This Day In Throwback: Kevin Johnson Elbowed Doc Rivers In The Chest And A Knicks-Suns Donnybrook Ensued

In an alternate universe, the New York Knicks would have matched up with the Phoenix Suns to face-off for the NBA title for the 1992-93 season. The Chicago Bulls would instead represent the Eastern Conference for the third consecutive season.

The Suns, led by their mercurial superstar Charles Barkley, would finish with the league’s best record by tallying 62 wins. Barkley would win the league’s Most Valuable Player award that season due to his two-way dominance — the Suns forward averaged 25.6 points, 12.2 rebounds and 5.1 assists — and the fact that the league decided to stop giving the award to Michael Jordan*. Paired with Barkley were three-time All-Stars Kevin Johnson and Dan Majerle, and Phoenix were worthy challengers to the throne.

The Knicks, not the Bulls, would garner the No. 1 seed in the East by winning 61 games. Patrick Ewing, not 1992-93 NBA Defensive Player of the Year Hakeem Olajuwon, would lead the league in defensive win shares (8.1), defensive rating (94.3) and defensive rebounds (9.7). Also, Pat Riley had turned the Knickerbockers into the New World Order during their peak in the Monday Night Wars, as leading the league in defensive field goal percentage and three-point percentage mean there were no easy buckets happening against Ewing, Anthony Mason and Charles Oakley.

So if there were ever a moment that would represent what a seven-game series between these two teams would look like, let me present to you their regular season contest in Phoenix on March 23, 1993.

There’s so much to discuss here. Let’s just break down the entire 2:29 clip.

    • Linda Cohn is amazing, did you hear that setup? “But they had a fight on their hands?” Chef’s kiss.
    • Kevin Johnson, who later on in life would become the Mayor of Sacramento, delivered some diplomatic relations to Doc Rivers.
    • Rivers, in retaliation, was ready to let Johnson know that the fight had officially started. Johnson, for some reason, did not know that the fight had officially started.
    • Riley, arguably the best-dressed man in the history of the NBA, form tackled Johnson and ripped his suit pants in the process. That’s how you earn that Godfather status.
    • Greg Anthony, a man who once served as the vice-chairman of Nevada’s Young Republicans, wore an egregiously flowered shirt to the game as he was not suited up. Somehow, he was ejected from the game twice.
    • The Knicks garnered 12 technical fouls during the game. Barkley, ever the showman, even tried to call a technical foul on them. He was later called for a technical foul
    • Oh, the Suns would go on to beat the Knicks 121-92.

“I’ve never seen anything like that in all my 27 years in the league,” Suns president Jerry Colangelo said via the New York Times. “It looked like it was going out of control. It got a little scary there for a minute. There was a point where it seemed like the officials had things calmed down, but when Anthony came off the bench, then it really broke loose.”

What Johnson said about Anthony made me fall out of my seat.

“He should be suspended for the rest of the year,” Johnson said of Anthony via the New York Times. “How can some scrub come off the bench in street clothes and take a cheap shot. I set a good pick on Doc Rivers. He got flattened, I didn’t try to hurt him. He chased me. You can live with all that. But I really want to know what the league office is going to do with this Greg Anthony guy.”

Seriously…why couldn’t we get seven games of THIS?

Imaging the Suns and Knicks squaring off conjures up plenty of ideas in one’s head. If you gave me the option to bet on my favorite team to win a fight against either of these two teams in 1993, I would not have liked my odds. And if we’re being honest, it’s a bit of a shame. Jordan and the Bulls ran roughshod over the league for eight seasons, and outside of his nearly two-season long sabbatical, stars like Barkley and Ewing were deserving of more swings for the ultimate throne.

Too bad MJ had to be so damn selfish for the third season in a row.

*This is not a true statement about the NBA and Michael Jordan. Yet, we all know and accept it as a true and this asterisk is to make sure that litigation doesn’t rain on our heads.

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