Slamadamonth, SLAM #21: Patrick Ewing

Originally published in SLAM 21

For the past five years, two words have haunted Patrick Ewing and the New York Knicks “What if…” What if Michael Jordan hadn’t burned the Knicks backcourt for 42 in game seven of the 92 Eastern Conference Semifinals? What if Charles Smith hadn’t turned pussy against Chicago in ‘93? What if John Starks hadn’t shot 2-18 (0-11 from three) in the ‘94 Finals? What if Reggie Miller hadn’t gone bezerk in Game Seven of the ’95 Eastern Conference Semis? This year, with three new starters and a trio of promising rookies, Ewing and the Knicks were supposed to finally put all those “what-ifs,” to rest.

The Knicks easily swept first round playoff opponent Charlotte. Next victim: Miami.

New York led late in Game One, and most of the capacity crowd had gone home. But Ewing still needed to make a statement. After a Miami brick, Ewing broke downcourt with Timmy Hardaway in pursuit. Bug looking ahead, saw a teammate waiting in the paint and jumped out to double point g Chris Childs, who had the ball. Childs swung it to L.J., who saw a wide open Ewing, waving his arms. Ewing wanted the ball badly.

You see, a good coach, and solid bench, a few breaks here and there—all can get you Ws in the regular season. Come playoff time, what separates the boys from the men is heart, desire, that burning hunger to win.

Another famed Georgetown center this out first-hand. Patrick Ewing and Alonzo Mourning play the same position, wear the same number, even played for the same pro coach—but that’s where the similarities end. When it comes to the big time, one is a man—a hungry man—and one is still a boy.

With Mourning waiting under the hoop, Pat pivoted along the baseline, dribbled once and threw it down. Hard. Emphatically. No what—ifs .

The Knicks went on to win the game, 88-79, the first step in taking a 3-1 series lead, before Rod Thorn and company had to play Joe Clark (Lean On Me) and leave New York Fans wondering, once again, “What if…”

Joe Grossberg