MSG Network: That Championship Game Tape

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The New York Knicks won their second NBA title back in 1973. Members of the squad gathered at Madison Square Garden on April 5 for a 40th anniversary celebration of their championship season. Now, MSG Network is providing viewers with a long-lost look at their 102-93 triumph in Game 5 that clinched the crown.

MSGN found a tape of the May 10, 1973 game played at The Forum in Los Angeles from a sports video collector who made a home recording on VCR precursor Cartrivision. The network then commissioned New York film and video production house DuArt, which owns one of the defunct format’s few remaining machines, to restore the contest. Through a painstaking process, DuArt managed to produce a reconditioned tape of the game that MSGN will air on April 14 at 8 p.m., preceded by Lost and Found: The ‘73 Knicks Championship Tape. That one-hour presentation includes new interviews with some of the team’s stars, including Willis Reed, Bill Bradley, Walt "Clyde" Frazier, Bill Bradley and Earl "The Pearl" Monroe.

On Monday April 8, MSGN screened Game 5 at Clyde Frazier's Wine & Dine, with the proprietor and his backcourt mate, and fellow NBA 50 Greatest Player, Monroe, providing some on-site banter and commentary over lunch. "At last," Monroe said, upon seeing his first bucket, noting how time acts as the mind’s filter. "When you think back on the game, you don't [remember] all the mistakes that were made."

Frazier, who early on blocked a shot by league logo, an injured Jerry West, uttered “bricking” after seeing one his jumpers miss badly, not immediately summoning one of his signature couplets.

The telecast, somewhat blanched and with one first-quarter segment totally obscured, is a transport to a simpler telecast time and era for the NBA.

There are very short shorts, lots of player and ball movement and a multitude of mid-range jumpers, in the days before the league had adopted a three-point line. The acrobatics that would come to characterize today’s game may have been percolating -- to use a Clyde word -- in the rival ABA. But most of Game 5 was played decidedly below the rim, save for Wilt Chamberlain, who as Monroe pointed out appropriately enough, scored his final NBA field goal for the Lakers on a dunk in the waning moments.

Graphics and stats were sparse. Camera angles were few and replays rare. In the first quarter, a Monroe double-pump layup in which he slowed down to draw the foul against the chasing defender was shown a second time.

Afterward, Bill Russell and legendary broadcaster Bob Wolff shared the mic in a rather subdued Knicks locker room, where Frazier appeared shirtless and Phil Jackson and Bill Bradley waxed eloquent. Unlike today’s celebratory sprayfests, Monroe’s buddy, Dean “The Dream” Meminger, was the only who had to shake champagne off his head. As Frazier said in his restaurant: "There was not a lot of celebrating, because we had been there before and thought we were going to do it again."

Unfortunately for Knicks fans, that never materialized for that club or any that have donned the orange and blue since. Who knows, Carmelo Anthony and crew may be able to change that over the next couple of months or seasons. But for now, just under 40 years later, fans can get a chance to check out -- or relive -- what the culmination of a championship season looked like.

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