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Remembering the 1999 NBA finals

The summer of 1999 was a glorious time for the San Antonio Spurs franchise. It marked the beginning of their dynasty run with their first NBA title at the expense of the New York Knicks.

That season, San Antonio Spurs broke out for their first-ever NBA championship. It came during the lockout-shortened season, the first of two over the past two decades. This team was led by dominant interior players that brought the organization into its golden age.

The usual suspects, Tim Duncan, David Robinson, Sean Elliott, and Avery Johnson paced the Spurs that season. It was a great team effort. Everyone excelled at the particular role they were given. Good shooting by Jaren Jackson, Mario Elie, Steve Kerr, and Antonio Daniels. While Malik Rose, Jerome Kersey, and Will Perdue crashed the boards down low.

The New York Knicks entered the playoffs as the number eight seed in the Eastern Conference. Six weeks later, they’d done what no team ranked that low had ever done before – reach the NBA Finals.

So there they were on June 16, 1999, Game 1 of the 1998-99 NBA Finals. The Spurs would clash with the New York Knicks. Over 35,000 screaming fans packed into the Alamodome. San Antonio would take the first two games at home pretty handily and were only 2 games away from a world title.

Allan Houston and Latrell Sprewell were quite the tandem, with help from Marcus Camby, Larry Johnson, and Kurt Thomas. They won Game 3 in New York, beating the Spurs 89-81, giving San Antonio their second loss of that postseason.

Spurs would win the next two games in New York, taking the series 4-1. The Spurs hoisted the trophy that night, June 25, 1999. The twin towers, David Robinson and Tim Duncan would win the first of two championships together (’99 & ’03)

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And as sweet as those memories may be for San Antonio, for former Knick Latrell Sprewell, it is something he still cannot get over. Sprewell admits he is still haunted by the Finals loss to the Spurs and is left wondering what could have been.

“Going against David Robinson and Tim Duncan, we needed Patrick,” he admitted. “We were at a disadvantage, that’s the one thing that sticks out for me is wondering what those finals would’ve been like if we had Patrick…I still think about it.

Having Ewing on the court would have helped the Knicks get another win or make the games a bit more intriguing but he alone would not have been enough to stop Robinson and Duncan. Or even help New York win the series.

Nothing was ever easy for the Knicks this season. Everything they went through was made harder once Patrick Ewing went down after Game 2 of their Eastern Conference final against Indiana. He had told the team to ''get me my ring.'' But the Knicks were one 7-footer short against San Antonio.

Robinson was still a force on the court and Duncan was just obliterating any defender who got in his way. They were the "Twin Towers"! Ewing would have had his hands full trying to defend the paint against that duo.

Their improbable run to the NBA’s showpiece event had given the Knicks a real belief that they could do the unthinkable and claim the championship. They were embracing the role of unlikely heroes and playing out their own ‘ugly’ version of a Cinderella story.

But there would be no fairytale ending for Van Gundy, Ewing, and co. They’d beaten the odds to get to the Finals but, in five games against the San Antonio Spurs, they could only beat Gregg Popovich’s men once.

That Spurs team was just seemingly unstoppable as they marched to the Finals. Ewing would not have been a series-changer for the Knicks. While disappointed by the finish to the half, the Knicks were within striking distance.

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