Remembering Charlie Ward & the 1997 Brawl Between the Knicks & Heat
If you aren’t familiar with former NBA player Charlie Ward, here’s all you really need to know. He’s one of the greatest college athletes ever and won the 1993 Heisman Trophy as the quarter back at Florida State University (Go Noles – I’m a FSU alumni too). Instead of pursuing a career in the NFL, he decided to keep dribbling to the the NBA and was drafted by the New York Knicks with the 26th pick in the 1994 NBA draft – he was also drafted by 2 MLB teams. He played 11 seasons in the NBA, mostly with the Knicks, and it was during his time in the Big Apple where his most infamous incident happened: Game 5 of the 1997 ECSF game against the rival Miami Heat.
THE 1997 KNICKS & HEAT BRAWL
The results of the fiasco was the most severe penalty in playoffs history up to that point: 5 Knicks – including their 2 leading scorers, Patrick Ewing & Allan Houston – and 1 Heat player, were suspended for game 6 of the series. John Starks and Larry Johnson were suspended for leaving the bench and Charlie Ward was suspended because it was his tussle with PJ Brown that started the brawl. Brown was suspended for 2 games since he was the one who treated Ward like a Quarterback about to be sacked.
Heat Coach Pat Riley also brought up Ward’s football days when he went on a local radio station to talk about the incident.
”Last night, New York couldn’t take their loss, and they continued right up until the last minute and a half to instigate something. As a matter of fact, there were people from the Knick bench that were telling the reserves to start something. And of course on the free throw, Charlie Ward still thinks he’s at Florida State.”
Riley’s comments pissed off the always pissed off Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy,
”If you go back and watch the film. we have our small guys in there to block out. Chris Childs and Charlie have taken six shots to the mouth each because of Alonzo Mourning and P. J. Brown.”
Knicks GM Ernie Grunfeld also released a statement sticking up for his players.
”All of our players served as peacekeepers and the reason they came out was to protect one of their own. ‘The reason they did it is the right reason. The action wasn’t right because now unfortunately they’re going to have to be suspended. But I’m proud that they stuck up for a teammate.”
All of the players were fined with Starks receiving an additional $5,000 in fines for giving fans in the crowd the middle finger.
When all of the dust and trash talking was done, the Heat went into the Garden and won game 6 and then became only the sixth team in NBA history to come back from a 3-1 deficit when they beat the Knicks 101-90 in Game 7 behind 38 points from point guard Tim Hardaway.
AFTER BASKETBALL, BACK TO FOOTBALL
As for point guard Charlie Ward, after he retired from the NBA and a short stint as an assistant with the Rockets, he became a head football coach at a Houston high school and is now a head coach back in Florida where he’s still a legend.
Source: New York Times