The Chicago Bulls and New York Knicks formed one of the NBA’s greatest rivalries over the span of close to two decades in the 1980’s and 90’s.
As part of the next two episodes released during the 10-part ESPN/ABC documentary series focusing on the 1997-98 Chicago Bulls title-winning team, called “The Last Dance”, the rivalry with the New York Knicks looks to come to the forefront. The Knicks and Bulls formed one of the best rivalries in the Eastern Conference in the late 1980’s and throughout the 1990’s.
And the two players that headlined this rivalry from each team were center Patrick Ewing and shooting guard Michael Jordan. Ewing was never quite able to overtake Jordan, but he certainly had a lengthy and very accomplished NBA career despite all his knee injury woes.
However, Ewing was able to get past that Jordan-less Bulls team in the East during the 1994 playoff run when he was trying his hand at baseball. The Knicks would barely edge out the Jordan-less Bulls, though, during a second round playoff series in 1994. Ewing and the Knicks eeked out a seven-game series win.
Once Jordan returned, though, the Knicks would find themselves taking a backseat to the Bulls once again in the East. There were still some instant classic playoff series between the two rivals, including in the 1996 playoff run for the Bulls. In Jordan’s first full year back from playing baseball, he looked truly dominant and beat a good Knicks team in a five-game playoff series in 1996.
This should be a focal point of part six of The Last Dance, which is televised on ESPN and ABC on May 3. Parts five and six will be released for The Last Dance on Sunday night this coming weekend.
According to a report from the New York Daily News, there will be a certain emphasis placed on how the timeline formed in the Bulls-Knicks rivalry throughout the careers of Jordan and Ewing, among others.
This could be one of the more underrated parts of the docuseries. The development of the Bulls-Knicks rivalry deserves a deeper dive in The Last Dance.
Here’s some of what that piece from the New York Daily News had to say on the focus of part six of The Last Dance on the Bulls-Knicks rivalry.
"The playoff series against the Bulls produced several memorable moments: Jordan’s dunk over Ewing in 1991; John Starks’ dunk over Jordan and Horace Grant in 1993; Charles Smith blowing four layups in 1993; Scottie Pippen refusing to enter the game and watching Toni Kukoc hit the game-winner in 1994; and Hubert Davis’ phantom foul in 1994.“The Last Dance” is themed around Jordan’s final season with the Bulls in 1997-98 but often flashes back to earlier stretches of Chicago’s dynasty. Episode 4, for instance, focused on the Bulls’ rivalry with the Pistons that effectively ended in 1991.With the world quarantining because of the coronavirus, ratings for “The Last Dance” have been record breaking. Episodes 3 and 4 from Sunday averaged a combined 5.9 million viewers, according to ESPN. Episode 1 averaged 6.3 million viewers."
The Knicks were one close step away from taking at least one title from the Houston Rockets during Ewing’s hay day in the 1990’s. The Rockets would win back-to-back NBA Championships during Jordan’s baseball years.
Nonetheless, for a good stretch of time the two biggest market teams in the Eastern Conference were the two biggest powers. Both teams have not even made it back to the NBA Finals since the 1999-00 season.