It seemed like a zillion years ago. A 90-minute slow car speed chase with O.J. Simpson and his friend, Al Cowlings stopped everybody’s flow on a Friday night watching the NBA on NBC’s game 5 of the 1994 NBA Finals between the Houston Rockets and the New York Knicks.
Craziest part of it all?
While the Rockets’ Hakeem Olajuwon led all scorers with 27 points and 8 rebounds in game 5 against the Knicks at Madison Square Garden, his Rockets teammates were keenly aware of the chase.
Apparenty, during timeouts, players were watching the Ford Bronco/LAPD chase on television’s sitting on the scorer’s table.
“I go in the huddle, I’m like, “O.J.’s on the run,” TNT’s Inside The NBA analyst Kenny ‘The Jet’ Smith told me.
Smith was a member of the Rockets and recalls vividly how it all went down.
Head coach Rudy Tomjanovich comes into the huddle and yells: “What are you guys doing?”
“O.J.’s on the run,” Smith yelled back.
“What are you doing? We’re in the middle of the NBA Finals,” retorts Coach Tomjanovich.
According to Smith, Tomjanovich drew up a play and as players were walking back on the court after the timeout, Tomjanovich pulls Smith to the side and asks: “Is he really on the run?”
“So that’s how we found out about it,” said Smith. “It was like what the hell is on? This guy is running! Like no one ever did that.”
A Lefrak City, Queens native, it was a shock for Smith to see a an active police chace on the Los Angeles Freeway”It was going on in California, I live there now. I didn’t know about the slow speed chase; they do that all the time. In New York, they’re gonna shoot your car. So I’m like: ‘are they gonna shoot the car down?’ ‘Are they going to shoot the tires out?’“
O.J. Simpson would eventually surrender to the LAPD and would be taken into custody.
The Knicks and Rockets dueling it out on the court in the ’94 Finals was way before today’s current social media era, which means you had a better chance of undivided attention then.
But now? Forget about it!
“It definetely was a distraction,” Smith said.
Rightly so. The Knicks ended up edging the Rockets out in game 5 91-84. No worries, the Rockets won the series and were crowned 1994 NBA Finals champs.
They’d win another the following year against the Orlando Magic.