MLK Day and the Trent Tucker Rule

Here it is.

As I celebrated by jumping around my room, I had little idea that history was just made, or the ultimate price the Knicks would pay down the road.

The Bulls later filed an official protest with the NBA about the play. By their estimate, the play took closer to 0.4 seconds. However, timekeeper Bob Billings and referee Ronnie Nunn, who were working that game, claimed everything went perfectly fine. The protest was disallowed.

Then NBA Vice President of Operations Rod Thorn was the only NBA executive to side with the Bulls. (Thorn was once the general manager of the Bulls.) Thorn argued that it was physically impossible for a player to receive an inbounds pass and release it for a shot in less than a tenth of a second. He pointed out that tests in European basketball leagues, which had used the tenths-of-a-second clock for many years (the NBA had just adopted it for 1989-90), proved that a catch-and-shoot takes at least three-tenths of a second.

This became the backbone for the time requirements of the new rule. Teams with the possession of the ball with less than 00.3 left now only have the option of trying a tip shot like the one that the Knicks were going to try before Tucker’s shot.

While we now know how that game affected NBA history, the effect it had on both the Knicks and Bulls is very ironic.

After the Knicks won that day, they held a record of 26-10, good enough for first in the Eastern Conference (1 1/2 games ahead of Detroit) and second-best in the NBA, which included an NBA best 17-1 record at Madison Square Garden.

The Knicks looked to be a major contender to the defending champion Detroit Pistons, who were 25-12 (second in the East) at the time and had lost four of their last six games against the Knicks. The Bulls fell to 25-13 after the loss, dropping 1 ½ games behind the Pistons and three games behind the Knicks.

Despite their gift of good fortune from the NBA gods, karma proved to be the ultimate outcome in the events that day.

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