general view of madison square garden before the memphis grizzlies picture

14 Iconic Sports Moments at the Garden

Thrilling, gutsy, and improbable scenes from the hardwood, ice, and ring at MSG.

May 8, 1970: Willis Reed Plays Hurt James Drake/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images May 8, 1970: Willis Reed Plays Hurt The 1970 NBA Finals between the Knicks and the Lakers was a series to remember. The Knicks were playing for their first championship, the Lakers were playing for their sixth, and the lineups were stacked. At many points, there were seven future Hall of Famers — and one future U.S. Senator — on the floor. In Game 5, with the series tied 2-2, Knicks center and team captain Willis Reed went down with a muscle tear in his left thigh. The Knicks won the game and took the series lead, but Reed missed Game 6, and the Lakers evened it up at 3-3. When Reed emerged from the Garden tunnel just before Game 7, limping but suited up to play, the crowd erupted. The injured captain started the game, scored the Knicks’ first points, and somehow held Lakers center Wilt Chamberlain to two-of-nine shooting in the first half. He sat out the second half, but by then the game was in the bag. The Knicks won their first championship, Reed was named series MVP, and Knicks fans had a hero for the ages. March 8, 1971: Fight of the Century Herb Scharfman/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images March 8, 1971: Fight of the Century When Joe Frazier met Muhammad Ali in the "Fight of the Century" at the Garden in March 1971, he entered the ring as the reigning heavyweight champion. Fifteen rounds later, Frazier was still the champ — and Ali, who had won 31 straight pro fights and had taunted Frazier unmercifully in the months leading to the battle, lost in spectacular fashion. Frazier, relentlessly attacking all night, knocked Ali to the canvas with a thunderous left hook in the 15th round and won by unanimous decision. The two would meet again in the ring for two more legendary matches, with Ali winning both. But the 1971 match at the Garden remains, for most fans, the true Fight of the Century. June 26, 1972: Durán Wins His First Belt Bettmann/Bettmann Archive June 26, 1972: Durán Wins His First Belt Panamanian boxer Roberto Durán's "Manos de Piedra" ("Hands of Stone") led him to titles in four separate weight classes in his career — but his 1972 lightweight championship bout against the superb Scottish fighter, Ken Buchanan, at the Garden put him on the path to greatness. The fight was mired in controversy after Duran delivered what he claimed was an inadvertent low blow to Buchanan late in the match. Regardless, no one denies that for 13 rounds Duran, the night's underdog, manhandled the defending champ. Garden fans knew something had happened: Roberto Durán had arrived. October 29, 1975: Eddie Giacomin's Emotional Return B Bennett/Getty Images October 29, 1975: Eddie Giacomin's Emotional Return Canadian Eddie Giacomin remains one of the most popular athletes ever to play in the Garden. A Hall of Fame goalkeeper, he was as tough as he was skilled, and he starred for the Rangers for a full 10 years. When he was unceremoniously placed on waivers and claimed by the Detroit Red Wings in October 1975, Rangers fans were not happy. A few days later, on November 2, 1975, the Red Wings came to town. Fans at the Garden not only gave Giacomin a standing ovation, but chanted his name throughout the game. The Red Wings won — and New York fans cheered one of their own, even if he wasn't wearing a Rangers jersey. March 12, 1983: St. John's Wins One at Home Andy Hayt/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images March 12, 1983: St. John's Wins One at Home The Big East Men’s Basketball Tournament kicked off in 1980 and bounced around for a few years before finding a home in Madison Square Garden, where it’s been hosted every March since 1983. That year, in front of a sellout crowd, a group of hometown boys made good. Beloved coach Lou Carnesecca (b. Manhattan) and sharpshooting guard Chris Mullin (b. Brooklyn) led St. John’s University in Queens to victories over Pittsburgh and Villanova before upsetting Boston College, the tournament's top seed, in the championship game. The players celebrated the win, which ultimately earned them a #1 seed in the 1983 NCAA tournament, by lifting Carnesecca to their shoulders. Less than a week later, the U.S. Basketball Writers Association named him National Coach of the Year. March 8, 1986: Berry for the Block Anthony Neste/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images March 8, 1986: Berry for the Block Walter Berry, a stellar power forward for St. John's and later a solid pro player in the NBA and Europe, went by a nickname: The Truth. Dwayne Washington, a player on the perennially powerful Syracuse squad, was known as Pearl. In the Final of the 1986 Big East Tournament, with a few ticks left on the clock, Pearl made a potentially game-winning run for the basket, only to have his shot blocked by the Truth (No. 21) ― a brilliant defensive move that sealed St. John's thrilling, 70-69, come-from-behind win and gave the Red Storm its second Big East title. May 23, 1993: The Dunk Tom Berg/WireImage May 23, 1993: The Dunk In Game 2 of the 1993 Eastern Conference Finals against the Bulls, 6' 2" John Starks slammed home a dunk so monstrous that its echoes are still felt at the Garden today. With under a minute left and the Knicks up by only three, Starks started his drive from the three-point line — and never stopped. Some fans claim that The Dunk — as Starks' jam is now universally known — is only remembered so fondly because it came at the expense of the dynasty-era Bulls, and over the twin pillars of Horace Grant and Michael Jordan himself. But those haters don't have a leg to stand on. Sometimes, one instant and one inspired move is all it takes for a player to enter into legend. Starks was that player; The Dunk was his move. Long may that rim rattle. May 27, 1994: "MATTEAU! MATTEAU! MATTEAU!" B Bennett/Getty Images May 27, 1994: "MATTEAU! MATTEAU! MATTEAU!" There have been a few times in Garden history when the crowd has been so loud that it's felt as if the roof was literally going to lift right off the place. But none of those moments packed more of an emotional wallop than Rangers Stéphane Matteau's double-overtime goal in Game 7 of the 1994 Eastern Conference Finals against the formidable New Jersey Devils. The moment the puck hit the net, Rangers radio announcer Howie Rose achieved his own form of immortality with a call that can still stop the heart today: "MATTEAU! MATTEAU! MATTEAU! STÉPHANE MATTEAU!" June 14, 1994: The Stanley Cup in New York City New York Daily News Archive/NY Daily News via Getty Images June 14, 1994: The Stanley Cup in New York City Just weeks after that exhilarating win over the Devils, the Rangers won the team's first Stanley Cup in 54 years, beating the Canucks in seven games at the Garden. Captain Mark Messier, who had famously guaranteed a win over the Devils in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals, scored the winning goal in Game 7, earning himself an enduring spot in New York sports history and, after the win, starring in what might be the single best photograph of a pro athlete feeling exactly like an ecstatic little kid. May 7, 1995: 8 Points in 9 Seconds Manny Millan/Sports Illustrated/Getty Images May 7, 1995: 8 Points in 9 Seconds Between 1993 and 2000, the Knicks and the Pacers met in six playoff series. (Each team won three.) Reggie Miller quickly emerged as the Pacer that Knicks fans loved to hate, thanks in part to his stunning performance in the final minute of Game 1 of the 1995 Eastern Conference Semifinals. Trailing 105-99 with 18.7 seconds on the clock, the Pacers inbounded the ball to Miller, who hoisted a three-pointer from the left wing to cut cut the Knicks lead to three. Seconds later, Miller intercepted the Knicks inbound pass, quickly stepped back behind the line, and hit another three-pointer to tie the game with 13.2 seconds remaining. After the Pacers fouled Jon Starks, who missed a pair of free throws, the Knicks fouled Miller, who sank his to seal the game. (The Pacers went on to win the series in seven.) Fans at the Garden that night could taste victory, and Miller's magical 18 seconds remains the wound that never healed. April 30, 1998: Van Gundy Vs. Mourning New York Daily News Archive/NY Daily News via Getty Images April 30, 1998: Van Gundy Vs. Mourning Some fans found it amusing. Others were embarrassed. A few thought it was one of the bravest things they'd ever witnessed. But no one who saw Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy leave the bench to keep a fight between the Knicks and Heat from escalating will ever forget the sight of the 5' 9" Van Gundy clutching the leg of 6' 10" Alonzo Mourning and, as the New York Times put it, "polishing the floor with his jacket." Van Gundy's players, though, weren't surprised. "Man, Jeff has unbelievable heart and courage,'' Allan Houston told reporters. ''You guys just never see it.'' Amen to that. April 18, 1999: The Great One Says Goodbye Ezra Shaw/Getty Images April 18, 1999: The Great One Says Goodbye There's a simple reason Wayne Gretzky's number 99 has been retired by every team in the NHL. He is the greatest player the game has ever seen. When he played his last game at Madison Square Garden on April 18, 1999, he left on his own terms, with one of the warmest, longest ovations in Garden history raining down on him. "My last game in New York was my greatest day in hockey," he said later. "Everything you enjoy about the sport of hockey as a kid, driving to practice with mom and dad … looking in the stands and seeing your mom and dad and your friends, that all came together in that last game in New York." March 12, 2009: Six Overtimes Jim McIsaac/Getty Images March 12, 2009: Six Overtimes When the 2009 Big East Tournament quarterfinal between Syracuse and UConn tipped off at 9:36 pm on Thursday, March 12, most of the 19,375 fans in attendance probably figured that, win or lose, they’d be filing out of the Garden by midnight. Instead, they ended up watching the second-longest and second-highest-scoring game in college basketball history. At 1:22 am on Friday, after 6 overtimes, the Orangemen emerged victorious. Once again, the Garden served up not only a breathtaking game but a (lenghty) chapter for the sports-history books. February 2012: LINSANITY Chris Trotman/Getty Images February 2012: LINSANITY A three-time All-Ivy point guard for the Harvard Crimson, Jeremy Lin regularly lit up Lavietes Pavillion, but it was a long way from Harvard Yard to Madison Square Garden. Undrafted in 2010, Lin parlayed a spot on the Dallas Mavericks Summer League team into a two-year contract with the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors waived him in December 2011, and he was briefly picked up by the Houston Rockets before landing with the Knicks. In February 2012, New York — and the rest of the world — went crazy for him. In his first 12 starts for the Knicks, he averaged an incredible 22.5 points and 8.7 assists, electrifying Garden fans and hoops fans everywhere. He appeared on the cover of Time magazine and two consecutive issues of Sports Illustrated, and when the Knicks began selling Lin jerseys on their online store, sales and traffic shot up more than 3,000 percent. A knee injury cut his amazing season short, and he returned to the Rockets in the offseason, but the memory of Linsanity lives on.