Fans know it. Analysts know it. And the players of generations past know it.
NBA rivalries aren’t what they used to be.
Two of the key players in one of the great NBA rivalries of the 1990s, Horace Grant of the Chicago Bulls and John Starks of the New York Knicks, joined SiriusXM NBA Radio in New Orleans during NBA All-Star Weekend to talk about rivalries, respect and more.
“We love each other now,” Grant said when SiriusXM NBA Radio’s Justin Termine asked if there was bad blood between the two. “It was some battles that we welcomed when I was with the Chicago Bulls, because we knew, in order to beat the Knicks, we’re gonna have to play the best basketball we can possibly play.”
“We felt like we could beat them, but we couldn’t,” Starks said. “They had some incredibly great players – I got one sitting beside me in Horace, and Scottie, and Michael, and all the complementary players they had […] During that time, they were just a very talented team, a team well coached – by, obviously, Phil Jackson – a team with the best player, arguably ever, in Michael Jordan on the squad. And we knew we had our work cut out for us.
“I had some sleepless nights going into those games,” Starks continued. “But we knew that it was gonna be a fun, hard-nosed-played game, and both teams wanted to beat each other. And like Horace said: We battled hard, but we respected each other, and that was the keys to those series.”
Grant couldn’t let the interview end without taking a little shot at the notoriously physical Knicks of the early ’90s.
The rivalries today are OK, but it’s nothing compared to the rivalries of the Knicks and Bulls, the Celtics and Lakers of the ’80s, the Pistons and the Bulls, teams like that. The game back then was more physical. Not saying the kids don’t love the game today, but we tried to do everything to win. If it was scratching, kicking, biting – and most of the time, New York got away with that – but it was just all about team and respect.
(Of course, as a Knicks fan, I can’t mention Starks and the Bulls without embedding video of “The Dunk.”)
(And, in the interest of fairness, two years earlier …)