The 1990s offered some of the greatest professional basketball ever witnessed. The ‘90s were the NBA at its pinnacle featuring some of the best teams to ever play the game. The era also featured some of the most intense rivalries the league has ever seen. Here are the best.
Between 1996 and 1999, the four NBA Most Valuable Player awards were won by either Chicago’s Michael Jordan or Utah’s Karl Malone. The two teams were the class of their respective conferences and would go on to battle in consecutive NBA Finals.
In 1997, the Bulls faced a serious challenge in defending their NBA title from the previous year (the Bulls defeated Seattle 4-0). Chicago won 4-2 then followed it up with another six-game victory in 1998 completing the Bull’s second three-peat.
Between 1993 and 2000, the New York Knicks faced the Indiana Pacers six times in the postseason. The 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals were epic as the Knicks won Games 5 and 6 to force a deciding Game 7 at Madison Square Garden. The Pacers won 97-95 after Patrick Ewing missed a layup that could have tied the game.
The bitter rivalry featured Indiana’s Reggie Miller and Knicks superfan Spike Lee. Miller’s clutch performances often were followed by his “choke” sign directed at Lee who always sat courtside.
The Bulls and Knicks met five times in the postseason during the 1990s. They met four years in a row – 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 – to begin the decade. Chicago, of course, won each series. The significance of the rivalry had much to do with bragging rights for two of the biggest cities in the U.S.
The Knicks only won one of the five playoff series and that was in the 1994 Eastern Conference semifinals. The victory was significant because the Bulls were without Michael Jordan, who had retired for the first time.
With Jordan back in the 1995-96 season, the Bulls set an NBA record for wins but also suffered their worst loss of the season in March … to the Knicks. Two months later in the Eastern Conference semifinals, Chicago left no doubt defeating New York in five games before moving on to win another NBA title.