The Almost NBA Champions
XXXIII.) My Beloved Knicks are on this list more than I care to remember <33rd OP>
Not to steal a page from Bill Simmons, but I kind of am. Here is my list of “Critically Acclaimed NBA Teams”. Amazing Teams from 1991-92 to 2017-2018 that were good enough to win a Championship but never did! It’s like remembering epic movie acting performances year to year, but it is not being cemented or heralded, since there were no academy awards won!
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Coming up are the critically acclaimed NBA Teams that I remember fondly that never won the Championship dating back to the 1991-92 Season (my first season watching the NBA). Incredibly out of the 29 years I have been watching the NBA, there are *27 notable teams, to my recollection and who I choose to acknowledge, really had a great shot at winning the whole thing, but ultimately didn’t!
The list of teams are noteworthy, as none of these Teams listed have ever won the **Championship although they came so close.
*Actually only 23 teams I truly acknowledge, but there are 4 teams that fall in the honorable mention category in my bottom section. But it is rather fitting I am naming 27 teams, as I’m essentially only chronicling 27 years of the NBA on this list.
**Okay I cheated a little bit, one team is a NOTABLE EXCEPTION TO MY RULE (which you will read about more later on). But every other team with star players such as Ewing, Barkley, Iverson, Nash, Webber, Penny, and even Reggie & Stockton/Malone, are “Critically Acclaimed” without reaching that mountain top!
II. WITHOUT FURTHER ADO...
My favorite almost NBA Champions
TOP 10 → Knicks all day, every day!
1- 1993-94 NY KNICKS Eastern Conference Champions:
“THEIR BEST CHANCE” to win it all, in my life-time, and really since they last won the chip in 1973. They almost had it! A blocked John Starks 3 point attempt at the end of Game 6 was heartbreaking enough, but then if Starks had even a mediocre Game 7, he coulda called himself a Champ instead of a Chump!
2- 1992-93 NY KNICKS Eastern Conference Finalists:,
I will remember this team as the most talented Knicks roster in my life-time, but MJ was in the way! And...Charles Smith shoulda dunked the ball!
3- 1994-95 NY KNICKS Eastern Conference Semi Finalists:
It wasn’t their best shot! But it was realistically their last “Really great shot” at winning it all. If not for a Ewing missed finger-roll and before that a Reggie Miller miracle. It was as if the Knicks needed to win 5 out of 7 Games after that choke job in Game 1.
4 - 1999 NY KNICKS - Eastern Conference Champions:
A Cinderella Team in a fluky-fluky “Lockout Shortened” season that had no games played until 1999. LJ phantom? 4 point play! Allen Houston buzzer beater eliminates Heat . Meanwhile Miami was the 1 seed and Knicks were the 8 seed! This has only happened 4 other times in NBA history. Other than the Knicks Cinderella run in 1999, the two most memorable to me were the 94 playoffs Round 1 Nuggets toppling the Seattle Sonics. And in 2007 when the “We Believe Warriors” toppled the 2006-07 MVP Dirk Nowitzki and his Dallas Mavericks (and nearly tattooed Dirk on this list for G...until his magical 2011 Postseason run).
5- 1991-92 NY KNICKS Eastern Conference Semi Finalists:
The Pat Riley Lead Knicks come on the scene just as the “Thug Ball Pistons” limped off. but just too much MJ again. Just watch the part of the video from the 39 second mark to 53 seconds. Quintessential MJ!!
6 - 1996-97 NY KNICKS Eastern Conference Semifinalists:
EFF PJ BROWN, EFF ZO! EFF PAT RILEY! EFF THE HEAT! And EFF David Stern for getting these suspensions so wrong for over a decade (see Team 10 for Non-Knicks teams below).
III. RESPECT TO
7-19995-96 NY Knicks:
Jeff Van Gundy takes over as Coach of the Knicks, and his first win is a 32 point blowout win over the Bulls
8- 1997-98 NY KNICKS:
Ewing was hurt most of the year and the Knicks were eliminated in round two of the playoffs.
9- 1999-2000 NY KNICKS:
Ewing’s last season with the Knicks, they lost the rubber-match (98,99,00 they faced off) against the Pacers in the Eastern Conference Finals
10- 200-01 NY KNICKS:
JVG last postseason as Knicks Coach, with no Patrick Ewing and a hungry young Vince Carter lead Raptors team that defeated them, and ended up taking an exciting 76ers team led by Allen Iverson a full 7 games in the next series.
It was a really nice 10 year run the Knicks gave us die-hard Knicks fans. One of their most prosperous stretches in franchise History. After Van Gundy’s last full season with the team, the Knicks have made a total of 4 playoff appearances in the last 19 years, winning one series and with a postseason record of 7-18. And before this year the Knicks have had an annual winning percentage of something like.290% which would be fine for a major league baseball player's career batting average...but not for an NBA team.
To this day I’m convinced 1994 was their best chance, while 1993 was their best team. 1997 is a big “WHAT IF” even if MJ and the Bulls were primed to beat them, f-king Zo and the Heat robbed them of the chance to play them in the ECF that year.
IV. THE OTHER TEAMS
Now we are moving on to my next section of the list. On this list we are looking at some notable teams from the 90s, but more so from the 2000s and 2010s. And NO! A Carmelo Anthony lead team does not deserve to be mentioned with any critically acclaimed Knicks team, EVER! And he’s not on this next list either!!!! (And the fact that I need to acknowledge him as a Knick is a tip to the cap to his hall of fame career, but is also much to my chagrin!
#1-17 <Non- NY Knicks Teams>
*Again, the rule is, it’s a team that never won the title, with the exception of the LeBron James lead Cavs, as they had a 4 year stretch of making the Finals going 1-3. However I have made 1, or 2 notable exceptions. That LeBron James led Cavs team is just too interesting of an era to leave off (especially his 2nd stint).
1-*2014-2015 Cleveland Cavaliers - Eastern Conference Champions:
The LeBron James redemption tour came to a crashing halt when the 2nd best player left on his team in the Finals, was Matthew Dellavedova! A nice player who had a nice moment. But, we all know that in the Finals if your stars can’t go one one team, the stars on the other team will just overpower you!
2- 2000-01 Philadelphia 76ers - Eastern Conference Champions:
The Rocky of all Rocky’s! Out of Philly no less, too! What a fun team to route for. Who knew that sometimes making the Finals feels so majestic in itself (kind of similar to the 8th seeded Knicks making the Finals in 99, but under a real season lol). Allen Iverson “Epic! → State of mind!”
3- 2001-02 Kings Western Conference Finalists: They aren’t ranked higher, because this team is just too heart-breaking
5- 1994-95 Orlando Magic, Eastern Conference Champions
The way they lost! UGHH. and the fact that Shaq-Penny partnership ended so soon
6- 1992-93 Phoenix Suns, Western Conference Champions:
Was this the best team MJ played in his 6 finals?
Why was Frank Johnson on the court for that pivotal game 6 taking key shots? I thought this team was deeper than that. I re-watched the 4th quarter of this game recently, as I remember when I watched it live, I was squirming too much. I had to turn the TV off . Even though I’m a life-long Knicks fan, I was pulling for MJ and the Bulls to complete the 3peat. And honestly, it looked like they were blowing this game, but alas! You got to play till the end.
7- 2011-12 OKC Thunder - Western Conference Champions:
8 - *2017-18 Cleveland Cavs Eastern Conference Champions:
It would've been nice to see how interesting of a series this coulda been if JR didn’t blow game 1 for the Cavs.
9- 2005-06 Phoenix Suns Western Conference Finalists:
This certainly wasn’t the Suns best chance at winning the chip → STAT was out pretty much all year, but this was the year I truly gained respect for the Steve Nash led Suns. That and this most enjoyable book by Jack McCallum certainly left a positive impression on me.
10- 2006-07 Phoenix Suns - Western Conference Semi-Finalists:
Robert Horry always comes through in the clutch, this time it's Horry acting as a goonish Hockey Player!
11 -2004-05 Phoenix Suns - Western Conference Finalists:
Joe Johnson breaks his face, and doesn’t come back to play for the team next year, cuz they let him sign with Atlanta?!
12 - 209-10 Phoenix Suns - Western Conference Finalists:
The last of a great run for Steve Nash led Suns! ( I almost think this is more a sentimental pick than anything).
13 - 2017-18 Houston Rockets - Western Conference Finalists:
V. #5 HONORABLE MENTION →
14- *2016-17 Cleveland Cavs - Eastern Conference Champions
15 - Utah Jazz 1996-97 & 1997-98 - Western Conference Champions”
Yeah... Sorry Stockton to Malone, I don’t feel any kind of way about y'all never winning the Chip. The league was watered down by the time you made it to the Finals both those times, and you lost 8 games and won 4 against that Iconic Bulls Team, in two of MJs most famous games ever “97 Flu Game” & “98 The Shot”.
16 - 1997-98 & 1999-00, Indiana Pacers; 00 Eastern Conference Champions
17- 2013-14 and 2014-15 LA Clippers:
Clippers deserve some credence in honorable mention as they had some epic meltdowns in the playoffs these two years, but that’s about it.
VI. #6 CONCLUSION
So much amazing content! Such an amazing game! I actually feel better watching the Clippers meltdowns, knowing that there might be a team more cursed than my beloved, yet tortured, Knicks. The question now begs, who is going to be the team or teams of the 2020s that I write about who have a tortured fan-base that "almost" wins the chip? I mean the Clippers are always a safe bet. Could the Bucks and even the Nuggets be the next two teams on the list too? Time will tell, only time will tell.
WORKS CITED - (in order of appearance)
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