A movie about an amazing confluence of events premiered on ESPN on Wednesday night. Fittingly, the movie's premiere was part of a confluence of events that reminded us of just how much we've been missing in New York sports recently.
"June 17, 1994" is a documentary about one of the most jam-packed sporting days in history. New York was right in the center of it as the Rangers paraded the Stanley Cup through the Canyon of Heroes and the Knicks hosted the Rockets in Game Five of the NBA Finals. Elsewhere, the World Cup opened on U.S. soil for the first time, Arnold Palmer played his final U.S. Open round and a fellow by the name of O.J. Simpson took a drive on an L.A. freeway.
The film is tremendous and it's debut a night before Game Seven of this year's NBA Finals makes things resonate all the more for New Yorkers. The Rangers had finally taken home the cup three nights before by beating the Canucks in Game Seven and they'd won an epic, double overtime Game Seven -- Matteau! Matteau! Matteau! -- over the Devils to get to that round.
The Knicks would beat the Rockets that night before finally succumbing in a hail of John Starks missed threes in Game Seven on June 22nd. They'd also won an earlier Game Seven, over the Pacers on Patrick Ewing's dunk, and would lose one when Ewing's fingerroll rolled out against the Pacers the next year. The Knicks played a ton of Game Sevens in that era, losing to the Bulls and splitting a pair with the Heat, but then the lights went out on Broadway.
We've had other Game Sevens in the last 16 years. The Yankees made legends of Luis Gonzalez, Aaron Boone and Johnny Damon in a four-year span, but never again has the sports world been so centered on New York City. The dual playoff runs were as wonderful a sports time as this city has ever seen as nightly battles captured everyone's attention and brought people together in a way that rarely happens when you've got seven million people running around.
It's been a long time since we've felt anything like that in these parts, which is the biggest reason why Thursday's Game Seven between the Celtics and Lakers is tinged with more than a little bit of sadness. The Knicks simply don't matter, neither do the Rangers, and we know how much better life around these parts is when they do matter.
That, like everything else in this NBA season, brings us to LeBron James. The second a champion is crowned, the King free agency watch will, improbably, grow even more intense. We want him because he's great, of course, but we want him more because we want to feel the way we did on June 17, 1994. We want to feel like the only thing that matters in the world of sports, we want to feel all eyes on us and we want to play games that matter as much as the one the Celtics and Lakers will play. If we don't get him, we'll know we're as far away from that magical day as we've ever been.
It's a good movie but nothing beats experiencing it in real life.