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The Bulls-Knicks rivalry was an American professional basketball rivalry between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks over a roughly five year period from 1991 to 1995. The intensity of the rivalry was unique due to a number of factors. These included the frequency with which the teams competed against one another in high-stakes contests, the reputations of the team's respective cities, and personnel changes and conflicts between the teams.



In 1992, the Chicago Bulls led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen were on their way to their second straight title when they met up with the physical play of the New York Knicks led by Patrick Ewing in the second round of the Eastern Conference playoffs. The series went to a decisive seven games where the Bulls eventually were able to overcome them and advance. This series started the intense rivalry between the Bulls and Knicks in the 1990s. It also made the Knicks into an Eastern Conference powerhouse, replacing the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics. This series was the first of two times the Bulls faced a seventh game in the six seasons they won a championship, the other being a seven game series with the Indiana Pacers in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. This particular series became heated, with several players, particularly Michael Jordan, Xavier McDaniel, Scottie Pippen, and Greg Anthony getting into arguments.

The following season, the Knicks were able to finish ahead of the Bulls in the regular season and had home court advantage against the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. The series had on very notable highlight of John Starks dunking over Michael Jordan and several Bulls defenders. However, despite losing the first two games, the Bulls made a remarkable comeback by winning the next four, including a 97-94 Game 5 win on the Knicks home court. The game was quite controversial as Knicks Forward Charles Smith was stopped 4 times in the final seconds while trying to score. The Bulls won the game and advanced to the NBA Finals where they beat the Phoenix Suns for their first three-peat.

Continuation of rivalry

With Michael Jordan's absence during the 1993-94 NBA season, the Knicks now had the upper hand against the Bulls and they proved that by winning the second best record in the East in the regular season. The Bulls, now led by Pippen and newcomer Toni Kukoc, met the Knicks in the second round of the playoff where the series went to seven games. In one of the most argued calls in NBA history a questionable foul was called by Hue Hollins (who ironically was the same referee who officiated a controversial finish in Game 5 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, and arguably opted not to call a foul on Charles Smith's multiple putback attempts in the waning seconds) in the closing seconds of Game 5 against Pippen which gave the Knicks Hubert Davis two free throws to turn a one-point deficit into a one-point victory for the Knicks. Hollins became a familiar figure to both teams' fans as a result of the disputed foul.

After a blowout Bulls win in game six, the Knicks were able to advance past the Bulls with a series-clinching 87-77 win, but would eventually lose to the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals, which denied New York City the distinction of having both NBA and NHL championships in the same year (Chicago saw this same verdict in 1992. Though the Bulls won their championship that year, the Blackhawks lost theirs), as the Knicks home court hosted the New York Rangers first Stanley Cup celebration in 54 years, following their win over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals during the NBA Finals. This was the only time the Knicks were able to beat the Bulls in the playoffs during this rivalry. Also, all the games in the series were won by the home team and the Knicks had home court advantage in the series.

In the 1994–95 NBA season, Jordan returned in the latter half of the regular season. In his return to Madison Square Garden, Jordan scored 55 points and picked up the victory for the Bulls. This game lifted Jordan's confidence after a mediocre performance in his "comeback game" against the Indiana Pacers. The two teams didn't meet in the playoffs that season but the animosity between the two teams still grew.

During the Bulls' second three-peat run, the Bulls only met the Knicks once in the playoffs; specifically in 1996 when the Bulls once again defeated the Knicks. It was also during this period that other teams in the East grew to be contenders, such as the Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic, and the Miami Heat. All of these teams had their own heated battles with either the Bulls or Knicks in the playoffs. The rivalry died out after the second departure of Michael Jordan in which the Bulls fell out of prominence. The Knicks themselves started to rebuild when veterans such as Patrick Ewing, John Starks, and Derek Harper were all traded.

Significance and explanations for rivalry

Many felt that the significance of the rivalry was due to the bragging rights of the two biggest cities in the East: the Big Apple vs. the Windy City. Many also believed that the rivalry started when the Bulls traded Charles Oakley to New York for Bill Cartwright. While others felt that the rivalry was between Jordan and Ewing, since they were rivals since their college days. It was also the hardnose physical play of the two teams that made the rivalry intense especially when both teams were battling it out in the playoffs. The match up between Jordan and Knicks shooting guard John Starks also brought the rivalry a bit of drama as the two were often in each others face, while both players also showcased a number of highlight dunks on the opposing team. Despite the Knicks not winning an NBA title or beating the Bulls in a series while Jordan was in the league, this rivalry was still considered the most contentious of the mid-1990s.

Recent developments

Prior to the 2005 season, the Knicks traded first-round draft choices in 2006 and 2007 to the Bulls for center Eddy Curry, who missed the Bulls' 2005 playoff run with a congenital heart defect. When the Knicks finished the 2005-06 season at 23-59, the Bulls' good fortune turned into a gold mine, as the 2006 pick became the second overall choice following the draft lottery. The Bulls used the selection on LaMarcus Aldridge but traded him to the Portland Trail Blazers for the fourth overall selection, LSU forward Tyrus Thomas. Though Aldridge is budding into a young superstar in Portland while Thomas is mostly used in a reserve role, the Bulls still got the much better end of deal as Curry has struggled in New York. Additionally, the Bulls swapped picks with the Knicks in the 2007 NBA draft, and yielded the #9 pick. They used their pick to draft of the University of Florida forward Joakim Noah. In the summer of 2008, the Bulls and Knicks both heavily courted former Suns coach Mike D'Antoni. D'Antoni's style was said to better suit the Bulls roster, but in the end D'Antoni opted for the Knicks. Despite the Knicks having better odds, the Bulls won the 2008 NBA Draft lottery and selected Derrick Rose with the 1st overall pick, putting a temporary dent in D'Antoni's rebuilding plans in New York.


See also



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