell—in the glory days of Madison Square Garden.

About the Author(s)

Attorney Paul Knepper was born and raised in New York and was previously a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He lives in Austin, Texas.

Bibliographic Details

Paul Knepper

Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 298
Bibliographic Info: 25 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2020
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8281-5
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4116-4
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Introduction 1
Prologue 5

Part I: The Riley Era
1. The Big Fella 9
2. Riley Does Broadway 17
3. Riley’s Runts 26
4. Running with the Bulls 36
5. Arranging the Pieces 50
6. Seeing Red 59
7. Jordan Opens the Door 70
8. Road to a Ring 78
9. A Dream Matchup 91
10. Starks Reality 100
11. The Hangover 107
12. Riley’s Exit 118

Part II: The Van Gundy Era
13. The Nellie Experience 125
14. Van Gundy Takes the Whistle 133
15. The Summer of ’96 140
16. A Heated Rivalry 150
17. Round Two 161
18. Changes Abound 172
19. A Tumultuous Season 182
20. A Friendly Bounce from Above 192
21. The Twin Towers 207
22. End of an Era 217

Epilogue 229
Chapter Notes 235
Bibliography 275
Index 279

Book Reviews & Awards

• “The extensive research that Knepper did for this book is evident by the sheer number of interviews he conducted, over one hundred. Add in many newspaper and magazine clippings, anecdotes and historical items for not only the Knicks but other teams and it makes for one of the most complete books around for one of the NBA’s most iconic franchises.”—The Guy Who Reviews Sports Books

• “Knepper delivered just like those Knicks with a compelling tale earning a number worthy of an NBA Finals appearance”—NY Post

• “Paul Knepper has done more than just compile an encyclopedic knowledge of the Knicks’ history and the franchise’s most important moments. He has brought its most fascinating characters to life, documenting the triumphs and shortcomings of one of professional sports’ most iconic franchises—and the people who have won, lost and been defined by a team and an era.”—Kent Babb, author of Not A Game: The Incredible Rise and Unthinkable Fall of Allen Iverson

• “This book had me humming the tune of the wonderfully corny Knicks rap ‘Go New York Go’ from start to finish—and I mean that in the best way. Today’s Knicks fans may have grown accustomed to wondering if the franchise will compete for an NBA championship in the next decade, but thanks to Paul Knepper, they can relive the last great era of Knicks basketball in all its bruising, hard-nosed glory.”—Rafe Bartholomew, author of Basketball: A Love Story

• “Knicks fans who pine for the last time their team entertained title hopes, or when the game had more of an overall black-and-blue sheen, will enjoy this book. Takes you back to those days, with a few never-been-told-before nuggets unearthed along the way.”—Ric Bucher, Bleacher Report and FS1

• “The New York Knicks of the 1990s were tough, brash, talented—and ready to fight at a moment’s notice. Connecting with their metropolitan environment much like the teams of the glorious 1970s, these Knicks of Ewing, Starks, and Oakley left an indelible mark on New York City basketball. In this book, Paul Knepper captures with detail and reverence a wonderful era for the Knicks; one that did not end in a title, but contained enough moments to secure their place in NBA history.”—Todd Spehr, author of The Mozart of Basketball: The Remarkable Life and Legacy of Drazen Petrovic

• “The rough-and-tumble Knicks of the 1990s never won style points or a title, but they were as memorable as any championship team. In his superb book, Paul Knepper recounts the unforgettable triumphs, the devastating losses and, yes, the brutal fights, in vivid detail, but goes beyond the box scores with detailed reporting and graceful writing about the players and coaches who brought victory and excitement back to Madison Square Garden.”—Shawn Fury, author of Rise and Fire: The Origins, Science and Evolution of the Jump Shot–and How it Transformed Basketball Forever