Skip to main content

Phil Jackson vs. orange vest MSG workers -- the depths of the Knicks-Bulls iconic rivalry

Phil Jackson Knicks-Bulls rivalry

Phil Jackson Knicks-Bulls rivalry

“We hated each other. It was extremely physical. It wasn’t really a foul until you drew blood," is how Patrick Ewing described the Bulls-Knicks rivalry in The Last Dance. But just how deep one of the most iconic basketball rivalries really was is best described in a segment from Chris Herring's Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks.

Bulls vs. MSG personnel

Amid the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals, the world's most famous arena hosted the world's most famous basketball team going for its third straight NBA championship. The Knicks, hunting for their first NBA title since 1973, were the last conference hurdle standing in the way of the Bulls' blossom into a dynasty. And the entire city -- MSG personnel included -- wanted to make sure that didn't happen.

So during Chicago's morning shootaround at Madison Square Garden, one meant to be off-limits to everyone but the Bulls, an irritating sound started echoing through the arena.

"A few men in hard hats and orange vests were standing in the arena's 300-level concourse, making obnoxiously loud alterations to pieces of steel with sledgehammers high above the court for some reason," Herring writes. "Which had been fine—annoying, but fine—while the Bulls were merely getting loose. But now, as they were going over the particular details of their defensive scheme with assistant Johnny Bach, they actually needed some quiet."

Two-time NBA champions going through defensive tactics in silence seems like a guaranteed right. But with the stakes so high, and their arch-nemesis on the other side, the Knicks went out their way to deprive them of it. Until Phil Jackson decided he's had enough.

Scroll to Continue

Recommended Articles

“Hey!” Jackson yelled. “We've got practice! Can you stop for a bit? You're not supposed to be here!”

Chris Herring, Blood in the Garden: The Flagrant History of the 1990s New York Knicks.

"There was a brief silence that hung in the arena after Jackson's request," Herring continues. "After a few seconds of thinking Jackson's request over, a member of, the small group responded to the coach. 'F--k you!' he shouted down to Jackson, as the men kept sledgehammering during the walk-through."

The NBA is better when the Knicks are good

The moment, with all its farcicalness, perfectly summed up New York's city commitment to the city's franchise. The same goes for the Bulls-Knicks rivalry -- at some point, it became much more than two teams trying to outscore each other game in and game out.

And while it's obvious who won that battle -- Michael Jordan and the Bulls knocked the Knicks out of the playoffs five times between 1989-1996 -- the side who got the most out of the iconic rivalry might be the city of New York, especially from today's perspective.

An iconic organization, bouncing between Draft lottery, free agency depressions, and apparent playoff contention for decades -- except for the 70s -- finally had a team good enough to go all the way. Had it not been for arguably the greatest team ever, they probably would've lifted the trophy. But the justified optimism alone made the Knicks into what everyone keeps saying they are; one of the greatest sports organizations ever.

The NBA is better when the Knicks are good. During the 90s, they were good. They just weren't good enough. But it wasn't for lack of trying, and I mean by everyone -- players, coaches, men with hard hats and orange vests...

Grant Hill recalls competing against the original Dream Team

Grant Hill recalls beating the original Dream Team in a scrimmage game: "We already knew that no one would believe us if we told them"

Grant Hill reflects what it meant for him and other college players when they actually beat the original Dream Team before the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona in a scrimmage game

WWE star Logan Paul and Dwight Howard

WWE legend Triple H’s dare to Dwight Howard: “Be like Logan Paul, Bad Bunny, Tyson Fury”

Dwight Howard doesn't just want to be a run-of-the-mill professional wrestler.

Minnesota Timberwolves forward Kevin Garnett

"I’m still a Timberwolf until I die, as I am a Celtic" - Kevin Garnett addresses rift with Minnesota Timberwolves

Kevin Garnett is not in good terms with the Minnesota Timberwolves but his love for the city has never changed.

Cleveland Cavaliers forward Kevin Love

"It's a way to really challenge yourself" — Kevin Love talks about the hardest workout he's ever done

Kevin Love revealed the hardest workout he has ever done and it doesn't have anything to do with basketball.

BYU Cougars guard Jimmer Fredette shoots over San Diego State Aztecs forward Kawhi Leonard

“He said some things” — Jimmer Fredette on Kawhi Leonard's trash talk

En route to a 72-54 win, Kawhi Leonard approached Jimmer Fredette and talked smack to him.


Boban Marjanovic doesn't think LeBron James is "the strongest player" in the league: 'It depends on what you measure'

Boban Marjanovic thinks it's impossible to hail LeBron James or anybody as the strongest player in the league there are a lot of factors to consider in measuring strength.

Yao Ming & Steve Francis

"It was me who was bothered by it" - Steve Francis on Yao Ming's transition to NBA

Steve Francis thought Yao Ming will succumb to the pressures of being an NBA star, but he was proven wrong.


The Sixers reportedly almost drafted Kobe Bryant to team up with Allen Iverson in 1996

Drafting Kobe and AI in the same draft would've been the best draft a team had in NBA history.