This Day in NY History, June 22

June 22, 2011 Updated: June 22, 2011

1938: Boxing Rematch Between German and American: African-American Joe Louis and German Max Schmeling met for a rematch at Yankees Stadium. The event, lasting two minutes and four seconds, is believed to have had the largest audience for any radio broadcast in history, with 70 million people tuned in for the bout. The two men had previously boxed in 1936, with Schmeling besting the undefeated Louis. Preceding World War II by a little over a year, Germany used the fight as a propaganda tool. Dr. Joseph Goebbels congratulated Hitler after the first fight, seemingly proving the theory of “Aryan Supremacy.” President Franklin D. Roosevelt hosted Louis at the White House before the rematch, telling him his muscles were needed for democracy. Louis quickly pummeled Schmeling as a crowd of over 70,000 people voiced their support. Coming a few months after Hitler’s army marched into Austria, the victory was seen as one for freedom, and dispelling racist beliefs.

1994: Rockets Best Knicks in NBA Championship: The Knicks steadily improved under Pat Riley’s coaching, starting in 1992. In 1994, with Michael Jordan retired, the path seemed cleared from the previous season’s defeat in the Eastern Conference finals at the hands of the Bulls. To emphasize this opportunity, Riley even had his team start at 12:01 am on the first day teams were permitted to practice. Talent and hard work paid off: the Knicks reached the NBA Finals after beating the Pacers in a seven game series, led by Patrick Ewing, Charles Oakley, and John Starks. The Houston Rockets, led by Hakeem Olajuwon, had home court advantage in the series. The series was characterized as low-scoring, with both sides playing good defense. Five games in, the Knicks were up three games to two, and had even planned how the trophy ceremony would go and had purchased champagne. The celebration never materialized: the Rockets won the last two games on their home court.

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