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1994 NBA Finals
1994 NBA Finals.PNG
Team Coach Wins
Houston Rockets Rudy Tomjanovich 4
New York Knicks Pat Riley 3
Dates: June 8–22
MVP: Hakeem Olajuwon
(Houston Rockets)
Television: NBC (U.S.)
Announcers: Marv Albert and Matt Guokas
Game 1: Elijah Maggard, Jason Nickerson, and Richard Schrock
Game 2: Darrell Garretson, Hue Hollins, and Ed T. Rush
Game 3:
Game 4:
Hall of Famers: Patrick Ewing (2008)
Hakeem Olajuwon (2008)
Pat Riley (2008)
Eastern Finals: Knicks defeat Pacers, 4-3
Western Finals: Rockets defeat Jazz, 4-1
 < 1993 NBA Finals 1995 > 

The 1994 NBA Finals was the championship round of the 1993–94 National Basketball Association season, featuring the Western Conference's Houston Rockets defeating the Eastern Conference's New York Knicks.

This matchup was Hakeem Olajuwon's second NBA Finals series appearance, his other being in 1986, where Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics defeated the Houston Rockets four games to two. The series was Patrick Ewing's first NBA Finals appearance. The Rockets came in with strong determination to win the franchise's first NBA championship, while the Knicks were looking to add a third NBA championship trophy, as the Knicks' last trophy came from the 1973 NBA Finals.

The series was hailed as a meeting of the two great centers who had previously played for a championship in college. In 1984 while Olajuwon was with the University of Houston and Ewing was with Georgetown University, Georgetown had beaten Houston 84-75 in the 1984 NCAA Championship game. In this series, however, Olajuwon is generally considered to have outplayed Ewing,[1][2][3] outscoring him in every game of the series and posting numbers of 26.9 ppg on 50.0% shooting compared to Ewing's 18.9 ppg on 36.3% shooting.[4] Ewing set an NBA finals record in the series with a total of 30 blocks, and he tied the single-game record of 8 blocks in Game 5.[5] Dwight Howard would surpass this record with 9 blocked shots in Game 4 of the 2009 Finals while with the Orlando Magic, with whom Ewing is now assistant coach.

During the series, the Houston Rockets played seven low-scoring, defensive games against the New York Knicks. After splitting the first two games in Houston, the Knicks won two out of three games at Madison Square Garden, which also hosted the New York Rangers first Stanley Cup celebration in 54 years during the series.

In Game 6, however, Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon blocked a last-second attempt at a game-winner by John Starks, giving the Rockets an 86-84 victory and forcing a Game 7, which made Knicks Coach Pat Riley the first (and to this date, the only) coach in a Game 7 NBA Finals on two different teams, having been with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1984 and 1988 (the two most recent Game 7 NBA Finals at that time).

The Rockets beat the Knicks in Game 7, 90-84, enabling the city of Houston to not only celebrate its first NBA and fifth professional sports championship, but also deny New York from having both NBA and NHL championships in the same year. It is also the first time a Houston team won a championship in a league that still exists. For his efforts Olajuwon was named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. For the Knicks, Riley had the unfortunate distinction of having become the first (and to this date, the only) coach to lose a Game 7 NBA Finals on two different teams, having lost to the Celtics in 1984. It also denied him the distinciton of being the first coach to win a Game 7 NBA Finals with two different teams, having defeated the Detroit Pistons in 1988.

NBC Sports used Ahmad Rashād (Knicks sideline) and Hannah Storm (Rockets sideline).


1994 NBA Finals roster

1994 Houston Rockets

Head Coach: Rudy Tomjanovich
Hakeem Olajuwon | Otis Thorpe | Vernon Maxwell | Robert Horry | Mario Elie | Sam Cassell | Chris Jent | Carl Herrera | Scott Brooks | Larry Robinson | Matt Bullard | Richard Petruska | Earl Cureton | Roy Wills | Kenny Smith |

1994 New York Knicks

Head Coach: Pat Riley
Patrick Ewing | John Starks | Charles Oakley | Hubert Davis | Charles Smith | Greg Anthony | Derek Harper | Doc Rivers | Rolando Blackman | Anthony Mason | Herb Williams |

Series summary

Game Date Home Team Result Road Team
Game 1 Wednesday, June 8 Houston 85-78 New York
Game 2 Friday, June 10 Houston 83-91 New York
Game 3 Sunday, June 12 New York 89-93 Houston
Game 4 Wednesday, June 15 New York 91-82 Houston
Game 5 Friday, June 17 New York 91-84 Houston
Game 6 Sunday, June 19 Houston 86-84 New York
Game 7 Wednesday, June 22 Houston 90-84 New York

Rockets win series 4-3

  • This was the second NBA Finals that went to a Game 7 since the Finals went to the 2-3-2 format in 1985.

Olajuwon vs. Ewing

Although many fans in New York, and some members of the national media, blamed John Starks' poor performance in game 7 as a contributing factor in the Knicks' loss in the series, another important factor in the Rockets series win was Olajuwon's performance. Olajuwon is generally considered to have outplayed Ewing.[1] Olajuwon outscored Ewing in all 7 games of the series and put up significantly better numbers overall:[4]

1994 NBA Finals Gm 1 Gm 2 Gm 3 Gm 4 Gm 5 Gm 6 Gm 7 Totals
Hakeem Olajuwon 28 25 21 32 27 30 25 26.9 ppg 50.0% fg
Patrick Ewing 23 16 18 15 25 19 17 18.9 ppg 36.4% fg

New York Rangers Win Stanley Cup

Game 4 (June 15, 1994) took place at Madison Square Garden with its corridors smelling of beer and champagne. Less than 24 hours before, New York Rangers won Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals, 3–2 over Vancouver Canucks.

Rangers Captain Mark Messier attended the game,[6][7] bringing the Stanley Cup in a bid to inspire the Knicks, first to their locker room before the game,[8] and again out onto center court at halftime.

The Knicks went on to win Game 4,[9] and John Starks, Patrick Ewing, and Pat Riley all said that the Rangers' win was a motivating factor and that everyone on the team watched the game. Several Knicks, including Forward Anthony Mason were at the game.[10] During NBC's broadcast of Game 4, Marv Albert, who himself handled the radio call of the Rangers' win, and Matt Guokas mentioned the Rangers' win[6] and that the Knicks were happy that it happened at home and the same arena they play in.

NBA Commissioner David Stern congratulated the Rangers on their win[11]. Chicago Bulls Coach Phil Jackson (himself a former Knick and now coach of the Los Angeles Lakers) said that the Knicks championship run and the Rangers' win would become great parts of a great chapter in New York City sports history[12] because Rangers Coach Mike Keenan had been part of a concurrent finals series in hockey and basketball taking place in the same city, having seen it Chicago two years before when coach of the Blackhawks.[12][13] However, Riley experienced this the first time, as the Los Angeles Kings did not reach their finals during any of the 7 years he coached the Lakers to the finals. (The Kings' only Finals' appearance was in 1993.)

Carroll Dawson, an assistant coach of the Rockets, said on the 10th anniversary of the Rockets win that though the Rangers win "had been overlooked through the years,"[14] it was a motivational assist for the Rockets, as Houston went from "Choke City" to "Clutch City." He recounted: "Our players got to see firsthand how a city could just go crazy. They watched the parade. It was like an assist from New York. I think it helped our guys want it more."[14] He knew that a lot had happened in 54 years, but New York hockey fans had gotten nothing, nothing better than this. The people in Houston reflected it as well, as they didn't have a championship in a league that still exists.

Hours before Game 5 (June 17), players and representatives of both the Knicks and the Rockets were among 1.5 million who attended a ticker-tape parade in the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan honoring the new Stanley Cup champions.[10][12][14]

The Knicks losing Game 7 meant Keenan saw New York get the same verdict he saw in Chicago two years before.[13] Nevertheless, both teams got their motivational assist from the way things to the Rangers' win ended: "The New York Rangers have done it here on a hot June night in New York! The Rangers are Stanley Cup Champions!"

Telecast interrupted by O.J. Simpson car chase

During Game 5, most NBC affiliates split the coverage of the game between NFL Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson's slow speed freeway chase with the LAPD. At the time, Simpson had been an NFL analyst on NBC. A visibly confused and distraught Bob Costas (NBC's anchor for their NBA Finals coverage and a colleague of Simpson) said during the telecast from Madison Square Garden that the Simpson situation was "not just tragic but now surreal."

John Starks and Pat Riley

During the 2006 NBA Finals, Pat Riley, who was then coach of the Miami Heat, stated publicly for the first time, that sitting Rolando Blackman in favor of John Starks during Game 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals was a move he later regretted. Riley called it the biggest coaching mistake in his career and stated that he has never forgiven himself for it. Starks shot an abysmal 2 for 18 from the field in Game 7. Pat Riley stated later that he apologizes for the remarks he made regarding John Starks.

See also


  1. ^ a b Araton, Harvey (June 23, 1994). "ON PRO BASKETBALL: N.B.A. FINALS; Long-Sought Title That Ewing Needed Eludes Him Again". The New York Times. Retrieved April 1, 2008. "But he (Ewing) was just not as good as Hakeem Olajuwon, never has been."  
  2. ^ Kalb, Elliot (2003). Who's Better, Who's Best in Basketball?: Mr. Stats Sets the Record Straight on the Top 50 NBA Players of All Time. McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 163. ISBN 0071417885. "Olajuwon clearly outplayed Ewing"  
  3. ^ "Daily Dime: Special Edition The game's greatest giants ever". March 6, 2007. Retrieved April 12, 2007. "He (Olajuwon) outplayed Ewing, Robinson and O'Neal to lead Houston to back-to-back titles..."  
  4. ^ a b "History of the NBA Finals: Hakeem Olajuwon: The NBA’s Best In The Mid ’90s". Retrieved February 16, 2007.  
  5. ^ "Patrick Ewing Bio". Retrieved April 19, 2007.  
  6. ^ a b NBA on NBC: Game 4 of the 1994 NBA Finals. [television]. NBC. 1994-06-15.  
  7. ^ 1994 NBA Finals: GM 4, Rockets at Knicks part 3 at YouTube (requires Adobe Flash)
  8. ^ Zipay, Steve (June 14, 2009). "'94, a vintage year for Rangers, Knicks; Rangers ended 54-year Stanley Cup drought". Newsday. p. A78. Retrieved 2009-09-07.  
  9. ^ Boeck, Greg (1994-06-17). "Knicks Motivated by Rangers' Title". USA Today: p. 09C.  
  10. ^ a b Hahn, Alan (June 14, 2009). "After huge effort, Knicks fall short". Newsday. p. A79. Retrieved 2009-09-07.  
  11. ^ "'94 NBA FINALS/Summary". The Houston Chronicle: p. 9. 1994-06-16.  
  12. ^ a b c Spring of '94. [television]. MSG Network. 2007-05-21.  
  13. ^ a b In 1992, the Blackhawks got swept by the defending champion Pittsburgh Penguins in their finals, but the defending NBA champion Bulls won theirs.
  14. ^ a b c Blinebury, Fran (2004-06-13). "BELIEVE IT: 10 YEARS LATER; 'The Times of Our Lives'". The Houston Chronicle: p. 1.  

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