The 1994 NBA Finals

The 1994 NBA Finals

Introduction:
Who would rise up and claim the NBAs first championship of the post-Jordan era? Two fantastic centers in the prime of their careers, Hakeem Olajuwon of the Houston Rockets and Patrick Ewing of the New York Knicks, looked to cement their legacy by winning their first ring.

Having outlasted Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers in an epic 7 game Eastern Conference Finals, the New York Knicks looked like destinys darling coming into the 1994 NBA Finals. With Jordans Bulls on the sidelines, a new era of NBA had begun. Pat Riley introduced a hard, physical defense to the East unseen since the days of Detroits Bad Boys in the late 80s. The architect of the Showtime Lakers, Riley looked to be again ascending to the heights of the NBA. Led by Patrick Ewing, drafted out of Georgetown as the Next Great Center, the vast promise these Knicks had shown to the Garden faithful was finally being fulfilled. The 20 year championship drought endured by Knicks fans surely was nearly vanquished.

Standing in the way was Hakeem Olajuwon and his Houston Rockets. Drafted in 1984, Olajuwon was regarded as one of the top centers in the league. He and Ralph Sampson were given the nickname "The Twin Towers," two imposing low-post threats every team had to respect. They led the Rockets to the NBA Finals in 1986, only to lose to Larry Birds Celtics. Though respected by many, there was an uncertainty around Olajuwon. He played Robin to Sampsons Batman , and after Sampson was traded to the Golden State Warriors in the 1990 season, Olajuwon was now the unquestioned leader of this Rockets team. Would the man affectionately known as "The Dream" be able to carry teammates Otis Thorpe, Vernon Maxwell and a young Sam Cassell to victory over the savvy Riley-coached Knicks?

The first two games set the tone for the entire series: This would be a hard-fought, low-scoring Championship round. Neither team shot well in the opening games, and only once did either team shoot above 50%, with the Knicks, led by shar-shooting Derek Harper, earning a split by taking the second game.

The series shifted to Madison Square Garden for the middle games. Led by the young Cassell, the Rockets stole Game 3. Games 4 and 5, however, belonged to the Knicks. Although being outplayed by Olajuwon to that point, Ewing gave his best effort of the series in Game 5. His fantastic shooting (he even hit a three pointer!) and the wild Garden fans drove the Knicks to a 3-2 series lead. They were within one game of winning the NBA title. Only a mere 5 days prior, another team whose home games were played at the Garden, the NY Rangers, ended their streak of futility by ousting the Vancouver Canucks to win the NHLs Stanley Cup. Would New York have two championship parades in a matter of days?

Strangely, Ewings heroics in Game 5 would be overshadowed by one of pop cultures defining moments. During the game, the infamous OJ Simpson "White Ford Bronco" chase completely dominated all news and media coverage, including NBCs own telecast of the game. This went on for over 4 hours, and when all was said and done, the irony that Patrick Ewings best game, on the biggest stage, finally rid of the Michael Jordan stigma, still was not enough, surely was not lost on him.

Game 6 would find both teams again struggling from the field. Despite shooting under 38%, the Knicks were in a position to win the game in the closing moments. Pat Riley knew exactly who was the man to take the shot- John Starks. With time running out and down 86-84, Riley designed a catch and shoot play for Starks coming off the wing. Though well-designed, Olajuwon was able to block the shot. The NBA Finals would be going to a climactic Game 7.

In an eventful, amazing series, it would be remiss to overlook the central plot to Game 7 of the NBA Finals. Having been thoroughly trounced in the paint by Olajuwon, Pat Riley seemed to take a different tact in Game 7. John Starks would be the man to lead the Knicks to their coveted title. Unfortunately for Riley, Starks shot was severely off. He hit only 2-18 from the field, including a woeful 0-11 from beyond the arc. It has been remembered as among the worst single-game performances in recent NBA history. Though the Rockets only won by 6, 90-84, the game was never that close. Thus, The Rockets won the 1994 NBA Championship!

Hakeem Olajuwon, for his fantastic performance, was named Finals MVP. This award was significant because it marked the first time a player had won the Season MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, and Finals MVP in the same season.

The 1994 NBA Finals will be remembered for many reasons. OJs car chase stands out as a turning point for our country. John Starks will, sadly, forever be remember for Game 7. However, what stands out in my mind most is the ascension of Hakeem Olajuwon. Dominating Patrick Ewing, The Dream proved himself to be the best center in the league, and worthy of a place in basketball lore.

About the author:
Madaseel originally published this article at sports site, RootZoo.com. Hes always up for some good fantasy talk and is an expert at fantasy basketball player rankings since hes always up to date with the latest fantasy basketball news.

YOUR REACTION?