American basketball player
Named in 1996 one of the top NBA players of all time, Patrick Ewing was an NBA All-Star eleven times, including for ten seasons in a row, from 1988-97. A center for the New York Knicks for fifteen years starting in 1986, Ewing set team records for the most games played, (1,039), most points scored (23,665), most rebounds (10,759), most steals (1,061), and most blocked shots (2,758). Ewing is also an Olympic gold medalist, helping Team USA to victory in the 1984 and 1992 Olympic games.
Born in Jamaica
Patrick Ewing was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1962. His father, Carl, was a mechanic at the time, and his mother, Dorothy, was a homemaker. Dorothy conceived of a better life for her children in the United States, and she moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1971 to pave the way for a family move there. She took a job as a kitchen worker in a hospital, and brought her family over one by one. In 1975, at twelve years of age, Patrick Ewing joined his mother and four of his siblings who had immigrated before him. His father eventually found work in a rubber hose factory.
Ewing had never even seen a basketball before his arrival in the United States, much less played the game that was later to make him famous. Soccer is the sport most played in Jamaica, and that was the game he played as a youngster. But he became fascinated by basketball only weeks into his new life as an American. Walking past a playground where other children played basketball, he would often stop and watch. One day, he was asked by the other kids if he wanted to join a game, and he began what was to become a career. Playing basketball did not come easily for the future superstar. "I knew that it was something I'd have to work at," he later told Roy S. Johnson in the New York Times.
"Something I'd Have to Work At"
Hard work did indeed become the mainstay of Ewing's early basketball career. Ewing attended high school at Latin High School in Cambridge, where he reached his full height of seven feet, and played on the school basketball team under coach Mike Jarvis. Jarvis, and his later college coach, John Thompson, both later recalled for reporters that they often tried to curtail Ewing's unusually long and hard practice sessions for fear that he would hurt himself or a teammate out of sheer exhaustion.
Ewing also had to overcome the racist attitudes of some of his opposing team members and those who were jealous of his success. Coach Jarvis helped him through the worst of it, drawing on his own experience of growing up black in America. "You have to understand how it hits you," Jarvis told Jackie MacMullan in the Boston Globe. "I can still remember the first time someone called me that. I was riding my bicycle, and I heard it. …You don't ever forget that. But if you are Patrick, you start to realize very early in life it's part of the territory."
Through it all, Ewing learned to grow a thick skin, developing a reputation for being unemotional and ruthless on the court, and reluctant to give interviews. As he told MacMullan in the Boston Globe of this time, "Everyone looked at me like some kind of freak. The older guys taunted me. They told me I would never be anything. They said I would never learn the game. At first, I couldn't understand why they said those things. But I got used to it. And I learned not to let what anyone said affect me."
Basketball's "Most Important Figure"
By the time he was in college at Georgetown University, Ewing was already being called by Roy S. Johnson of New York Times basketball's "most important figure for the future." Ewing excelled on the Georgetown basketball team, helping his team to three NCAA championship games, one of which they won. Ewing's mother never got to see her son's championship game, which took place in 1984; she died in 1983 at the age of fifty-five. She had worked at her job in the hospital kitchen up until two days before her death.
With pro basketball offers pouring in while he was still at Georgetown, Ewing could have easily dropped out of school and immediately become a millionaire. But his mother had always felt that the key realizing the opportunities she felt America had to offer was to get a college degree, and so, Ewing stayed in school. Also, as he explained at the time to Johnson in the New York Times, "Money's never been the most important thing in my life."
In 1984, while he was still in college, Ewing played on the U.S. men's basketball team in the Olympic games, which took place in Los Angeles. His team took home the gold medal. It was a big year for Ewing; he also fathered a son by a girlfriend, Sharon D. Stanford. Patrick Ewing Jr. was born May 20, 1984, and he too went on to become an outstanding basketball player.
|1962||Born August 5 in Kingston, Jamaica|
|1975||Moves to Cambridge, Massachusetts|
|1984||Son Patrick Ewing Jr. is born|
|1984||Wins gold medal on the U.S. Olympic basketball team in Los Angeles|
|1985||Graduates from Georgetown University with a B.A. degree|
|1985||Signs as a player for the New York Knicks basketball team|
|1986||Named NBA Rookie of the Year|
|1992||Winds gold medal on the U.S. Olympic basketball team in Barcelona|
|1996||Named one of the top 59 players in NBA history|
|2000||Leaves the Knicks for the Seattle Supersonics|
|2001||Leaves the Supersonics for the Orlando Magic|
|2002||Retires from playing, signs as assistant coach with the Washington Wizards|
Awards and Accomplishments
|1984||Plays on gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic basketball team|
|1984||Plays on NCAA-championship-winning team, the Georgetown Hoyas|
|1985-86||Named to the All-Rookie First Team|
|1985-86, 1988-89, 1991-92||Named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team|
|1986||Named Rookie of the Year|
|1987-89, 1990-93, 1996-97||Named to the All-NBA Second Team|
|1989-90||Named to the All-NBA First team|
|1992||Played on gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic basketball team|
|1996||Named among the top 59 players in NBA history|
|1996||Inducted into the Madison Square Garden Walk of Fame|
At the Top of His Game
Ewing graduated from Georgetown in 1985 with a bachelor of arts degree in theology. In attendance were his father Carl and his siblings. The New York Knicks were given first pick of players in a lottery for new players in May, 1985, and as was widely expected, they chose Ewing.
Beginning in 1986, after his graduation from college, Ewing played center with the New York Knicks. His initial six-year contract was said to have been worth $17 million. He was named Rookie of the year during his first year, and he was named one of the top fifty-nine players in NBA history in 1996. He stayed with the team for a total of fifteen years, after which he played briefly with the Seattle Supersonics and the Orlando Magic before retiring from playing at the age of forty. He retired from playing with a career total of 24,815 points and 11,607 rebounds.
It was in September of 2002 that Ewing announced that he would retire from playing basketball. He also announced that he would take a job as an assistant coach for the Washington Wizards, working alongside the legendary Michael Jordan .
Said Abe Pollin, the owner of the Wizards, about signing Ewing as coach, "It will be a unique opportunity for our players to be tutored by three of the 50 greatest players of all time—Michael Jordan, Wes Unseld and now, Patrick Ewing."
|NY: New York Knicks; ORL: Orlando Magic; SEA: Seattle Supersonics.|
Ewing's old high school coach, Mike Jarvis turned out for a news conference Ewing held to say goodbye as a player. When asked how he thought how should be remembered as a player, Ewing responded, quoted on ESPN.com, "As a hard hat. A hard nose. The work ethic I brought, I gave it 110 percent. I thought I had a great career. I have no regrets. I wouldn't trade it anything. I enjoyed every minute." His only disappointment, he said, was not wining a professional championship. "We did the best we could to help the franchise win one," he said. "It didn't happen. That's life. You've got to move on."
Elderkin, Phil. "Rookie Pat Ewing: a 7-ft. Silver Lining in Knicks' Cloudy Season."Christian Science Monitor (January 29, 1986): Sports, 16.
"Ewing Has a 1-Year-Old Son."Washington Post (May 16, 1985): A30.
Gallo, Jon. "A Chip Off the Old Blocker of Shots: Basketball Player Patrick Ewing Jr. Comes to Town." Washington Post (August 6, 2002): D1.
Johnson, Roy S. "Class of '85."New York Times (May 27, 1985): A30.
Johnson, Roy S. "Man in the News; Biggest Court Prize: Patrick Ewing."New York Times (May 13, 1985): C6.
MacMullan, Jackie. "As the Misperceptions that Alienated Him and Boston Begin to Fade, Patrick Ewing Is Getting Closer to Home."Boston Globe (April 11, 1993): Sports, 41.
"Biography—Patrick Ewing." HickokSports.com. http://www.hickoksports.com/biograph/ewingpatr.shtml. (December 3, 2002).
"Ewing Retires, Accepts Coaching Job with Wizards." ESPN.com. http://espn.go.com/nba/news/2002/0917/1432895.html (December 3, 2002).
"Patrick Ewing Player Info." NBA.com. http://www.nba.com/playerfile/patrick_ewing/ (December 3, 2002).
"Patrick Ewing Player Profile." Yahoo! Sports. http://sports.yahoo.com/nba/players/1/106/ (December 3, 2002).
Sketch by Michael Belfiore