The 1969 Chronicles: A Sports Writer's Notes  By Stan Isaacs

And of course it was. And an example of it is limned in this column about one of the highlight games during the 1969-70 regular season:

December 3: That Knick Nailbiter: Play It Once More, Red

Was the Knicks' stunning victory over Cincinnati last Friday the greatest basketball game ever played? Well, that's too tall an order for any game. But for the stuff that makes people remember an event long afterward, this wondrous game rates a high place.

The 18-game record winning streak the Knicks established in that game was snapped the next night, and the Knicks went about starting a new one by beating Seattle at the Garden last night. That Friday game, though; it's still a choice morsel on which to chew.

The game had three elements.

First, of course, was the winning streak. The Knicks of Red Hozman were trying to better the strings put together by the Washington Capitals and Boston Celtics, both coached in their time by Red Auerbach. And Cincinnati was the team which had broken the Celtics streak.

Heightening the sense of excitement Friday was the Knicks' performance two nights earlier at Atlanta on television when they put together a rip-roaring, ball-hawking, scoring exhibition that epitomized what it is that currently makes them one of the most exciting teams in all of sport. They dazzled Atlanta into the floor; if the Hawks' Walt Hazard is still sticking out of Walt Frazier's hip pocket, it's no wonder after the way Frazier gobbled him up with steal after steal after steal.

On top of the streak pile a second set of factors. There's Oscar Robertson valiantly trying to carry Cincinnati, scoring 33 points by popping in 15 of 23 tries and displaying all of his one-on-one artistry against no less than Dick Barnett and Frazier. In addition, we get Robertson fouling out with a minute and 49 seconds left, and being replaced by none other than Bob Cousy; 41-year-old coach Cousy inserting himself into the lineup, however reluctantly, because his steady old hand might be just the thing to help the Royals hold a 101-88 lead.

This was a sentimental piece of business that gave the game a new dimension. The evening was just about drenched in sentiment when, after a Knicks basket cut the lead to 101-100, Cousy made a pass to the open man, Norman Van Lier, and Van Lier sank a basket. Then Cousey was fouled. When the good old boy made both foul shots to increase the lead to 105-100 with 27 seconds remaning, it seemingly just about nailed down a schmaltzy saga of a grand old man enjoying a glorious last fling.

Now, we come to the third and most smashing element of the drama--the Knicks' rally from 105-100. Eleven seconds later, with 16 seconds remaining, Willie Reed sinks two foul shots. In the next 10 seconds, Dave DeBusschere makes a remarkable steal of Cousy's inbound pass and puts in a layup to cut the lead to 105-104. Now six seconds remain. Tom Van Arsdale then loses the ball on a dribble and amidst a mass of bodies Frazier somehow comes out of the pile with the ball and is fouled.

Frazier makes both fouls without hardly touching the cords ("Just call me ice-water-veined Frazier," he said later) and a tumultuous victory is assured.

Thinking about it all a few days later, Cousy could only play and replay his pass that was stolen by DeBusschere. Cousy analyzed that there were half-a-dozen other things he could have tried, but none seemed as wise as the attempted pass to Van Arsdale on which DeBusschere gambled and made the clutch steal.

Cousy agreed it was a most remarkable game. He said he had no time to feel any exhilaration at the time he made the two foul shots. "I was too busy thinking of the game situation and the next play. Afterwards I was just drained. The good part of this game, though, is that you don't have time to dwell on losses like that. You've got another game coming up right away."

The rest of us can savor it a little longer. A man named Andy Rock, a Garden concesionaire, is still a little befuddled. He was driving home and heard a radio news broadcast proclaim a Knicks victory. When he arrived home and turned on the Knicks telecast in time for the last few seconds (the telecast was a half-hour delayed tape) he saw Cousy's fouls, and figured that the radio newscaster had made a mistake in announcing a Knicks victory.

It was a victory all right. For all those who still have trouble believing it, or didn't see it, or would like to see it again and again, the Garden is putting on a tape of the last minutes of that epic finish during half time of the telecast of the Knicks' game at Baltimore this Friday.

* * *

Knicks May Be Shiniest of Gotham's Sports Gems Never Was a Night Like the Night Knicks Won

Home Page
1. The Amazing Mets
2. Yankee Fans
3. Music to My Ears
4. Ali & Friends
5. People Are Funny
6. The Poetry Corner
7. The Glorious Knicks
  • The Knicks Streak vs. the Bogeyman
  • DeBusschere a Hit Even Without Ball
  • Hail the Knicks: a Loosey-Goosey Group
  • Knicks Weren't Perfect, But That's Their Story
  • Walt Frazier: Mr. Entertainer
  • Knicks May Be Shiniest of Gotham's Sports Gems
  • That Knick Nailbiter: Play It Once More, Red
  • Never Was a Night Like the Night Knicks Won
  • 8. Bill Bradley & Others
    9. Horsing Around
    10. An Angry Mother
    11. Political Baseball
    12. Fun and Games
    13. The Sweet Science
    14. Baseball, Gentlemen
    15. Some Immortals
    16. A Galleria
    17. Ladies First
    18. The Irrepressible Jets
    19. The Sporting Culture

    Email Stan Isaacs