MA in Sports Journalism at St Mary's University

Sports Gazette

by sports journalism students at St Mary's University, London

Knicks vs Pistons 2006 — A Christmas Miracle?

Ties are uncommon in American Sports. Now, of course they happen in the NHL, or at times in the NFL — such as the exhilarating Cleveland Browns vs Pittsburgh Steelers earlier this season — but most tied games will have a winner by the end of overtime.

Though it can sometimes take not one, not two, but three overtimes to separate two teams.

A decade ago, in 2006, back when I lived in New York City with my parents and brother, my father’s side of the family visited us from France for Christmas.

It was my duty to find tickets for the eight of us to watch the New York Knicks vs the Detroit Pistons in the world’s most famous arena, the Madison Square Garden.

Unfortunately, at Christmas time, tourists want to watch a game at the Garden in numbers, so tickets are not only scarce, but expensive. I browsed StubHub and, surprisingly, I managed to find eight of them in the last row of the stadium.

It didn’t matter where the seats were, we had our one-way ticket to the Mecca in our hands, ready to live the experience of a lifetime.

The long anticipation to watch the Knickerbockers was finally over as game night had arrived. Once we entered the arena, the adrenaline was pumping.

We stood on the escalator to access the top level, but the wait was insufferable. Instead my cousins and I sprinted up the stairs as fast as toddlers run to the Christmas tree on Christmas morning to open their presents.

We had made it. We were in our seats. I was rocking my Channing Frye jersey, while we wore orange and blue foam fingers stating the phrase; ‘number 1 fans.’

The one thing we all had in common though was a Knicks orange Christmas hat on our heads ready to cheer them on.

The Knicks were underdogs in this match. Plus, while the opponents weren’t the bad boys Pistons of old, it was still a Pistons team composed of Rip Hamilton and Chauncey Billups — two key components of their 2004 championship team. Let’s just say the chances of a Knicks victory were slim.

Nevertheless, with ten seconds left in the game, the Knicks were up by three, and the chants of ‘de-fense’ erupted in the Garden crowd. Among the brouhaha, Carlos Delfino unleashed a contested three pointer that hit nothing but net. The crowd was stunned, the game was tied, 122 to 122.

Scoreboard at the start of overtime

But there were still five seconds left in regulation. Could this actually happen? Could we witness a Knicks buzzer beater at the Garden?

Jamaal Crawford — the Knicks shooting guard — brought the ball up the court, before beating his man off the dribble to take a wide-open mid-range jumper.

The crowd went silent before a collective ‘ugh’ resonated through the Garden as Crawford missed the shot. The game was heading to overtime.

While we all wanted the Knicks to win, I couldn’t help but cheer for Rip Hamilton. Indeed, with five more minutes of basketball to play, Hamilton had a chance to score 50 points.

The last player from an opposing team to drop 50 at the Garden was no other than the legend himself — Michael Jordan — widely viewed by many as the best basketball player of all-time.

Unfortunately, with overtime coming to a close, the game was tied and Billups — otherwise known as Mister Big Shot — had the ball in his hands. At that moment, it felt like the Knicks were on their way to defeat, while Rip Hamilton was going to fall just short of the 50-point mark.

Embed from Getty Images

With two seconds left on the game-clock, Billups launched a deep three, and the Garden exploded: Billups had missed. Not only was Hamilton’s 50-point game back on track, but the Knicks had a chance at victory in double overtime.

With one minute, fifteen left in double-overtime, Hamilton knocked down a long-range jumper to bring his total points up to 51. My cousins, my uncle, my brother, my dad, and I all looked at each other — astonished.

Could this night get any better?

The Knicks were in trouble, down 134 to 130 with 17 seconds left. It was fair to say, they would now need a ‘Christmas miracle’ to pull this one out of the bag.

Moments later, the Knicks had possession and a two-point deficit with the clock showing five seconds remaining. The Pistons double-teamed Crawford.

He reacted promptly as he passed the ball to Frye who caught the ball with less than two seconds left. Frye released his shot. The fans held their breath, and three distinct sounds ensued.

The first was the sound of the buzzer going off as time expired, the second was the sound of the ball swiftly hitting the net and the third was the sound of an explosion as 18,000 fans yelled at the top of their lungs. The game was headed to triple overtime.

from the left to right: cousin, cousin, me, cousin, brother, dad

Ultimately, Frye’s shot at the buzzer changed the momentum of the match once and for all. The Knicks finally detached themselves from the Pistons to emerge victorious 151 to 145.

After one buzzer-tying bucket, two missed buzzer beaters, three overtimes, and a 51-point performance, we were thankful most American sports don’t do ties.