Patrick Ewing, throughout his career, changed his basketball personality to an extent that few players do. At Georgetown University, where he averaged 15.3 points per game, Ewing was the "Hoya Destroya," the shot-blocking ringleader of the most feared defense in college basketball history. Later, with the New York Knicks of the NBA, he became an offensive juggernaut, regarded by many as the best shooting center of all time. Yet the player who came into the professional ranks touted as the next Bill Russell never once made the NBA All-Defensive Team.
In his first decade with the Knicks, Ewing averaged 23.8 points per game, with a peak of 28.6 during the 1989-90 season. In December 1993, he surpassed Walt Frazier as the leading scorer in New York franchise history. A resolute rebounder, he averaged more than 10 boards a game for six consecutive seasons. In 1994, he led the Knicks into the NBA Finals for the first time in 21 years.
A 7'0'', 240-pound frame, fierce competitiveness, and a strong work ethic were keys to Ewing's success. He played with chronic pain in his knees but seldom begged out of the lineup. He carried the woeful Knicks on his back for several seasons, improving his game yearly. He expanded his shooting range until he was nearly unstoppable with his favorite move: a spin from the left side to the baseline for a jump shot. And he remained one of the game's most feared defenders, averaging nearly three blocked shots per game.
Born August 5, 1962, in Kingston, Jamaica, Ewing was brought to the United States by his parents in 1975 after members of his family had settled in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Introduced to basketball at age 13, Patrick shot to the top of college recruiters' lists in just five years. His teams at Rindge & Latin High School suffered one loss in 75 games and won three state titles. Yet Ewing was no hero in the Boston area, particularly after he announced he was leaving the city to play at Georgetown.
Audacious and intimidating, Ewing and the Hoyas ruled college hoops from 1982-85, advancing to the NCAA championship game three times in four years. Against North Carolina in 1982, Ewing goaltended the Tar Heels' first six shots; North Carolina won 63-62 on a jump shot by Michael Jordan in the waning seconds. In 1984, Georgetown throttled the University of Houston, featuring Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler, to win the championship. In 1985, the Hoyas again roared to the championship game, only to suffer a stunning defeat at the hands of Villanova. Ewing was named college Player of the Year as a senior.
NBA teams were so covetous of Ewing that the league introduced a draft-lottery system to discourage "tanking" of games. No longer would the team with the worst record be guaranteed the first draft choice. The Knicks, with the third-worst mark in the league, won the Ewing sweepstakes. But New York failed to become an instant contender with Ewing, as knee injuries sidelined him for 32 games and high-scoring forward Bernard King for the entire 1985-86 season. The Knicks finished in last place, but Ewing led all first-year players in scoring, rebounding, and minutes per game and won the Rookie of the Year Award. In his first four seasons, Ewing averaged 21.1 points, 8.8 rebounds, and 2.8 blocks and was a regular at the All-Star Game.
Ewing had his best season in 1989-90, finishing as the only NBA player in the top six in scoring, rebounding, blocked shots, and field-goal accuracy. He had a career-high 51 points in a game against the Boston Celtics, and during his career, he scored 2,347 points, eclipsing Richie Guerin's club record. Four years later, after repeated disappointments in the playoffs, he took the Knicks to the precipice of a championship, only to be denied by Olajuwon and the Houston Rockets in Game 7 of the 1994 Finals. It would be Ewing's last appearance in a title series.
One of the most complete pivotmen in college and professional history, Ewing retired in 2002 as one of the ten best centers of all time, and is a lock for Hall of Fame election in 2008.