With the two teams set to do battle in primetime Thursday night, there's no better time to recap the many reasons Knicks fans have to hate the Bulls.
When a sports franchise wins multiple championships in a short period of time, there are always fans that "always liked the team" even though you never knew it. For those who grew up in the 1990s, those teams in the three major sports were the New York Yankees, Dallas Cowboys and Chicago Bulls. The Bulls' fan base grew significantly in that time span thanks to multiple championships and having the best player on the planet.
Nothing is more obnoxious than a fan base full of bandwagoners. When it seems like a team has more fans outside of its home state than inside of it, it becomes more difficult to take the hardcore fans seriously -- even the ones who've been through their team's highs and lows. It also makes any victory, regular season or playoff, far more rewarding.
The Knicks and Bulls first met in the 1988-89 Eastern Conference semifinals, with the Bulls winning that series 4-2. That started a playoff trend for the Knicks, who took a year off from facing Chicago in the postseason before losing three straight series to the Bulls during Chicago's first three-peat.
New York got closer every season, too, losing to Chicago in the first round in 1990-91, the Eastern Conference semifinals in 1991-92 and finally the Eastern Conference finals in 1992-93. The 1992 semifinal series was full of physical confrontation between the teams and marked the true start of the rivalry.
The 1993 Eastern Conference finals featured "The Dunk" from John Starks along with the Knicks blowing home-court advantage and a 2-0 series lead just to watch Chicago complete its first three-peat of the decade. The teams took a few years off before battling for the final time in 1995-96, a 4-1 series win for the Bulls that launched their second three-peat.
Mirror Images Through the Years
When Chicago went into decline after Jordan's second retirement, the Knicks made it out of the East the following season but fell short against the Spurs. They followed that with an Eastern Conference finals loss to Reggie Miller and the Pacers in the 1999-00 season, which represented the last time they made it out of the first round before last season.
While the 2000s were full of heartbreak and depression for Knicks fans, the same can be said for the Bulls. Chicago went six seasons without a playoff appearance after the 1997-98 season and only made it out of the first round once before Derrick Rose's MVP season in 2010-11. The Knicks lost in the first round that season, their first after signing Amar'e Stoudemire, and both teams have been in playoff contention since.
Knicks fans, while ecstatic to finally have a competitive team they can watch in the playoffs again, hate the fact that the road to the NBA Finals goes through not only the detested Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers but the Bulls as well. It's a constant reminder that Chicago is likely to always been a thorn in the Knicks' side.
Current Roadblock to a Title
With their core players entering the final years of their prime and scoring champion Carmelo Anthony potentially leaving town, the Knicks window to win an NBA championship isn't likely to remain open for much longer. The East has many good teams at the top this season, including the Bulls of course, who have the potential to keep the Knicks from a championship run.
They may not be the only team in the way but if the Knicks happen to face off against Chicago in the first or second round this season, it seems likely they will do so as the lower seed playing an extra game in the Windy City. If that's the case, this season has the potential to end like many others from the 1990s for the Knicks.
The greatest NBA player of all time also happens to be the greatest reason for Knicks fans to the hate the Bulls. Jordan is the single reason many superstars of the '90s never won a championship, including Ewing, Karl Malone, Charles Barkley and Dominique Wilkins. While Ewing had two chances at a title after two separate Jordan retirements, the Knicks lost the 1994 NBA Finals 4-3 against Houston and the 1999 NBA Finals 4-1 against San Antonio.
If Jordan wasn't busy leading the Bulls to six NBA championships in nine seasons, maybe Ewing and the Knicks would've had one or two themselves. Instead, the Knicks are still without a title since the early-1970s and a championship-hungry fan base is still starving for one that may not come for a long while.
Chris Tripodi lives in New York and has followed the Knicks since the days of Patrick Ewing and John Starks in the early 1990s. He contributes to multiple online outlets along with Yahoo, namely Draft Insider, Optimum Scouting and Jets 101.
Follow him on Twitter @christripodi.
- Sports & Recreation
- Chicago Bulls
- New York Knicks
- Michael Jordan
- Patrick Ewing