Connect with us

Knicks History

Revisiting the 98-99 Knicks: A Championship Contender or Underperformer?

98-99 Knicks Roster

The 98-99 Knicks roster and season was truly one for the books. It was a year filled with drama, excitement, and unexpected twists and turns. The lockout that lasted into mid-January created uncertainty for the team and the league as a whole, but the Knicks were able to come out on top and make a run for the playoffs. Their winning streak at the end of the season was nothing short of remarkable, and it propelled them to an unlikely first ever 8th seed in the NBA finals.

This team was full of characters, from the fiery Latrell Sprewell to the steady hand of Allan Houston. The 1998-1999 Knicks were a true reflection of the city they represented – tough, resilient, and always fighting to come out on top. They were led by head coach Jeff Van Gundy, who was able to bring out the best in each player. He created a cohesive unit that was greater than the sum of its parts.

It’s hard to overstate the impact this team had on the city of New York and the NBA as a whole. They captured the hearts of fans and inspired a new generation of basketball players. It’s no surprise that the 98-99 Knicks season is still talked about today and will likely be the subject of a “Winning Time” HBO Max special in the near future. This was a team that truly embodied the spirit of New York Knick basketball, and it’s a season that will forever be remembered in the annals of basketball history.

The excitement of the 1998-99 season can be captured with one Jeff Van Gundy quote.

“one Allan Houston shot saved jobs and altered lives.”

Jeff Van Gundy

Summary of the 1999 Knicks roster

The 1999 Knicks roster marked a record of 27-23, earning them a fourth place finish in the NBA Atlantic Division and the 8th seed in the Eastern Conference. Despite the limited number of games played due to the lockout, the team was able to make a strong showing and secure a spot in the playoffs.

Head coach Jeff Van Gundy led the team with a strong defensive mindset. The Knicks were not always the most talented team on the floor, but they were a team that exemplified the gritty, hard-nosed style of basketball that defined the 1990s in New York. They were a team that knew how to grind out wins and make the most of their abilities.

Under Van Gundy’s leadership, the Knicks were able to create a defensive system that was hard to break down. They were a team that was able to disrupt their opponents’ offense and make it difficult for them to score. The Knicks were not a team that relied on flashy plays or individual scoring, but they were a team that played together as one unit, relying on their defense to win games. It was a style of play that was uniquely New York. A style that the fans loved.

Who was on the 98-99 Knicks roster?

The Knicks had the most expensive lineup in the league and more than doubled that of any other team. A roster that culminated into the following 1998-1999 Knicks roster.

Knicks players with the most starts:

  • 21 – Charlie Ward PG
  • 20 – Allan Houston SG
  • 8 – Latrell Sprewell SF
  • 40 – Kurt Thomas PF
  • 2 – Larry Johnson PF
  • 14 – Chris Dudley C
  • 33 – Patrick Ewing C

Important bench and rotation players:

  • 23 – Marcus Camby C
  • 1 – Chris Childs PG
  • 3 – Dennis Scott SF

End of the bench with little playing time:

  • 4 – Ben Davis PF
  • 32 – Herb Williams C
  • 26 – David Wingate SG

The drama of the 98-99 Knicks season

The 98-99 Knicks roster was full of story lines. It was the end of one of the greatest eras in New York Basketball history. It involved new faces that took the place of the old, but players that still adopted the grit of the city.

To begin the 98-99 season, then GM Ernie Grunfeld, retooled the roster around Patrick Ewing, as the 90’s Knicks team was reaching the wrong side of 30. Trades of Charles Oakley for Marcus Camby and John Starks for Latrell Sprewell headlined the 98-99 Knicks roster into the season.

Sprewell, at the time was 28, prior to joining the Knicks, was suspended for attempting to choke out P.J Carlesimo…twice. He has butted heads with Carlesimo many times since he was hired in Oakland and as a result found his way to the Knicks. He began to adopt the title as a villain, making him perfect for this Knicks team.

The lockout forced the team to schedule their own training runs. Nothing formal, but it was enough to get them into shape and prepare them for the season. With the lockout bleeding into January, it ultimately came down to money and this forced the season back into action.

No team since the 98-99 Knicks, has anyone from an 8th seed made it all the way to an NBA Finals. A feat that captured hearts of the city. The 6-2 record to reach the playoffs provided an additional storyline for the season – a matchup with former New York Knicks head coach, Pat Riley. It was as though Hollywood created this season!

A season that was not short of any drama

1999 Knicks Playoff Journey to the NBA Finals

As you now know, this season was not a pretty one for the for the 1999 Knicks roster. Although, does it really matter how you get there? A trip to the NBA finals, is a trip to the NBA finals.

This is 1999 Knicks playoff journey:

  • Won NBA Eastern Conference First Round (3-2) v Miami Heat
  • Won NBA Eastern Conference Semifinals (4-0) v Atlanta Hawks
  • Won NBA Eastern Conference Finals (4-2) v Indiana Pacers
  • Lost NBA Finals (1-4) v San Antonio Spurs

It was a journey that led to some of the most incredible moments in team history.

During the first round playoff matchup against the #1 seed Miami Heat, Allan Houston hit a massive shot to complete the upset.

Fast forward to the 1999 Eastern Conference Finals against the Indiana Pacers. Arguably the greatest all-time game winner happens from Larry Johnson. Down 88-91, Johnson makes a miracle four point play to beat the Pacers.

The goal for 1999 New York Knicks was ultimately never reached. They did not win the NBA finals in 1999. It was injuries, the grind of the playoff journey and a talented San Antonio Spurs team that derailed one of the most exciting seasons of all time.

While they did not reach the promise land, the 1998-99 New York Knicks was a team that brought the city together. The memory and story of the season will go down in Knicks history.

Related: Difference between unprotected and protected NBA draft picks explained

Continue Reading