Heart of the City
Patrick Ewing speaks on the return of his sneaker company and more.
by Nima Zarrabi / @NZbeFree
The legacy that legendary Jamaican-born big man Patrick Ewing built over the course of his remarkable stay at Georgetown and Hall of Fame career with the New York Knicks continues to be celebrated worldwide through a demand for products with his name attached to them. In 2012, the full-time NBA assistant coach re-launched Ewing Athletics—his own independent sneaker company that flourished in its first incarnation during the early ’90s—to the delight of sneakerheads worldwide. In its day, Ewing Athletics released 20 models before shutting down in ’96 due to internal problems within the company; and now, the company is once again flourishing.
We recently had a chance to speak with Ewing, the owner of career NBA averages of 21 ppg, 9.8 rpg and 2.4 bpg and beloved from Kingston to DC to Manhattan because of it, on the current retro craze. He’s still reticent with us media folks, but it’s always cool to catch up with him.
SLAM: When you’re going around New York City or at Madison Square Garden as a fan, coach or TV analyst, do you notice a lot of people wearing your old Knicks jersey?
Patrick Ewing: Yeah, I still see people wearing it. It feels good to still get love from the fans.
SLAM: What do you think about Mitchell & Ness releasing a fresh edition of your retro Knicks jersey this year?
PE: It’s OK.
SLAM: The re-release of the Ewing line created a lot of buzz in the sneaker industry and appears to have been a success. Are you happy with the response?
PE: I think it’s been great. It showed that there is still a demand for the shoes. People have been asking me to re-release them for years, but the way things ended with the company in the late ’90s made me not want to go back through that again. But the guys I have partnered with had been working to get me to do this for about three or four years now. They finally wore me down and we did it.
SLAM: You picked an opportune moment—just like with all the love around throwback jerseys and snapback hats these days, people can’t seem to get enough retro basketball sneaks right now.
PE: It was the right time. Like you said, the demand for these products is out there so why not capitalize on this thing? I have a great name, a great shoe and there’s a demand for it, so why not? I knew the demand was there for them because so many people would tell me they wore the shoes growing up and wondered if we would come back out with it—a lot of people, no matter where I was. My shoe did extremely well not only in America but worldwide. It did very well in Canada, in the Islands, it did very well in the Philippines, Brazil and Europe—we did well all over.
SLAM: Did you enjoy speaking with some of the sneakerheads who showed up at your appearance for the release?
PE: Yes, we talked about the way things used to be. They’d talk about wearing the shoes, growing up and how much they liked them. It just brought back memories.
SLAM: What are your goals moving forward with the brand?
PE: To keep on growing it. We want to take our time and not be a one-hit wonder. We want this to last for a long time.
SLAM: You must laugh when you hear the old saying, “Big men can’t sell shoes.”
PE: I do laugh—I’m one of the big men who did sell shoes.