Ewing, Patrick A. 1962–
Patrick A. Ewing 1962–
Professional basketball player
Patrick Ewing’s career has been record-breaking at every juncture. While at Georgetown University, he led the Hoyas to the NCAA Finals three times and won the NCAA Championship in his junior year. Ewing was named the NCAA Final Four Most Outstanding Player, the Sporting News College Player of the Year, and he was awarded the Naismith Award. In the NBA he was named Rookie of the Year in 1986 and has been an NBA All-Star for most of his professional career. His salary has consistently been one of the highest among NBA players. In 1997 he was named among the top fifty NBA players of all time and top twenty leading scorers. A two-time Olympic gold medal winner, Ewing lead his own team in career games, points, minutes played, rebounds, steals, blocks, and forty-plus games.
Patrick Ewing was born on August 5, 1962 in Kingston, Jamaica. When his parents emigrated from Jamaica, money was so scarce that Ewing remained on the island for four years, arriving in the United States, as did each of his six siblings, only when family funds permitted. Ewing shared a five-room Cambridge, Massachusetts house with his mother, father, brother and five sisters. Ewing—an Olympic athlete and NBA All-Star—rose from poor beginnings to become a premier center in a sport he learned when he was twelve years old.
Education was the primary focus for Carl and Dorothy Ewing’s seven children. Ewing entered grade school with such a marked Jamaican accent some peers and teachers could not easily understand him. Still, he was determined to succeed academically. He took summer school classes and obtained help from tutors. His parents left no doubt that Ewing’s education would not stop with high school. By the time he was a senior in high school, two of his siblings had already graduated from college.
In 1975 Ewing first shot a basketball in a pick-up game in his neighborhood. A veteran player of soccer and cricket, he quickly learned the game. In fact, a friend
At a Glance…
Born Patrick Aloysius Ewing in Kingston, Jamaica, August 5, 1962 to Carl Ewing, (mechanic) and Dorothy Ewing; married Rita Williams, 1990; children: Patrick Jr., Randi, Corey; Education: Georgetown University, B.A. in Fine Arts, 1985.
Career: New York Knicks, center, 1985–.
Memberships: NBA Player’s Association, president, 1997-; New York Knicks, Inaugural “Stay In School” Program, chair, 1991-92.
Selected honors: Named among 50 Greatest NBA Players in history, 900 + career games and 21,000 + points, 11-time NBA All-Star, seven-time Knick of the Year, 1987 -92; National Committee for Prevention of Child Abuse Recognition, honor, 1992-93; Olympic Gold Medalist, basketball, 1984, 1992.
Addresses: Office— Two Pennsylvania Plaza, New York, NY, 10121.
once commented that Ewing seemed to have been born for the basketball court. By eighth grade he had already grown to six feet six inches in height and drawn the eye of prep coaches. As a high school student at Cambridge’s Rindge and Latin School, Ewing not only led his team to three state championships, he also tried out for the 1980 Olympic team. Although Ewing would have to wait until the 1984 Olympics to represent the United States, no other high school athlete had ever been invited to Olympic basketball tryouts.
Every college coach in the United States had his eye on Ewing. After all, how many high school athletes were featured in Sports Illustrated and the New York Times? During his senior year, Ewing’s coach Mike Jarvis sent 150 Division One schools a letter, now called the “Ewing Letter.” In it, Jarvis explained that Ewing had only lived in the United States for six years. He said Ewing was a hard worker but he struggled academically and would need special tutoring and academic support. Jarvis, as a mentor and friend as well as coach, tried to insure that Ewing would succeed both on the basketball court and in the classroom.
Jarvis meant well, but his letter had terrible results for Ewing. When high school players taunted Ewing, saying he was illiterate, he did not respond. Once, during a high-scoring game in which Ewing led a victorious team, Sports Illustrated magazine reported that he saw someone holding up a sign that said “Ewing can’t read,” Ewing quietly commented, “I sure can count. And someday I’m going to be in the pros and counting my money all the way to the bank! “However, the comments never appeared to faze him.
Eighty schools responded to Jarvis’ letter, often offering the special academic help Jarvis had mentioned. Ewing chose Georgetown, a school far from Cambridge, Massachusetts. Georgetown coach John Thompson offered Ewing no unusual assistance. He said his players must meet academic standards on their own—no special help other than the support of faculty advisors would be given. Still, Ewing and his parents were impressed by Thompson’s no-nonsense coaching. They were impressed to find a team coached by an African American man. Thompson said Ewing’s best bet was a college education; few college athletes make careers of professional sports. Carl and Dorothy Ewing agreed.
As a Georgetown athlete, Ewing was a team leader as he had been in high school. His aggressive play and quiet confidence spurred fellow players to be more determined. In 1984 the Georgetown Hoyas, led by Ewing, became the NCAA champions. Ewing was chosen Outstanding Player of the tournament over the great center Hakeem Olajuwon. During that same year he tried out for and made the U.S. Olympic basketball team and won the gold.
Still, he avoided the press and was criticized for being aloof. At Georgetown Ewing began a tradition of protecting himself and his family from media attention. He felt uncomfortable that other Hoya players were not asked for autographs and refused to sign himself unless his teammates were also asked. Some people saw beneath the surface of this quiet giant of a man. They thought he was shy but Coach Thompson said in Sports Illustrated, “… this boy is not shy. He’s private. There’s a difference.”
On the court, Ewing was an intimidating giant. His scowl and aggressive play earned him a reputation as personally and athletically tough. Coach Thompson and his fellow Hoyas called Ewing “The Warrior,” but fans from opposing teams made fun of Ewing’s serious, no-holds-barred playing style, dubbing him the “Darth Vader of Basketball.”
Off the court, Ewing’s personal life was a struggle. In 1983 his mother, a woman who had worked long hours at physically demanding, low-paying jobs to build a better life for her children, died at age fifty-five from a massive heart attack. Not long afterward, high school sweetheart Sharon Stanford became pregnant. When their son, Patrick Aloysius Ewing, Jr., was born on May 21, 1984, Ewing was not ready for fatherhood or marriage. But he persevered, turning down endorsements and millions of dollars to keep the promise he made to his mother that he would graduate from college.
Patrick Ewing has played against many basketball greats, including Michael Jordan, “Magic” Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, and Hakeem Olajuwan. Although he is known for defensive strength, game totals of 30 to 40 points are not uncommon. According to the his NBA profile on the Internet, he “has been the key to a New York Knicks resurgence that began in the 1980s and has carried into the 1990s.” However, his playing years have not been without struggle. The Knicks’ 1990 season was dismal. There have been injuries. In 1991 Ewing averaged 26.6 points per game while the team set an even bleaker 39-43 record. Patrick declared himself a free agent, stating that his new contract no longer placed him among the four highest paid league players. NBA arbitrators eventually decided the case in favor of the Knicks, but the relationship between this star and his team was severely strained.
Pat Riley was hired as Knicks coach and both Ewing’s morale and his career began a stellar upswing. Riley came from the Los Angeles Lakers armed with four NBA championships in nine years. When reporters panned Riley for holding “grueling” practice sessions and for open, often public criticism of his players, Ewing instead saw in Riley a man who wanted to win as much as he did. A 1995 battle against the Indiana Pacers stretched to seven games. The Knicks lost when Ewing’s final second tip-up bounced from the basket.
In 1995, Sport Magazine asked if Ewing, at age thirty-two, should retire. The following year he scored is twenty thousandth point. In March of 1997, he scored his twenty-one thousandth point. He then signed a lucrative contract for four additional years, making Ewing a New York Knick until past his fortieth birthday.
During college, Ewing worked as a summer congressional intern for then U.S. Senator Bob Dole. There he met Rita Williams, a Howard University student and summer intern for U.S. Senator Bill Bradley. They were married in 1990. They have two daughters, Randi and Corey. At Georgetown Ewing majored in fine arts with a specialty in print and poster design. Continuing his interest in art, he co-authored an Abbeville Press book on children’s art with Columbia University Teachers College instructor Linda Louis. He created art for Discover’s Private Issue credit card and has exhibited some of his work. Children, his own and others, are high on Ewing’s priority list. A 1993 honor by the National Committee for the Prevention of Child Abuse and 1996 Newsday community service award mark only two of many his contributions to programs and outreach for children. As chair of the Knicks’ “Stay in School” program, host of Children’s Aid Society fundraisers, and leader of the Knicks’ “Frontline Against Crime” gun exchange and awareness program, Ewing has lived out his commitment to inner-city youth. He also conducted youth basketball clinics in South Africa along with Dikembe Mutombo and Alonzo Mourning in the summer of 1994. He has single-handedly raised nearly $50,000 dollars for Hale House and participated in exhibition performances with other NBA stars to raise funds for American Cancer Society, Boys’ Clubs, and Children’s Health Fund.
Although Patrick Ewing still does not sign autographs-he would rather shake hands~or give many interviews, he has been recognized by peers, NBA team owners, and coaches alike as a leader in his profession. In 1997 he was fourth on the all-time NBA blocking list and an 11-time NBA All-Star. Since receiving Rookie of the Year honors in 1986, Ewing has been named to NBA All-Star teams seven times. His fellow NBA players elected him president of the National Basketball Association Players Association in 1997. In spite of Ewing’s outstanding accomplishments, both on and off the court, his goal has not changed since signing with the Knicks in 1985 as a first-round draft pick. Each year, according to Knicks’ staffers who know him best, Patrick Ewing’s personal goal is to lead the New York Knicks to the one honor that has eluded him~an NBA championship. Ewing said in the Sporting News, “I won in high school. I won in college….I have two gold medals from the Olympics. Now I want to be a part of an NBA champion.”
Kavanagh, Jack, Sports Great: Patrick Ewing(Sports Great Books), Enslow Publishers, 1992.
Wiener, Paul, Patrick Ewing (Basketball Legends), Chelsea House Publishers, 1996.
Jet, April 16, 1990; June 24, 1991.
Newsweek, March 27, 1985, pg. 63
New York Times, July 3, 1997.
Sport, February, 1995.
Sporting News, May 13, 1996; May 16, 1994.
Sports Illustrated, January 22, 1990; January 17, 1994.
Time, August 6, 1990.
Additional information for this profile was provided by the New York Knicks.
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