Winning Time: Reggie Miller vs. The New York Knicks
It was finally on last night.
I really enjoyed it. My expectations were outrageously high. I kept talking about it with people who have absolutely no interest in it, told a number of people that I expected to cry during it, and watched the preview about fifty times.
And while Winning Time wasn’t absolutely unbelievable, it was really, really good. Great footage, compelling story, all the important participants cooperating with the producer (except Oakley, who Klores apparently could have gotten himself, but ESPN said they would get him and they blew it. Boo.) Winning Time had everything that you could want.
It also made me really sad. Not sad for the Knicks exactly. Sad for the NBA more generally. I know the basketball wasn’t great. I know that the teams didn’t win any championships. But there were rivalries. The violence was a bit excessive. I was watching with my brother and during the two-minute NBA violence montage (which I loved) he was just like “what the fuck?” He looked like someone who had witnessed an assault and was a little shaken up. But all the nastiness was worth it for the drama. There were so many great rivalries at the time. Are there any now? Is there a single one? LA-Denver? Does Orlando-Cleveland really count? Phoenix-San Antonio got pretty hot for a while. But in the 1990s-early 2000s we’re talking about Knicks-Pacers, Knicks-Bulls, Knicks-Heat, Kings-Lakers. Are we supposed to believe that Wizards-Cavs is a rivalry?
My litmus test for sports documentaries is whether my girlfriend and/or brother, neither of whom care for sports, become interested. Both did last night. Reggie Miller is pretty funny and was, not surprisingly, the star. John Starks remains a lovable nutcase (a quote: “did this guy really just did this?”). Anthony Mason has gotten amazingly fat. Riley and Brown are so slimy it’s laughable. Ewing was more engaging than I’ve ever seen him. Van Gundy was analytical and intelligent, as usual. Loved the little bonus on LJ’s four-point play at the end.
It made me pine for spring in NYC, when every weekend the Knicks were engaged in playoff war with hated enemies. I think we were all spoiled by those teams. It’s rare that when you watch sports, you know the players care as much as you do. And not just in the important spots, but every single night all season long. Those Knick teams cared. They cared enough to fight. To say fuck the world, it’s all about us. And no matter what the upcoming off-season brings, and I hope with all my might it brings back a team that is fun to watch and root for, it will not bring that attitude. That attitude has been vanquished from the NBA. The perfect coalescing of the city’s personality and the team’s attitude made the 1990s Knicks us and us them. Maybe next year’s team will also marry itself to the city’s attitude, but New York City in the 21st century has changed into a fun-loving welcome-to-all-comers town, a corporate conglomerate that puts forth a smiling face while it counts its money behind closed doors, so that grinning for the sponsors and hugging opponents before playoff games is more representative of New York City today than refusing to shake hands and knocking the other team’s best player on his ass would be. But the 1990s Knicks were Gotham City personified, and I sincerely doubt that there will ever be a team that I love more, care about more. I say here: fuck a championship, I prefer prideful death before dishonor.
The documentary was great. It made me happy, it made me sad, it reminded me of what I’m missing and made me realize I’ll never get it back. I’m going to watch Winning Time again tonight.