June 2 passed quietly Friday. The baseball teams both lost. The NBA and NHL finals took breathers. People either wrung their hands about Odell Beckham Jr. missing more voluntary workouts, or pondered wringing the necks of people who believe OBJ blowing off OTAs is OMG.
Even Knicks fans probably didn’t realize how momentous that day was, which probably is for the best. These things always are open for interpretation and subjective conjecture, of course, but you could make an argument — and I would concur with this argument — that June 2 should be circled in black in every Knicks fan’s calendar.
Because that is the anniversary of the worst loss in team history.
See? Now I’ve done it. There is no way to absolutely label the worst loss in any team’s history. Now, unless you’re the Yankees with 27 items to choose from, it is easier to target a team’s best wins:
Generally, they resulted in championships, and even then, if there is a disagreement it is happy disagreement.
Bad losses, though?
If you’re the Mets do you pick the Endy Chavez Catch Game? The Lucas Duda Throw game (also known as the Matt Harvey Game)? The Kenny Rogers Game? If you’re the Jets is it the A.J. Duhe Game? The Mark Gastineau/Bernie Kosar Game? The Doug Brien Game?
Heck, it is a contest even our most decorated fans can participate in. The Yankees have won plenty. They also have lost the Mazeroski Game, and the Luis Gonzalez Game, and the George Brett Game. The Giants? Goodness, they lost the ’58 championship game, which still haunts them almost 60 years later. They lost that crazy playoff game in San Francisco on the awful long snap.
Still, it probably is easier to pinpoint the most harrowing Knicks loss because, truthfully, there has been such a dearth of nominees through the years. The Knicks lost a tough Game 7 to the Bullets in 1971, but that was sandwiched nicely between two titles. Reggie Miller killed them so often through the years that the blood runs together in blurry recollection. The ’97 series with the Heat was hard to take, but they played short-handed in Games 6 and 7, blunting the misery.
Really, there are just two logical candidates.
One is June 19, 1994, Game 6 of the Finals versus Houston, the Knicks needing one win for a title. The Knicks trailed by seven with two minutes to go but were within two with 2 seconds left when John Starks launched a 3 from the corner. He had been spectacular, scoring 16 of his 27 points in the fourth. But his shot couldn’t elude Hakeem Olajuwon’s onrushing fingertips. The shot fell well short, the Knicks lost 86-84, then lost Game 7 three nights later.
That one still stings.
Still, it was probably the game played exactly one year and 17 days earlier that stands as the biggest gut punch, and for a number of reasons: That one was against the detested Bulls, two-time defending champs, a team that still featured Michael Jordan in his peerless prime. It was at home, at the Garden, where the Knicks hadn’t lost in four months, hadn’t lost to the Bulls in more than a year. It may well have been the best Knicks team ever assembled — the only other team ever to win 60 games was the fabled 1970 bunch.
You know what happened: The Knicks trailed by three entering the fourth quarter. They missed 15 free throws, allowing the Bulls to stay close, but still led 93-92 when Jordan found B.J. Armstrong open in the corner for a 3 that gave the Bulls a 95-93 lead. It was 95-94 when Patrick Ewing lost his footing with about 10 seconds left and found Charles Smith with a pass, three feet from the basket.
And what happened next … well, any Knicks fan older than 30 or so knows what happened next. Smith was blocked by Horace Grant.
Stripped by Jordan. Blocked by Pippen. And blocked again by Pippen. No baskets, no fouls, no dice. The Bulls won 97-94, won Game 6, won the Finals, Jordan retired (for the first time) four months later.
Friday was the 24th anniversary of that night. If you are a Knicks fan, and you felt your stomach sour involuntarily … well, now you know why. It was that bad. It still is.
Aaron Judge is one of the best things to happen to baseball around here in years. But is it really necessary for YES Network to treat every one of his batting-practice moonshots like historic events? He hits enough balls that count into outer space. Who honestly cares about the ones that don’t?
Things are rough for Mets fans right now, and fans write me all the time wondering why they should hold out hope. I always answer the way my old English professor, Dr. Jim Martine, did, quoting “Diner”: “If you don’t have big dreams, you got nightmares.”
A week without “Saul” is like a week without sunshine. Which, given the way this spring has been, is just about right.
For someone who brought so much happiness to baseball stadiums through the years, it is right that a ballpark for kids in her hometown of Little Ferry, N.J. — dedicated Friday — will be the lasting tribute to longtime Mets PR executive Shannon Dalton Forde.
Steven Schafler: Rumor has it that the Mets are in talks with Disney in an effort to replace their longtime iconic mascot, Mr. Met. Which kind of make sense for this Mickey Mouse franchise.
Vac: A word to the wise: Mickey Mouse only has four fingers per hand, too.
Joe Dunn: If people want to do waves, they should go to the beach not the ballpark. It’s beyond annoying.
Vac: On the list of “Things from 1984 we hoped we’d never see again” I think we’d have to rank it: 1. Alf; 2. The “Where’s the Beef?” lady; 3. The Wave. But I can be persuaded to move that higher.
@mlang68: You could be forced to watch the Phillies every night. The mascot here is generally inoffensive, however, unless you are Tommy Lasorda.
@MikeVacc: The Cubs mascot wears no pants. I’d start my Weird Mascots Investigations there.
Robert Lewis: The Giants should trade Odell Beckham Jr. now for a No. 1 pick while the getting is good. Just like with Jeremy Shockey, they will not win a Super Bowl with him. Too much me involved.
Vac: More than ever, I sense a huge year coming for OBJ.