The first Knicks playoff game in eight years was met with exactly the type of excitement from New York City as you’d expect.
Fans were already going ballistic before the game as they were entering Madison Square Garden. Spike Lee was going wild once the game started. And a sea of orange and blue never quieted — at least not until the very end — as the Knicks battled the Hawks in Game 1 of their first-round battle. Trae Young’s floater with 0.9 seconds left sealed Atlanta’s win.
But somewhere outside The City That Never Sleeps, an NBA legend was snoozing while watching the must-see game.
Shaq Nods off During Knicks-Hawks
Of course the Knicks in the playoffs had New York in a frenzy. The Empire State Building even turned orange and blue and Saturday to commemorate the occasion.
Shaquille O’Neal was not impressed.
At least not with about eight minutes left in the second quarter.
The Hall of Famer and current Inside the NBA analyst was caught sleeping while watching the game. A video of Shaq’s cat nap was shown during the halftime show, during which the Inside the NBA crew had a good laugh.
“What is going on here?,” Inside the NBA analyst Kenny Smith said. “Is there sleeping gas in that room?”
“I wasn’t sleeping,” Shaq replied with a laugh. “I just got some new headphones and I was just listening to music.”
In Shaq’s defense, it’s a long day in the Inside the NBA studio when they’re covering multiple games. In fact, Charles Barkley also was caught snoozing Sunday — in the middle of the earlier game between the Philadelphia 76ers and Washington Wizards.
But really, there’s no defending Shaq’s snooze, not with The Garden rocking like it was for the Knicks’ first home playoff game in nearly 3,000 days.
“Great to hear @TheGarden back and cheering for the @nyknicks!” Jimmy Fallon, host of The Tonight Show, tweeted. “MSG crowds are the secret weapon. The SECRET WEAPON. Go New York! #NBAPlayoffs”
15,000 Pack the Garden
Capacity at MSG was capped at 1,980 fans for the final 22 games of the regular season, in accordance with state guidelines. But that figure shot up all the way to 15,000 for Sunday’s Game 1, making it one of the largest indoor crowds for a sporting event in North America since the pandemic.
“I hope everyone in sports and entertainment is listening because the public has spoken — they are fine with getting vaccinated and want to get back to the experiences they love,” Knicks owner James Dolan said in a statement, per The New York Post. “This overwhelming response by Knicks fans — almost 90% of whom are vaccinated — should silence any doubters. It’s time to start booking events and filling up our schedules, so stay tuned. We want to thank Governor Cuomo for this leap forward; he knew we could do this — not just for us, but for New York.”
Knicks star Julius Randle echoed that sentiment.
“We’re extremely excited,’’ Randle said earlier in the week, per The Post. “It’s going to be pretty packed in there. It’ll be fun, just the energy. So we went from no fans to certain amounts, an even bigger amount now. I think it’s perfect timing.’’