Four Cities Could Make History, Winning NBA, NHL Titles in Same Year

The NHL and NBA have a chance to make history this postseason. Eight times before, hockey and basketball teams from one city playing in the same building have gone to their respective finals since the NBA was founded in 1946. But never have both league’s champions emerged from the same city.

There are four chances right now for that to happen as the second round of the NHL and NBA playoffs unwind, in New York, Denver, Dallas and Boston. Those are four of the biggest markets in the country with some of the highest-valued and best-run teams.

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In New York, for example, the Rangers—leading the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 in their second-round series—are valued by Sportico at $2.45 billion, second in the NHL behind the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have already been eliminated. The Rangers’ revenue of $295 million is third in the NHL.

The Knicks, their Madison Square Garden counterparts, lead the Indiana Pacers 2-0 in the second round after beating the Pacers 130-121 in Game 2 Wednesday night. They’re worth $7.43 billion, second behind the Golden State Warriors, who didn’t survive the play-in round. The Knicks’ revenue was $536 million, also third in the NBA.

That’s with selling out every game in the same building—the Knicks averaged 19,728 this past regular season; the Rangers 18,006, playing to 100% capacity.

Despite disparities in the value of tickets and marketing of the two leagues, owner James Dolan is hauling in almost a billion dollars in revenue running the two teams. That’s found its way on to the court and the ice.

“From a fan’s perspective, all you can ask an owner to do is spend money, and [Dolan’s] done that,” Luis Cruz, a native New Yorker who has been rooting for the Knicks for more than 20 years, said last week as the Knicks vanquished the Philadelphia 76ers in the first round.

But the fact is, money spent hasn’t produced titles. Both teams have only won three times in the current edition of the Garden, which opened in February 1968 and was recently totally renovated. Inside, the only familiar sight is the multicolored roof.

The Rangers have won the Stanley Cup only once since 1940, in 1994; they lost to the Los Angeles Kings in the final in 2014. The Knicks won NBA titles in 1970 and 1973, but haven’t been back since losing to the Spurs in 1999. The two teams went to the finals in 1972 and 1994; both lost in '72 and only the Rangers won it all in 1994, defeating Vancouver at the Garden.

The week of June 12-17, 1994, is still one of the most memorable weeks in Garden playoff history, dominated by three Knicks games against the Rockets and the Rangers' clincher over Vancouver. All of this occurred as the Los Angeles police uncovered the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson, O.J. Simpson's ex-wife, and another man.

On June 12, the murders happened in Los Angeles. That same day, the Rockets defeated the Knicks in Game 3. On June 14, the Rangers beat the Canucks, 3-2, in Game 7 to to clinch the Stanley Cup, with the final faceoff coming just to the right of goalie Mike Richter at the final buzzer. On June 15, the Knicks won Game 4.

On June 17, the Rangers held their victory parade through the Canyon of Heroes in lower Manhattan. Later that day, Simpson was charged with the murders, and the infamous white Bronco chase unfolded. As the Knicks and Rockets vied to snap a 2-2 tie in the best-of-seven series, national television cameras began to focus on Simpson’s freeway chase 3,000 miles away. This was long before handheld video devices, so fans watching the Knicks at the Garden were left with staying in their seats to watch the game or heading to the concession stands to observe the NBC broadcast.

“NBC was in a unique position,” Bob Costas, who called the Knicks game, recalled. “We’d split the screen showing [the action] in the Garden on one side, and the Bronco making its way slowly down the 405 on the other side. It was surreal, to put it mildly.”

Simpson, who died of prostate cancer last month, eventually turned himself in, and the Knicks won the game, sending the series back to Houston, where they narrowly lost Games 6 and 7.

Thirty years later, the Knicks and Rangers have another chance to go where no other NBA and NHL teams have gone before: win dual titles in the same season while sharing the same building.

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