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From the press box: The Knicks, the Chase and the 'O.J. Game'

A white Ford Bronco, driven by Al Cowlings

A white Ford Bronco, driven by Al Cowlings carrying O.J. Simpson, is trailed by Los Angeles police cars as it travels on a freeway in Los Angeles on June 17, 1994. Credit: AP/Joseph R. Villarin

I covered the O.J. game.

Covered may be too strong. I was a sidebar writer for the North Jersey Herald News that night, assigned to Game 5 of the Rockets-Knicks series in the 1994 NBA Finals. It was one of my first NBA games as a sportswriter, and the atmosphere was incredible.

I was a 24-year-old basketball junkie at the sport's biggest event, sitting in the auxiliary press area in Madison Square Garden — pre-renovation — with one eye on the action on the court and the other on the monitor to my right that was showing a white Ford Bronco driving on a Southern California highway.

June 17, 1994. The night former football great O.J. Simpson, accused of a double homicide, was in the Bronco driven by Al Cowlings, who led the police on the infamous chase that overshadowed Game 5.

The Knicks won the game to take a 3-2 series lead. I believe I wrote about Patrick Ewing’s defense. He blocked eight shots, but he couldn’t stop a bizarre moment during the postgame news conference.

The news conferences for big events were held in what was known as the Rotunda, the area in which they kept the elephants and other animals when Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was at the Garden. It also was one of the ways fans could exit the building.

One fan got in the news conference and was able to ask then-Knicks coach Pat Riley a question. It went something like this: “Hey Pat, if O.J. would have made a left instead of a right, do you think he would have gotten away?”

Riley looked confused and didn’t know what to say. The fan was escorted out by security. The news conference continued in what was a crazy night inside the Garden.

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