Today is the 19th anniversary of “The Dunk” and it was the greatest moment of my life as a Knicks fan. I still remember it like it was yesterday. I was only a child of two immigrant parents that knew nothing about this game, where behemoths fought over an orange ball and attempted to put it into a metal hoop. Their ignorance didn’t stop me from loving the sport and from cherishing the moment. I still have the poster….somewhere. Not exactly sure where it is just like I don’t know where the Knicks’ gumption was during the Miami Heat series two weeks ago.
The hesitation that Starks used to freeze BJ Armstrong and then the quick step to the right in order drive baseline that caused BJ to lose his socks and eat his shoe was just awesome. I thought he was going to stop short for a short jumper because of his diminutive stature and the fact that Horace Grant was creeping with one eye on him from the other side of the paint. But there was an opening…..and he kept going. And when he leaped into the air, I thought he was merely going to go up for a layup….but he kept rising. Next thing I know, Big John Stud (NH) cocked back with the roundball in his left palm and threw it down with the ferociousness of a real housewife of New Jersey after she finds out her credit card’s been maxed out…or she learns that her husband is bankrupt…or she finds out that she hasn’t been invited to someone’s Christmas party. Whatever, you get the hint. I never heard Madison Square Garden like I heard it on that fateful day….and the energy that emanated from the building was infectious. It was like everyone on my block was watching the game because of the screams of passion that exuded from every agape window in my general vicinity. Everyone in Knicks Nation stood up on their feet…and I rose with them.
You have to understand where we were coming from. The Bulls weren’t just any team. They were Goliath and the Knicks…..no, We…..we were David. New Yorkers almost never feel like underdogs. We have this air of superiority about us…a swagger even. However, not when it came to basketball at the time. The Bulls had Michael Jeffrey Jordan, Scottie Pippen, and a cavalcade of elite role players compared to Patrick Ewing’s squadron of gritty, blue-collar ball players. And we wouldn’t have it any other way. We related to our team and the way they bit, clawed, and fought their way towards contention….and into our hearts.
Even though the Bulls would always would beat us in the playoffs, New Yorkers fancied the Bulls as our rivals…and we so badly wanted to be considered their equal. Chicago wasn’t the Second City when it came to basketball because they had……Him. Michael Jordan and his evil band of marauders have been cutting a swath through the league, winning the championship two years in a row before that season. Leaving a trail of dead bodies in their wake and, even worse, ousting my beloved New York Knicks from the playoffs in consecutive seasons. Knicks Nation felt that The Dunk was the moment that would propel the Knicks over the insurmountable Bulls as the play lead to a win and a 2-0 lead in the best of 7 series. Alas, it was not meant to be. Michael Jordan was…..well, he was Michael Fucking Jordan. He willed the Bulls into ripping out the hearts of the Knicks and their fans like the evil shaman in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. And us Knicks fans were left on the outside looking in….again….shaking our fists at a bald savant that wore shoes that we all wanted to wear….but I didn’t dare to purchase in fear that I would be paying respect to a false idol.
We may never have surpassed the Bulls (Let’s be real, ’94 doesn’t count as much as most of us Knicks fans would wish it did because Jordan wasn’t around….and he was the measuring stick.) but I will always hold on to that moment where I had the hope that the Knicks…..we got over the hump…..that we finally got over. It might not have been a championship but I’ll always have that feeling.