African-American History Month Day 26 – Patrick Ewing
Many older basketball fans remember Patrick Ewing from his collegiate days, anchoring the interior defense for Georgetown University’s men’s basketball team. Maybe some even chuckled when they heard the phrase “Hoya Paranoia”. The image of Ewing, glowering in a grey t-shirt under his jersey, is etched into the memories of many basketball fans.
To see him now in a suit, on the sideline of the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats as associate head coach, is a glimpse into the character of a man who wants to give back to the game that gave him so much. One of the last great two-way low post players, Ewing is still an influence in the game.
Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Ewing came to America to live with family when he was 12 years old. After going to (and playing basketball for) Rindge and Latin High in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Ewing’s recruitment was heavily tracked. When he signed with Georgetown, it ushered in an age of Hoya dominance in the Big East Conference. In his four years in college (1981-85), Ewing’s teams went to three Final Fours, winning the national title in 1984.
The Hoyas’ trademark was a suffocating defense that clamped down on all comers. Ewing was the foundation of that defense, the type of intimidating backstop that allowed perimeter defenders to extend their coverage of the court. With Ewing swatting shots as the last line of defense, teammates who were good defenders played even better. Also while at Georgetown, Ewing was a solid, engaged student, and he also became a U.S. citizen.
While in college, Ewing was a three-time consensus first-team All-American, two-time Big East Player of the Year, and National Player of the Year in 1985. In college, he averaged 19.9 points, 12 rebounds and 4.5 blocked shots per game during those four years. He also graduated from Georgetown with a degree in Fine Arts (Class of ’85).
After finishing his eligibility at Georgetown, Ewing was once again the object of desire for several teams, this time teams on the professional level. 1985 was the first year of the NBA Draft Lottery, and Ewing was the prize. He was considered the best talent in the draft, and the one player that would profoundly change the future of whichever team won his rights in the lottery. Fortunately for the New York Knicks, they were the team who won that lottery.
Ewing suddenly took a Knicks team from also-ran to title contender. They reached the NBA Finals once in Ewing’s tenure (1994). If not for a certain Houston Rockets’ team (and an opponent named Hakeem Olajuwon), perhaps Ewing would have been able to add an NBA title to his NCAA championship resume.
In his pro career (1985-2002), Ewing was Rookie of the Year (1986), an 11-time All-Star, and was the Knicks’ all-time leading scorer (23,665 points). With 1,039 games played as a Knick, he is the only player in team history to pass the 1,000-game plateau. Ewing finished his pro career with stops in Seattle (2000-01) and Orlando (2001-02).
In 1992, at the Barcelona Summer Olympic Games, Ewing was a part of that fabled “Dream Team”, the best assemblage of basketball talent ever seen. Ewing used his skill as a low-post player to bolster that team’s dominance. Ewing had been a member of the gold-medal-winning men’s basketball team in 1984 (Los Angeles), but 1992 was different. The Soviet Union and Hungary withdrew their teams prior to the games in 1984. In 1992, the best players in the world were gathered in Barcelona, and Ewing’s team proved to be the best ever.
In 1996, Ewing was honored with selection to the list of 50 Greatest Players in NBA History. With his success at the collegiate, professional and Olympic levels, Ewing was
an obvious choice for the Basketball Hall of Fame. He was the rare player who is a two-time selectee: for his individual career (2008) and his participation with the “Dream Team (2010).
As of today, Ewing is 10th in NBA history in career defensive rebounds (8,855), 25th in career total rebounds (11,607) and 7th in career blocked shots (2,894). He finished his pro career averaging 21 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocked shots per game.
Patrick Ewing earned his place among the greats of the game. His is a true American success story – coming up from a humble beginning, using his God-given gifts to the best of his ability, and having an impact at the top of his chosen profession. Ewing demonstrated in his career a tenacity and commitment second to none.
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