NBA 75: About Patrick Ewing, the ring is not the thing
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The NBA celebrates the players on the NBA 75 roster almost daily by the end of the season. Today’s winner is longtime Knicks star Patrick Ewing. This column on Ewing originally appeared in the September 30, 2002, issue of The Sporting News.
Patrick Ewing has never won an NBA championship. Sing it, memorize it, write it 150 times on the board, tattoo it on his forehead. That’s a fact, and in the twisted web of human opinion – not to mention the even more twisted web of human sports fans – that’s all that seems to matter. On the day Patrick Ewing announced he would no longer play in the NBA, the array of sports reports on the evening news and talk show commentary featured a pat on the back followed by the inevitable slap in the face: Pat Ewing? Good player, never won the big one.
There are standard arguments that transcend the boundaries of any sport, and with Ewing’s official retirement, one of those most enduring arguments resurfaces: What good is a great player if he has never won a championship? That’s the problem with Ewing, and it’s one that NBA fans should get used to. There are a slew of ’90s NBA greats approaching discount bus fare status, and most of these guys will be retiring without league-issued jewelry. It’s just a consequence of playing in the same decade as Michael Jordan and the Bulls, but it does mean that when Karl Malone, John Stockton, Alonzo Mourning, and Reggie Miller hang up on high tops over the next two years, there will also have a lot of talk about their failure to win championships as their field achievements.
It starts with Ewing, who obviously had a Hall of Fame career. But when, as I heard a reporter on the radio put it on the day of Ewing’s retirement, “the pundits have the final say on Ewing in NBA annals, his legacy will still be that he did. never won everything. ” That’s the kind of crazy comment. that really grabs my sushi.
It’s simple: Ewing is one of the top 10 centers of all time, and that’s a serious accomplishment. Following Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Moses Malone, Hakeem Olajuwon and Shaquille O’Neal, Ewing fits comfortably into the second tier of all-time crosses.
It’s bad enough that we think of players in terms of how the “experts” will describe things in the “records” (Which experts? Where are those records? What is a legacy, anyway?), but why is it that fans and my media colleagues are immediately looking for a way to undermine the achievements of the big players? Why do many fans in New York City think of Ewing in terms of what he didn’t do (i.e. win it all) instead of considering what he did playing for an organization Also scattered, who was miserable the previous years it happened, the one who failed to surround him with good talent in his prime and the one who went through eight coaches in his 15 seasons with the Knicks?
People who think Ewing’s Knicks were worthless because they didn’t have a ring should think about how worthless they would have been without him, or how worthless they have been since he left. People who think the only measurement of a player is the championship rings should remember that Randy Brown has three rings, while Mark Madsen and Mike Smrek have two. People who think that a season that doesn’t end in a championship is an eight-month waste, should spend less time kneeling in their red shrines in Auerbach and come join the rest of civilization.
The stats on Ewing are impeccable for a cross. During his career, he averaged 21 points and 9.8 rebounds. Consistency was his hallmark, and few players drew as much of their talent as Ewing. He played hard, he played badly, and he often did it without a drop in production. For eight consecutive seasons, he’s averaged at least 22 points and 10 rebounds, while missing just 18 games and averaging 37 minutes per game. He’s averaged 2.4 blocks in his career and, surprisingly, is the Knicks’ all-time leader in interceptions.
Flush the stats, though, as anyone who’s watched Ewing has to recognize his greatness and dominance, even without the ring. He was almost unstoppable crossing the track. He wasn’t much of a passer, but keep in mind that for most of his career he didn’t have anyone on his team who deserved an assist. As effective as he was in the paint, his ability to knock down 15ft jumpers (can we call those high arm flip shots, jumpers?) Kept him apart from most 7fters. He was a fierce defender, a warrior and, despite what many claim, a victor.
There were flops in New York to be sure, and they were made worse by Ewing’s promise of a championship. But flops are the product of expectations, and the only reason the Knicks had high expectations during Ewing’s run was because of Ewing. The Knicks were never able to find a good complement to Ewing, that perimeter player who could balance Ewing’s inside offense.
Patrick Ewing was good, but he never won The Big One. The same can be said of Malone, Stockton, Miller and Mourning, and surely many will. Hopefully the records have more to say than that.
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