Bulls–Knicks rivalry

Bulls–Knicks rivalry
Chicago Bulls-New York Knicks
Post Season Meetings 22-12 (CHI)
1989 Eastern Conference Semifinals Bulls won, 4–2
1991 Eastern Conference First Round Bulls won, 3–0
1992 Eastern Conference Semifinals Bulls won, 4–3
1993 Eastern Conference Finals Bulls won, 4–2
1994 Eastern Conference Semifinals Knicks won, 4–3
1996 Eastern Conference Semifinals Bulls won, 4–1

The Bulls-Knicks rivalry was an American professional basketball rivalry between the Chicago Bulls and the New York Knicks over a roughly six year period from 1989-1996. The intensity of the rivalry was unique due to a number of factors. These included the frequency with which the teams competed against one another in high-stakes contests, the reputations of the team's respective cities, and personnel changes and conflicts between the teams.



The early days of the Bulls-Knicks rivalry began when the teams met in the 1989 NBA Playoffs. The Knicks won their first Atlantic Division title since 1971 with a 52-30 record and also clinched the 2nd seed in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, 6th-seeded Chicago won just 47 games, but were led by reigning NBA MVP and Defensive Player of the Year Michael Jordan. The Bulls stole Game 1 at the Garden, and won all 3 games in Chicago Stadium to upset the favored Knicks in 6. The teams met again two years later in the 1991 NBA Playoffs, and this time the roles were reversed. The Bulls won an Eastern Conference-best 61 games, their previous franchise-high, as well as the Central Division title. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Knicks limped into the playoffs at 39-43 with the 8th seed. Chicago cruised past New York in a 3-game sweep, winning each game by an average of 20 points.

Bulls 1st Three-Peat

In 1992, the Bulls, led by Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen, were on their way to their second straight title when they met up with the physical play of the New York Knicks led by Patrick Ewing and new head coach Pat Riley in the Eastern Conference Semifinals. The series went to a decisive Game 7 which the Bulls won 110-81 to advance. This series kick-started the intense rivalry between the Bulls and Knicks in the 1990s. It also made the Knicks into an Eastern Conference powerhouse, replacing the Detroit Pistons and Boston Celtics. This series was the 1st of 2 times the Bulls faced a Game 7 in the six seasons they won a championship, the other with the Indiana Pacers in the 1998 Eastern Conference Finals. This particular series became heated, with several players, particularly Michael Jordan, Xavier McDaniel, Scottie Pippen, and Greg Anthony getting into arguments.

Shortly afterwards, there was a moment of peace in the rivalry, with Ewing, Jordan, and Pippen winning gold medals as members of the "Dream Team" at the Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Ewing and Jordan, along with Chris Mullin of the Golden State Warriors, are the only basketball players to have won gold medals as both amateurs and professionals, having won at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. Jordan and Pippen are the only players to have won an NBA championship and Olympic gold medal in the same year, though Pippen became the only player to accomplish this feat twice, as he would play for the Bulls in 1996 and for Team USA at the Atlanta Olympics.[1]

The following season, the Knicks were able to finish ahead of the Bulls in the regular season and had home court advantage against the Bulls in the Eastern Conference Finals. The series had the notable highlight of John Starks dunking over Horace Grant and several Bulls defenders late in Game 2. However, despite losing the 1st 2 games, the Bulls made a remarkable comeback by winning the next four in a row (by doing so, they became the first team in NBA history to overcome a 2-0 series deficit in a best-of-7 series, and the fourth team overall), including a 97-94 Game 5 victory in Madison Square Garden. The game was quite notable as Knicks forward Charles Smith was stopped four straight times by a series of blocked shots and stripped balls in the final seconds while trying to score. The Bulls won Game 6 96-88 to advance to the NBA Finals where they beat the Phoenix Suns in 6 for their 1st three-peat.

Continuation of rivalry

With Michael Jordan's absence in 1993–94, the Knicks now had the upper hand against the Bulls and they proved that by winning the second best record in the East in the regular season. The Bulls, now led by Pippen and newcomer Toni Kukoč, met the Knicks in the second round of the playoff where the series went to seven games. In one of the most argued calls in NBA history a questionable foul was called by Hue Hollins (who ironically was the same referee who officiated a controversial finish in Game 5 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, and arguably opted not to call a foul on Charles Smith's multiple putback attempts in the waning seconds) in the closing seconds of Game 5 against Pippen which gave the Knicks Hubert Davis two free throws to turn a one-point deficit into a one-point victory for the Knicks.

After a blowout Bulls win in game six, the Knicks were able to advance past the Bulls with a series-clinching 87-77 win, but would eventually lose to the Houston Rockets in the NBA Finals, which denied New York City the distinction of having both NBA and NHL championships in the same year (Chicago saw this same verdict in 1992. Though the Bulls won their championship that year, the Blackhawks lost theirs), as the Knicks home court hosted the New York Rangers first Stanley Cup celebration in 54 years, following their win over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals during the NBA Finals. This was the only time the Knicks were able to beat the Bulls in the playoffs during this rivalry. Also, all the games in the series were won by the home team and the Knicks had home court advantage in the series.

In 1994–95, Jordan returned in the latter half of the regular season. In his return to Madison Square Garden, Jordan scored 55 points and picked up the victory for the Bulls. This game lifted Jordan's confidence after a mediocre performance in his "comeback game" against the Indiana Pacers. The two teams didn't meet in the playoffs that season but the animosity between the two teams still grew.

During the Bulls' record-setting 1995–96 season, they suffered their worst loss of the season to the Knicks, 102-74 in March.[2][3] Two months later, they defeated the Knicks in the Eastern Conference Semifinals in 5.

During the Bulls' second three-peat run, the Bulls only met the Knicks once in the playoffs; specifically in 1996 when the Bulls once again defeated the Knicks. It was also during this period that other teams in the East grew to be contenders, such as the Indiana Pacers, Orlando Magic, and the Miami Heat. All of these teams had their own heated battles with either the Bulls or Knicks in the playoffs. The rivalry died out after the second departure of Michael Jordan in which the Bulls fell out of prominence. The Knicks themselves started to rebuild when veterans such as John Starks, Anthony Mason, Charles Oakley, and Derek Harper were all traded. However, in 1999, a year after the Bulls' second three-peat, the Knicks made history by become the first #8 seed to ever make the NBA Finals.

In the 1990s both Knicks finals appearances (1994 and their Cinderella march of 1999) followed a Bulls' three-peat, but the Knicks lost both times to a team from Texas.

Christmas Day Appearances

The two teams faced each other on Christmas Day for the first time in 1986, with the Knicks winning 86-85 on a last second jumper by Patrick Ewing.[4][5] This was the first of two meetings between Ewing and Michael Jordan on Christmas Day.

During the 1990s, each Christmas (except for 1998) revived the rivalry, as it featured a game involving either (or both) team(s).[6] Both teams played against each other in 1992 and 1994,[6] and would have played each other in 1998, if there had not been a lockout.[7] The only year during the 1990s in which neither team played on Christmas Day was 1995.[8]

The Bulls also played on Christmas in 1990, 1991, 1993, 1996, and 1997, the Knicks in 1999.[6] Both teams met again in 2010, their first Christmas confrontation in 16 years, with the Knicks winning 103-95.[6][9]

Recent developments

Prior to the 2005 season, the Knicks traded first-round draft choices in 2006 and 2007 to the Bulls for center Eddy Curry, who missed the Bulls' 2005 playoff run with a congenital heart defect. When the Knicks finished the 2005-06 season at 23-59, the Bulls' good fortune turned into a gold mine, as the 2006 pick became the second overall choice following the draft lottery. The Bulls used the selection on LaMarcus Aldridge but traded him to the Portland Trail Blazers for the fourth overall selection, LSU forward Tyrus Thomas. Thomas struggled in his time in Chicago before being traded to the Charlotte Bobcats in 2010, while Aldridge has blossomed into a young star.

However, the Bulls still got the much better end of deal as Curry has struggled in New York. Additionally, the Bulls swapped picks with the Knicks in the 2007 NBA draft, and yielded the #9 pick. They used their pick to draft of the University of Florida forward Joakim Noah. In the summer of 2008, the Bulls and Knicks both heavily courted former Suns coach Mike D'Antoni. D'Antoni's style was said to better suit the Bulls roster, but in the end, D'Antoni opted for the Knicks. Despite the Knicks having better odds, the Bulls won the 2008 NBA Draft lottery and selected Derrick Rose with the 1st overall pick, putting a temporary dent in D'Antoni's rebuilding plans in New York.


Many felt that the significance of the rivalry was due to the bragging rights of the two biggest cities in the East: the Big Apple vs. the Windy City. Many also believed that the rivalry started when the Bulls traded Charles Oakley to New York for Bill Cartwright. While others felt that the rivalry was between Jordan and Ewing, since they were rivals since their college days. It was also the hardnosed physical play of the two teams that made the rivalry intense, especially when both teams were battling it out in the playoffs. The matchup between Jordan and Knicks shooting guard John Starks also brought the rivalry a bit of drama as the two were often in each other's face, while both players also showcased a number of highlight dunks on the opposing team. Despite the Knicks not winning an NBA title or beating the Bulls in a series while Jordan was in the league, this rivalry was still considered the most contentious of the mid-1990s.

Head to head

The results in brackets concern the play-off games.

Season at Chicago Bulls
at New York Knicks
1966-67 105-124, 98-103, 110-107, 131-116, 103-106 116-104, 133-132, 122-121, 103-117 3-6
1967-68 106-96, 102-100, 118-126, 103-112 125-123, 121-99, 109-101 2-5
1968-69 83-94, 102-101, 98-105 96-100, 119-97, 114-107 2-4
1969-70 87-116, 99-108, 117-120 114-99, 116-96, 123-104 0-6
1970-71 98-106, 109-103 96-99, 98-87, 102-109 3-2
1971-72 122-96, 116-91, 99-102 100-99, 108-113, 3-2
1972-73 90-86, 84-83 97-83, 98-100 3-1
1973-74 115-97, 80-108, 69-85, 89-80 2-2
1974-75 91-104, 101-84 90-95, 94-97 3-1
1975-76 93-94, 95-110 96-89, 93-85 0-4
1976-77 108-88, 105-87 108-91, 123-103 2-2
1977-78 97-99, 129-117 112-103, 108-96 1-3
1978-79 94-118, 107-104 96-101, 143-148 3-1
1979-80 102-120 124-117 0-2
1980-81 130-121, 117-114, 94-112
105-97, 97-101, 127-117
1981-82 108-111, 131-107 121-106, 139-140, 116-120 3-2
1982-83 91-85, 91-93, 103-120 119-109, 94-79 1-4
1983-84 102-96, 111-113, 96-113 107-113, 109-92, 115-113 2-4
1984-85 95-93, 113-97, 109-104 106-121, 119-113, 106-97 4-2
1985-86 96-113, 114-101, 111-98 94-97, 118-111, 96-106 4-2
1986-87 101-99, 109-110, 115-96 103-108, 86-85, 108-112, 4-2
1987-88 97-95, 131-122 90-89, 110-98, 118-121 3-2
1988-89 108-106, 129-124, 104-100
(111-88, 106-93, 113-111)
126-117, 122-104
(109-120, 114-97, 121-114)
1989-90 117-109, 107-106 109-106, 108-111 3-1
1990-91 108-98, 108-106
(126-85, 89-79)
92-102, 91-101
1991-92 99-89, 99-98
(89-94, 86-78, 96-88, 110-81)
85-106, 90-96
(86-94, 93-86, 100-86)
1992-93 89-77, 98-104
(103-83, 105-95, 96-88)
112-75, 89-84
(98-90, 96-91, 94-97)
1993-94 98-86, 76-92
(104-102, 95-83, 93-79)
86-68, 87-78
(90-86, 96-91, 87-86, 87-77)
1994-95 107-104, 111-90 93-89, 111-113 3-1
1995-96 101-94, 107-86
(91-84, 91-80, 94-81)
79-99, 104-72
(102-99, 91-94)
1996-97 88-87, 101-103 97-93, 103-105 2-2
1997-98 100-82, 111-109 89-90, 89-102 4-0
1998-99 68-73, 76-63 79-63 1-2
1999-00 74-84, 95-88, 78-67 0-3
2000-01 86-91, 81-72 95-68, 101-80 1-3
2001-02 84-79, 113-109 78-71, 101-104 3-1
2002-03 101-94, 100-98 98-86 2-1
2003-04 96-101, 87-81 99-104, 96-82 2-2
2004-05 86-84, 92-91 86-88, 94-102 4-0
2005-06 106-104, 109-101, 101-108 2-1
2006-07 102-85, 98-69 95-106, 103-92 3-1
2007-08 101-96, 100-105 85-78, 83-100 2-2
2008-09 105-100, 110-103 102-98 2-1
2009-10 98-89, 118-85 88-81, 109-115 3-1
2010-11 112-120 103-95, 90-103 1-2


Chicago Bulls New York Knicks
Total wins 129 107
At Chicago Bulls 83 37
At New York Knicks 46 70
Regular season wins 105 95
At Chicago Bulls 65 36
At New York Knicks 40 59
Playoff wins 24 12
At Chicago Bulls 18 1
At New York Knicks 6 11


  1. ^ Smith, Sam (August 4, 1996). "Dream Team's Sleepwalk Ends with Gold Medal". Chicago Tribune: p. 1. 
  2. ^ Wise, Mike (March 11, 1996). "So Much for Karma. Knicks Stomp Bulls". New York Times: p. C1. 
  3. ^ Armour, Terry (March 11, 1996). "New York Nightmare: Knicks Return to Old Ways in Rout of Bulls". Chicago Tribune: p. 1. 
  4. ^ Goldaper, Sam (December 26, 1986). "Ewing, at Buzzer, Steals the Show". New York Times: p. D7. 
  5. ^ Sakamoto, Bob (December 26, 1986). "Knicks, Ewing Get Better of Bulls". Chicago Tribune: p. 1. 
  6. ^ a b c d Beck, Howard (December 25, 2010). "Feeling Fuzzy About Holiday Slot". New York Times: p. B11. 
  7. ^ Rosenbloom, Steve (November 29, 1998). "Selling Point". Chicago Tribune: p. 1. "The NBA told NBC it has canceled the Bulls and the rest of the traditional Christmas doubleheader—Bulls-Knicks and Lakers-Suns." 
  8. ^ DuPree, David (December 26, 1995). "Magic ground Rockets 92-90". USA Today: p. 1C. 
  9. ^ Mahoney, Brian (December 25, 2010). "Christmas surprise: Knicks win one with defense". Associated Press. Yahoo! Sports. http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/recap?gid=2010122518&print=1. Retrieved December 26, 2010. 

See also

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