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1994 NBA Finals

1994 NBA Finals
Team Coach Wins
Houston Rockets Rudy Tomjanovich 4
New York Knicks Pat Riley 3
Dates June 8–22
MVP Hakeem Olajuwon
(Houston Rockets)
Television NBC (U.S.)
Announcers Marv Albert and Matt Guokas
Game 1: Joe Crawford, Jack Madden, Dick Bavetta
Game 2: Darell Garretson, Ed T. Rush, Hue Hollins
Game 3: Jake O'Donnell, Jess Kersey, Bill Oakes
Game 4: Hugh Evans, Joe Crawford, Mike Mathis
Game 5: Darell Garretson, Ed T. Rush, Dick Bavetta
Game 6: Jake O'Donnell, Jess Kersey, Jack Madden
Game 7: Hugh Evans, Joe Crawford, Ed T. Rush
Hall of Famers Knicks:
Patrick Ewing (2008)
Hakeem Olajuwon (2008)
Pat Riley (2008)
Dick Bavetta (2015)
Eastern Finals Knicks defeat Pacers, 4–3
Western Finals Rockets defeat Jazz, 4–1

The 1994 NBA Finals was the championship round of the 1993–94 National Basketball Association season, featuring the Western Conference's Houston Rockets defeating the Eastern Conference's New York Knicks.

This matchup was Hakeem Olajuwon's second NBA Finals series appearance, his other being in 1986, where Larry Bird and the Boston Celtics defeated the Houston Rockets four games to two. The series was Patrick Ewing's first NBA Finals appearance. The Rockets came in with strong determination to win not only the franchise's first NBA championship, but the city's first championship in a league that still existed, all while the Knicks were looking to add a third NBA championship trophy, as the Knicks' last trophy came from the 1973 NBA Finals. The Knicks also hoped to impress their new owners Viacom, who had just bought Paramount Communications (formerly Gulf+Western), their longtime owners (after the series however, Viacom sold the Knicks and the rest of the Madison Square Garden properties).

The series was hailed as a meeting of the two great centers who had previously played for a championship in college. In 1984 while Olajuwon was with the 1984 NCAA Championship game. In this series, however, Olajuwon outperformed Ewing,[1][2][3] outscoring him in every game of the series and posting numbers of 26.9 ppg on 50.0% shooting compared to Ewing's 18.9 ppg on 36.3% shooting.[4] However, Ewing set an NBA finals record in the series with a total of 30 blocks, and he tied the single-game record of 8 blocks in Game 5.[5] Tim Duncan would later set the record for most blocks in a Finals series (2003) with 32 blocks in six games while Dwight Howard would set the record for most blocked shots in a Finals game with 9 blocked shots in Game 4 of the 2009 Finals while with the Orlando Magic.

During the series, the Houston Rockets played seven low-scoring, defensive games against the New York Knicks. After splitting the first two games in Houston, the Knicks won two out of three games at Madison Square Garden, which also hosted the Rangers first Stanley Cup celebration in 54 years during the series.

In Game 6, however, Rockets center Hakeem Olajuwon blocked a last-second championship-winning shot attempt by John Starks, giving the Rockets an 86–84 victory and forcing a Game 7, which made Knicks Coach Pat Riley the first (and to this date, the only) coach in a Game 7 NBA Finals on two different teams, having been with the Los Angeles Lakers in 1984 and 1988. In addition, the Knicks set a record for most playoff games played in one season, with 25. The Detroit Pistons tied this record in 2005.[6] The Boston Celtics, coached by Doc Rivers, would surpass it during their championship season of 2008 when they played 26.[6]

The Rockets beat the Knicks in Game 7, 90–84, enabling the city of Houston to not only celebrate its first NBA and fifth professional sports championship (first in an existing league), but also deny New York from having both NBA and NHL championships in the same year. For his efforts Olajuwon was named NBA Finals Most Valuable Player. For the Knicks, Riley had the unfortunate distinction of having become the first (and to this date, the only) coach to lose a Game 7 NBA Finals on two different teams, having lost to the Celtics in 1984. It also denied him the distinction of being the first coach to win a Game 7 NBA Finals with two different teams, having defeated the Detroit Pistons in 1988.

NBC Sports used Ahmad Rashād (Knicks sideline) and Hannah Storm (Rockets sideline).

Hal Douglas narrated the season-ending documentary Clutch City for NBA Entertainment.


  • Background 1
    • Road to the Finals 1.1
    • Regular season series 1.2
  • Starting Lineups 2
  • 1994 NBA Finals roster 3
    • 1994 Houston Rockets 3.1
    • 1994 New York Knicks 3.2
  • Series summary 4
    • Game 1 4.1
    • Game 2 4.2
    • Game 3 4.3
    • Game 4 4.4
    • Game 5 4.5
    • Game 6 4.6
    • Game 7 4.7
  • Olajuwon vs. Ewing 5
  • New York Rangers win Stanley Cup 6
  • Telecast interrupted by O. J. Simpson car chase 7
  • Aftermath 8
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11


Hakeem Olajuwon, then named Akeem, was drafted first overall by the Houston Rockets in the 1984 NBA Draft. Olajuwon quickly rose into an NBA All-Star, and in his second season, he led the Rockets to the 1986 NBA Finals, where they would lose in six games to the Boston Celtics. However the Rockets would gradually dismantle that team, and by 1991, only Olajuwon remained from that 1986 squad. Midway to the 1991–92 season Rudy Tomjanovich took over as head coach and almost led the team to the playoffs. By 1993 the Rockets were on the rise, with Olajuwon transforming into an all-around player while remaining a defensive presence in the paint. The Rockets would come within a game of the conference finals that year, losing to the Seattle SuperSonics in seven games. The Rockets then started 15–0 the next season en route to a 58–24 record, finishing behind Seattle in the West. In the playoffs they defeated the Portland Trail Blazers 3–1, the Phoenix Suns 4–3 (after losing the first two games at home), and the Utah Jazz 4–1 to advance to the finals.

Patrick Ewing was drafted No. 1 by the New York Knicks in the 1985 NBA Draft. However his rise to stardom was stalled by a pair of losing seasons and several leg injuries, despite winning Rookie of the Year in 1986. Nevertheless, Ewing continued to excel, and by 1989 the Knicks were mentioned as playoff contenders. It wasn't until they hired Pat Riley as head coach in 1991 that the Knicks started to rise among the Eastern Conference elite. Riley transformed the team into a tough, defensive-minded group, anchored by Ewing, Charles Oakley, Anthony Mason, John Starks and Charles Smith. In the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals the Knicks led 2–0 on the defending champion Chicago Bulls, but then lost the next four, highlighted by a flurry of blocks by the Bulls defense on Smith in Game 5. With Michael Jordan retired the next season, the Knicks took advantage by winning 57 games, then defeated the New Jersey Nets in the first round 3–1. Still, the Knicks had to overcome the Jordan-less Bulls in seven games, before dispatching the hot-shooting Reggie Miller and the Indiana Pacers in seven games of the Eastern Conference Finals.

Road to the Finals

Houston Rockets (Western Conference Champion) New York Knicks (Eastern Conference Champion)
# Western Conference
1 z-Seattle SuperSonics 63 19 .768
2 y-Houston Rockets 58 24 .707 5
3 x-Phoenix Suns 56 26 .683 7
4 x-San Antonio Spurs 55 27 .671 8
5 x-Utah Jazz 53 29 .646 10
6 x- Golden State Warriors 50 32 .610 13
7 x-Portland Trail Blazers 47 35 .573 16
8 x-Denver Nuggets 42 40 .512 21
9 Los Angeles Lakers 33 49 .402 30
10 Sacramento Kings 28 54 .341 35
11 Los Angeles Clippers 27 55 .329 36
12 Minnesota Timberwolves 20 62 .244 43
13 Dallas Mavericks 13 69 .159 50
2nd seed in the West, 2nd best league record
Regular season
# Eastern Conference
1 c-Atlanta Hawks 57 25 .695
2 y-New York Knicks 57 25 .695
3 x-Chicago Bulls 55 27 .671 2
4 x-Orlando Magic 50 32 .610 7
5 x-Indiana Pacers 47 35 .573 10
6 x-Cleveland Cavaliers 47 35 .573 10
7 x-New Jersey Nets 45 37 .549 12
8 x-Miami Heat 42 40 .512 15
9 Charlotte Hornets 41 41 .500 16
10 Boston Celtics 32 50 .390 25
11 Philadelphia 76ers 25 57 .305 32
12 Washington Bullets 24 58 .293 33
13t Milwaukee Bucks 20 62 .244 37
13t Detroit Pistons 20 62 .244 37
2nd seed in the East, 4th best league record
Defeated the (7) Portland Trail Blazers, 3–1 First round Defeated the (7) New Jersey Nets, 3–1
Defeated the (3) Phoenix Suns, 4–3 Conference Semifinals Defeated the (3) Chicago Bulls, 4–3
Defeated the (4) Utah Jazz, 4–1 Conference Finals Defeated the (5) Indiana Pacers, 4–3

Regular season series

The Houston Rockets won both games in the regular season series:

Starting Lineups

Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame ‡
Houston Position New York
Kenny Smith PG Derek Harper
Vernon Maxwell SG John Starks
Robert Horry SF Charles Smith
Otis Thorpe PF Charles Oakley
Hakeem Olajuwon C Patrick Ewing

1994 NBA Finals roster

1994 Houston Rockets

1994 New York Knicks

Series summary

Game Date Home Team Result Road Team TV Time
Game 1 Wednesday, June 8 Houston Rockets 85–78 (1–0) New York Knicks 9:00et
Game 2 Friday, June 10 Houston Rockets 83–91 (1–1) New York Knicks 9:00et
Game 3 Sunday, June 12 New York Knicks 89–93 (1–2) Houston Rockets 7:00et
Game 4 Wednesday, June 15 New York Knicks 91–82 (2–2) Houston Rockets 9:00et
Game 5 Friday, June 17 New York Knicks 91–84 (3–2) Houston Rockets 9:00et
Game 6 Sunday, June 19 Houston Rockets 86–84 (3–3) New York Knicks 7:00et
Game 7 Wednesday, June 22 Houston Rockets 90–84 (4–3) New York Knicks 9:00et
  • This was the second NBA Finals that went to a Game 7 since the Finals went to the 2–3–2 format in 1985.

Game 1

June 8
New York Knicks 78, Houston Rockets 85
Scoring by quarter: 24–26, 22–28, 17–18, 15–13
Pts: Patrick Ewing 23
Rebs: Charles Oakley 14
Asts: Derek Harper 5
Pts: Hakeem Olajuwon 28
Rebs: Otis Thorpe 16
Asts: Kenny Smith 5
Houston leads the series, 1–0
The Summit, Houston, Texas
Attendance: 16,611
  • No. 17 Joe Crawford
  • No. 14 Jack Madden
  • No. 27 Dick Bavetta

Game 2

June 10
New York Knicks 91, Houston Rockets 83
Scoring by quarter: 24–20, 18–22, 30–23, 19–18
Pts: John Starks 19
Rebs: Patrick Ewing 13
Asts: John Starks 9
Pts: Hakeem Olajuwon 25
Rebs: Otis Thorpe 12
Asts: Kenny Smith 6
Series tied, 1–1
The Summit, Houston, Texas
Attendance: 16,611
  • No. 10 Darell Garretson
  • No. 4 Ed T. Rush
  • No. 42 Hue Hollins

Game 3

June 12
Houston Rockets 93, New York Knicks 89
Scoring by quarter: 26–18, 19–20, 24–25, 24–26
Pts: Hakeem Olajuwon 21
Rebs: Hakeem Olajuwon 11
Asts: Hakeem Olajuwon 7
Pts: Derek Harper 21
Rebs: Patrick Ewing 13
Asts: John Starks 9
Houston leads the series, 2–1
Madison Square Garden, New York City
Attendance: 19,763
  • No. 11 Jake O'Donnell
  • No. 20 Jess Kersey
  • No. 21 Bill Oakes

Game 4

June 15
Houston Rockets 82, New York Knicks 91
Scoring by quarter: 14–19, 19–21, 28–20, 21–31
Pts: Hakeem Olajuwon 32
Rebs: Otis Thorpe 10
Asts: Sam Cassell 5
Pts: Derek Harper 21
Rebs: Charles Oakley 20
Asts: Derek Harper 5
Series tied, 2–2
Madison Square Garden, New York City
Attendance: 19,763
  • No. 25 Hugh Evans
  • No. 17 Joe Crawford
  • No. 13 Mike Mathis

Game 5

June 17
Houston Rockets 84, New York Knicks 91
Scoring by quarter: 21–22, 16–26, 24–13, 23–30
Pts: Hakeem Olajuwon 27
Rebs: Otis Thorpe 13
Asts: Robert Horry 6
Pts: Patrick Ewing 25
Rebs: Patrick Ewing 12
Asts: Derek Harper 7
New York leads the series, 3–2
Madison Square Garden, New York City
Attendance: 19,763
  • No. 10 Darell Garretson
  • No. 4 Ed T. Rush
  • No. 27 Dick Bavetta

Game 6

June 19
New York Knicks 84, Houston Rockets 86
Scoring by quarter: 21–21, 15–25, 26–19, 22–21
Pts: John Starks 27
Rebs: Patrick Ewing 15
Asts: Derek Harper 10
Pts: Hakeem Olajuwon 30
Rebs: Olajuwon, Thorpe 10 each
Asts: Otis Thorpe 6
Series tied, 3–3
The Summit, Houston, Texas
Attendance: 16,611
  • No. 11 Jake O'Donnell
  • No. 20 Jess Kersey
  • No. 14 Jack Madden

Game 7

June 22
New York Knicks 84, Houston Rockets 90
Scoring by quarter: 21–22, 22–23, 17–18, 24–27
Pts: Derek Harper 23
Rebs: Charles Oakley 14
Asts: Derek Harper 5
Pts: Hakeem Olajuwon 25
Rebs: Hakeem Olajuwon 10
Asts: Hakeem Olajuwon 7
Houston wins the series, 4–3
The Summit, Houston, Texas
Attendance: 16,611
  • No. 25 Hugh Evans
  • No. 17 Joe Crawford
  • No. 4 Ed T. Rush

Olajuwon vs. Ewing

Although most fans in New York, and some members of the national media, blamed John Starks' poor performance, who shot 2-for-18 from the field in Game 7, as a contributing factor in the Knicks' loss in the series, another important factor in the Rockets series win was Olajuwon's performance. Olajuwon outscored Ewing in every game of the series, while Ewing outblocked (4.3 to 3.9 bpg) and outrebounded him (12.4 rpg to 9.1 rpg). Plus, he set a then NBA Finals record with a total of 30 blocks:[4]

1994 NBA Finals Gm 1 Gm 2 Gm 3 Gm 4 Gm 5 Gm 6 Gm 7 Totals
Hakeem Olajuwon 28 25 21 32 27 30 25 26.9 ppg 50.0% fg 9.1 rpg 3.6 apg 3.9 bpg
Patrick Ewing 23 16 18 15 25 19 17 18.9 ppg 36.4% fg 12.4 rpg 1.7 apg 4.3 bpg

New York Rangers win Stanley Cup

Game 4 took place at Madison Square Garden with its corridors smelling of beer and champagne. Less than 24 hours before, it hosted the New York Rangers first Stanley Cup celebration in 54 years following their 3–2 win over the Vancouver Canucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals.

Rangers Captain Mark Messier attended the game,[7] bringing the Stanley Cup in a bid to inspire the Knicks, first to their locker room before the game, and again out onto center court at halftime, much to the delight of fans.[8]

Game 5 took place hours after the ticker-tape parade in the Canyon of Heroes in Lower Manhattan honoring the new Stanley Cup champions.[9] Players and representatives of both the Knicks and the Rockets were among the 1.5 million who attended.[10][11]

Both teams came away motivated, as evidenced by the remaining series.[11][12]

Telecast interrupted by O. J. Simpson car chase

During Game 5, most NBC affiliates split the coverage of the game between NFL Hall of Famer O.J. Simpson's slow speed freeway chase with the LAPD. At the time, Simpson had been an NFL analyst on NBC.

The coverage was presented on a split screen, with the game taking up the smaller portion of the television screen on the left, while live coverage of the chase was shown in a bigger screen on the right. The audio came from the chase as narrated by NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw.[13]

KNBC in Los Angeles, serving the media market where the police were tracking Simpson, left game coverage completely for the chase and did not even put up a split screen until the end of the game, which was still close at the time. By this point, Simpson had returned to his mansion in Brentwood and had surrendered to police.

A complete re-broadcast of Game 5, with natural crowd audio substituting for the parts for which NBC did not provide audio, is part of the DVD release of this series from Warner Home Video.


The Rockets would repeat as NBA champions in 1995 although their season record wasn't so promising. Plagued by a lack of chemistry, the Rockets were stuck in the middle of the conference standings most of the year. Then, as the NBA's trading deadline approached, on February 14, 1995 the Rockets acquired Hakeem Olajuwon's "Phi Slama Jama" teammate Clyde Drexler. The Rockets finished the regular season as the 6th seed but the team on the court at season's end was clearly better than its 47–35 record. The new Rockets team had only had about two months to gel. The playoffs started rough for Houston, the team down 2 games to 1 to Utah in the First Round. However, the Rockets battled back and won that series, stealing the deciding Game 5 in Utah. The Rockets' ability to overcome adversity became more evident as the postseason wore on. They beat four 50-win squads (Utah, Phoenix, San Antonio and Orlando) to win the NBA championship, becoming the lowest seed ever to win it all.

Also in 1995, the Knicks enjoyed another strong season, with 55 wins. However, they were eliminated in seven games by the Indiana Pacers during the second round as Pacers guard Reggie Miller's 'Knick Killer' legacy continued. After the season Pat Riley bolted for the Miami Heat. The Knicks would make the finals again in 1999, but fell to the Spurs in five games.

Before this victory, only the Houston Oilers' AFL two championships at the close of the 1960 season and 1961 season and the Houston Aeros' two WHA Avco World Trophies in 1974 and 1975 repersented Houston's only professional championships. The 1994 NBA Championship represented the city of Houston's first professional championship since those two teams, and the first in a league that did not later merge.

See also


  1. ^ Araton, Harvey (June 23, 1994). "ON PRO BASKETBALL: N.B.A. FINALS; Long-Sought Title That Ewing Needed Eludes Him Again".  
  2. ^ Kalb, Elliot (2003). Who's Better, Who's Best in Basketball?: Mr. Stats Sets the Record Straight on the Top 50 NBA Players of All Time. McGraw-Hill Professional. p. 163.  
  3. ^ "Daily Dime: Special Edition The game's greatest giants ever". ESPN. March 6, 2007. Archived from the original on 25 March 2007. Retrieved April 12, 2007. He (Olajuwon) outplayed Ewing, Robinson and O'Neal to lead Houston to back-to-back titles... 
  4. ^ a b "History of the NBA Finals: Hakeem Olajuwon: The NBA’s Best In The Mid ’90s". Retrieved February 16, 2007. 
  5. ^ "Patrick Ewing Bio". NBA. Retrieved April 19, 2007. 
  6. ^ a b Beck, Howard (June 17, 2008). "Celtics Remain Mindful Of a Missed Opportunity". The New York Times. p. D2. Retrieved 20 June 2010. 
  7. ^ NBA on NBC: Game 4 of the 1994 NBA Finals (television). NBC. June 15, 1994. 
  8. ^ Zipay, Steve (June 14, 2009). 94, a vintage year for Rangers, Knicks; Rangers ended 54-year Stanley Cup drought"'". Newsday. p. A78. Retrieved September 7, 2009. 
  9. ^  
  10. ^  
  11. ^ a b Blinebury, Fran (June 13, 2004). "BELIEVE IT: 10 YEARS LATER; 'The Times of Our Lives'". The Houston Chronicle. p. 1. 
  12. ^ Hahn, Alan (June 14, 2009). "After huge effort, Knicks fall short". Newsday. p. A79. Retrieved September 7, 2009. 
  13. ^ Brett Morgen, Director (June 16, 2010).  

External links

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