Michael Rapaport was only three years old the last time the New York Knicks won the NBA Championship.
But just as former Knicks coach Red Holzman had to stitch together two title-winning rosters in the early 1970s, Rapaport had to amass a virtual Hall Of Fame of interview subjects for his film about that dynasty, When The Garden Was Eden. The 30 for 30 documentary premieres tonight (9 ET, ESPN).
Former Knicks greats Willis Reed, Phil Jackson, Bill Bradley, Walt Frazier and Earl “The Pearl” Monroe as well as vaunted foes Jerry West and John Havlicek are among those appearing in the film. Sportscaster Marv Albert, who called Knicks games for 37 years, also is interviewed.
Rapaport, 44, directs and narrates the film. He worked on it for 14 months after being inspired by reading sportswriter Harvey Araton’s book of the same name. Rapaport credits film director Doug Ellin, co-creator of the former HBO staple “Entourage,” with suggesting Rapaport read Araton’s book as a blueprint for a documentary.
Rapaport pitched ESPN Films this idea for a 30 for 30.
“They were like, ‘If you can get the guys, we would love to do it,'” Rapaport said during his recent visit to ESPN’s Bristol, Conn. campus.
The veteran actor – who has more than 60 films to his credit – had to exclude one ESPN interview subject from the final cut – First Take commentator Stephen A. Smith (who still contributed commentary about the Knicks and the film in the bonus content video below).
In the video above, Rapaport talks about that decision, how important it was to have the support of both the NBA and ESPN for the film, and more.
Video above produced by Josh Lander