Bread City Basketball


KNICKS VS. BULLS BRAWL, 1994

It’s the Eastern Conference Semifinals, and the Knicks are rocking black sneakers for good luck. This is their shot. 1994: the year without Jordan. New York has to win now, while they can. Because whatever little fantasy MJ is living out at that moment – pretending to be a baseball player, Indian chief, astronaut, or whatever – they all know it won’t last.

And the Knicks are winning the series 2-0, when the scuffle breaks out between Derek Harper and Jo Jo English in Game 3. These teams hate one another. Pippen and Charles Smith had technical fouls before the game even started. Now the benches clear quick.

The fight goes down to the ground on some bad jiujitsu. Arms and legs everywhere. John Starks is about to throw a punch when Phil Jackson grabs him from behind. They both get tackled into the stands, and security bodies Starks up. Ewing and Pippen play the old hold me back, hold me back game. And Pat Riley’s not even mad until Derek Harper puts hands on coach’s suit.

But the best part? David Stern sits a few mere rows from the melee. He’s literally close enough to reach out and break up the fight himself, but he can’t move. The commissioner just stares, bug-eyed, into his own personal slow motion disaster reel, as both teams crush the heavy spenders sitting courtside.

New York went on to win the series in 7 games, and Jordan returned to basketball the following season.



REVISIONIST HISTORY

The image of a Klansman playing basketball popped into George “Ewok” Thompson’s head fully-formed, like an image in a dream.

What emerged was a series of paintings titled Revisionist History. Thompson (who came up as a graffiti artist) takes the race issues underlying professional basketball, and blows them up huge with confrontational irony.

Earlier this month, Bryant Gumbel called the lockout as he saw it, claiming that commissioner David Stern “has always seemed eager to be viewed as some kind of modern plantation overseer, treating NBA men as if they were his boys.” It’s weird that people find this sort of commentary shocking, when racism is the white noise underlying basketball at every level. George Thompson takes the sentiment, and runs it through a science fiction ringer.

The classical execution of these paintings only adds to their surreality. Whether it’s a portrait of a masked Klansman in the triple-threat position, or posing behind a biblical sky, the striking images create a thought-provoking alternate reality.

George "Ewok" Thompson

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