Original Old School: King of New York
SLAM 111: New York was Patrick Ewing’s city.
SLAM: Did you ever consider leaving school early?
PE: I thought about it after my junior year, but I had one more year and I wanted to finish my college career; enjoy it for one more year before entering the real world.
SLAM: And then they put the Lottery together when you did come. Do you think it was fixed?
PE: [Laughs] Everybody says that. They still say it. Oh shit, I’ve heard a lot of stories. That the end of the envelope was bent, or they had it in a freezer so it would be colder than the other ones. You hear a lot of different things, man. But hey, I was very happy that I wound up in New York. The only regret I have about being in New York is the fact that we never won a championship. But other than that, it was a great experience for me.
SLAM: Had you actually been to a Knicks game before?
PE: No. I mean, I didn’t grow up in New York, I grew up in Boston, so I went to some Celtics games. But I wasn’t a Knick fan growing up, I was a Philadelphia 76ers fan, with Dr. J, Dawkins and those guys. But you know, going through college, I was watching Bernard [King] doing his thing, scoring 50, 60 points, so they were at a point where they needed a few more pieces to get to the next level. And if Bernard hadn’t gotten hurt…well, if he hadn’t gotten hurt, I probably wouldn’t have gone to New York. But it would have been great to have played with him when he was rollin’.
SLAM: Yeah, it was an unfortunate twist. He was probably the most talented guy you ever played with, and it was only for six games.
PE: Actually, I never played with him. When he came back, I was hurt. I practiced with him once. I had gotten hurt, but I thought that I was healthy enough to practice. I
practiced with him that one time, and the doctors almost had a heart attack. They were like “Pat, are you crazy? You could have tore your knee or worse!” [Laughs]
SLAM: You went from becoming “the next Bill Russell” to being the best jump-shooting center in NBA history. What inspired you to add that part?
PE: Well, I’ve always been able to shoot. But in college, Coach Thompson wouldn’t let me take my jump shot. He was like, “Son, get your ass in the post. [Laughs] They pay you from the inside out. Stay your ass in there.” So I stayed in there. But I’ve always been able to shoot. It’s funny, I remember when I came to the Knicks I’m sitting around with Dick McGuire, who was the Knicks great scout, and he’s like, “Patrick, where the hell did you get that jumpshot from? I thought all you could do was block shots and rebound and run on the break and dunk?” I was like, “Dick, I’ve always been able to shoot.” It’s not something that you’re just gonna develop overnight.
But in the NBA, I mean, the offense was opened up. And when I came in, everybody was bigger than me. I was tall, but I wasn’t as strong as a lot of those guys, so they were beatin’ the hell out of me. So I stepped out on the block a little bit, developed a pump-fake drive move. But first you gotta be able to hit that shot to bring ‘em up. So I started consistently hitting my jumpshot and when they came up, I tried to go around ‘em, use my quickness. So that’s where my game developed.
SLAM: You did have that revolving door of teammates when you were with the Knicks. What do you think your best group was?
PE: I thought the best chance we had at a championship was the year when we got in the fight. The year we got in the fight with Miami-’97. We were just clickin’ at the right time, everything was goin’ well for us, thought we would have beaten the Bulls that year and would have beaten Utah. But we got in that fight and [laughs] we all got suspended.
SLAM: Do you have any regrets at all about your career?
PE: Nah. There’s some things you’d do differently, and I guess one of ‘em would be to open up more to the fans and the media. But that’s it. I thought I had a great career, a great life in New York, and I probably should have ended my career in New York instead of going elsewhere.
SLAM: I saw you said somewhere you kind of felt like you were being marginalized.
PE: Well, I asked to be traded. I just got tired of hearing all the rumblings that “The team is better off without him,” “He’s holdin’ ‘em back.” After hearing that for 15 years, at some point you get tired of it. You feel like you did your best to help this team or help build this team to what it is, and if your services are not required anymore, you go to greener pastures.
SLAM: Do you have a single best memory as a Knick?
PE: Tippin’ in that dunk and beatin’ Indiana [in the '94 Conference Finals] to finally make it to the Finals. [Ewing finished that Game 7 with 24 points and 22 rebounds.]
SLAM: Did you feel that in ’94, if you had just one more piece…
PE: You know what? Not even one more piece, just if things were different…it’s like, I stopped playing, I coached in Washington for a year, then I go to Houston with Jeff [Van Gundy]. And every day for three years I’m sittin’ in the players’ lounge eatin’ breakfast or lunch, and they have this big-ass picture of John [Starks] shootin’ that shot [at the end of Game 6] and Hakeem blockin’ it, and I’m wide open, no one on me, just runnin’ down the lane. When I first got there I called up John, like, “You mother-, I’m fuckin’ wide open! And you shot!” [Laughs] No, you know, I just joke with him, because I loved playing with John, I love the man. He’s a warrior. You know, people always call me a warrior, but John, you always know he’s gonna have your back. He’s a person when you’re going to war, you want to go with a person like him, because you know he ain’t gonna wimp out or punk out. John’s always gonna have your back.