Friday, 14 March 2014
PATRICK EWING Feature-THE GARDEN OF EWING
Pounding the hardwood pavement like King Kong, scaling even higher than the twin towers of the Chrysler and Empire State Building in the NBA's golden era of the 90's, nothing was bigger in New York City than Patrick Ewing. Not even the Statue of Liberty. That was until Michael Jordan roared into town like Godzilla, battling the king of New York, dribbling around the skyscrapers and taking a bite out of the Big Apple, making Madison Square Garden truly his Mecca. That was just the tongue-out-cheek of the greatest of all-time in the leagues greatest age of post Magic and Bird revolution and a decade that would lead to more than just the Times Square lights of N.Y.C. attracting all the worlds eyes. Jordan and his stampeding six-peat Bulls of Chicago may have beaten everyone but this was a post-age of big men that is sorely, Dwight Howard and Andrew Bynum uncertainty lacking today. In the 90's Ewing was joined by the likes of the Goliath Shaquille O'Neal, the dream Hakeem Olaujawon, the admiral David Robinson and fellow Georgetown greats Alonzo Mourning and Dikembe Mutombo who now pave the paint for fellow Hoya and Pacer great Roy Hibbert (possibly the only future of big-time big-men). This was more than just Luc Longley's league and Ewing was as great as them all and belongs in the elite company of the best bigs of all-time to the heights of Bill Russell, Moses Malone, the Laker likes of Wilt Chamberlain, George Mikan, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and many more power pivots of the same game. He would be a winner amongst them all too if Michael Jordan didn't engage all his potential rings with the changing of the game.
Ok, New York fans let's calm down with some Zen like thinking. You see Mike and Shaq's legendary coach Phil Jackson is back in town, via the front office to take the old team he played for back in his sneaker championship years back to the Knickerbocker glory days of Earl Monroe and Walt Frazier without the nostalgia need of a great Michael Rapaport documentary. That's the style and substance the former Lakers and Bulls championship coach will hope to spread around the locker room like incense. An incensed town of die hard, John McClane like expletive throwing fans want more than just the Linsanity of the Jeremey Lin 15 minutes of souveneir store and tourist hotspot fame, or the craziness of J.R. Smith's untied demeanour, or power player Amar'e Stoudemire taking it out on a fire extinguisher instead of the net. 'Yippee Ki Yay' this is a team led by the great Carmelo Anthony, the best player in the league bar LeBron James or Kevin Durant and right now better than the post-Jordan Kobe Bryant. This is a team that wants to prove to the Pierce, Garnett, Joe Johnson, Deron Williams, Jason Kidd led Brooklyn Nets that even though they've moved from New Jersey the city of New York is there's, before the B.K. borough takes over like the Clippers over the Lakers in Los Angeles. This is a team that wants former Brooklyn bound Net owner Jay-Z to sit courtside at THEIR games, next to Spike Lee, whose Pacer hater dedication deserves more. This is more than the heartbreak of Reggie Miller killing them in less than 10 seconds from three. This is a team that wants to see 'Grandmama' Larry Johnson throwing the L in the same time again. Or Starks dunking before the clutch choke. This is a team that long for the toughness that they saw in Charles Oakley and Anthony Mason and see every day on the playgrounds of the Rucker.
This is a team that want the days when the Garden was Ewing's back. When the classic and traditional M.S.G. floor shined not because the buckets of Chris Rock joked sweat he left on it but because of the heart and dedication that truly gleamed in the era of gold. The garden of Madison Square was Ewing's Eden all the way to the temptation of the big red apple. The Jamaican-American is a Hall Of Famer for a reason and a champion in the hearts of the New York faithful. As famous as Jay Leno or David Letterman for his timeless late night show. As familiar in the entertainment age of the 90's like his neighbour 'Seinfeld', the actors who made penthouse homes here, or the king of rap the late, great Notorious one himself. Another true B.I.G., being down with Pat like his coach Riley saw a sneaker kick in the door of legendary legacy for the Garden greats. Before those 'Space Jam' aliens took his power with a leg, shaking, hip dancing surge, this guy caught every pass and made every free-through. P-Ew never stunk it up, even if the perspiration he poured out on the floor wasn't enough for his in need of an early shower Knickerbocker team that was a Serendipity short of a full dessert. You have to give it up for the cherry on top of the blue and orange who needs his just deserves paid like the million dollar man he became in the worlds most famous arena in the worlds most famous city. There may not be a lot of banners up their in that famous spirralled Garden roof, but you can for sure circle around and see the 33 jersey there like Abdul-Jabbar's big-man forum in STAPLES. All together Ewing with fellow Hoya's Mourning and Mutombo gave Washington D.C.'s capital college Georgetown greatness on a NBA presidential Mount Rushmore scale. If only it wasnt for those other wall-of-meat monsters in the key, because in todays Roy Hibbert day and age Patrick, the legend of Zo and Mount Mutombo would devastatingly dominate like if Georgetown put them on court all at the same time like some triple tower tall threat.
The Final Four's 'Most Outstanding Player', the 2 time 'Big East Player of the Year' and 3 time consensus first-team All American's '84 NCAA champs classic college career is why ESPN named Ewing it's 16th best college player of all-time and unless your Kobe Bryant you know these guys are on point with these polls. This is why the Knicks took the Kingston king with the 1st pick in the 1985 draft as the 7 foot 240 pound giant went on to be a Rookie Of The Year, 11 time All-Star, member of the 50th anniversary team along with the Knicks all-time leading scorer amongst many amazing accolades to the tune of a 21 point, 9.8 rebound and 2.4 block career avergae. A career that saw him scoop two Olympic golds in Los Angeles' 1984 and the dominant, original, outstanding Dream Team of 1992 in Barcelona. Winning with Jordan instead of losing with him and now with both hoping to do the same, the current assistant coach of the greatest of all-times Charlotte Bobcats's career saw achievements wider than his wingspan or the grounds of Central Park. Now just miles from Jordan's old North Carolina alumni (Ewing knows the heartbreak of the 'Big Game' Laker legend James Worthy days) together with his friend and former foe, Ewing will want to bring the glory days of the 90's back to Charlotte with more than just the teal and Hornets name. The former coach and player of the Orlando Magic (and coach of the Washington Wizards and Houston Rockets) also logged time with the former franchise of the Seattle Supersonics (you can see from his press photo expression how much he loved that). Still through all the Yao Ming and Dwight Howard mentoring it's clear that the former Rocket rival of Hakeem is still New York and the Knicks through and through. The orange and blue trim of his white number 33 will always say and sell that fact. Fade back with his 'Fresh Prince' hair as far as you want but that's where his career definition lies more than the 'like or hate Mike' association, the losing, or the t-shirt short-sleeve under jersey, traditional, trademark, Hoya hollering and wooping winning of Georgetown.
Once a city like New York grabs you it never lets go and if your tough and tested enough to make it here, (like you then will anywhere) you become part of this Big Apple's core. From the early dunking days where Ewing showed with one hand he could run and jam like a guard this guy was more epicly exciting and entertaining than those stung by the losses care to remember. Taller and stronger than Shawn Kemp, this man had his own reignman power, puncutating towards his own shower of success that was looking for a kingdom in New York like Christopher Walken's weirdly wonderful movie moment or LeBron's other decisions when in Cleveland wine and gold. The New York Times of this man's life was a broadsheet success even if it wasn't a billboard one off Broadway. He watched over this city like Spider-Man's web and Peter Parker camera and was a true superhero to marvel at in Gotham between the landmarks of a town that was known by everybody. Anyone wanted to be and see here and Ewing did more than just that he made his own and everyones else new, New York memories. This is a man that's overcome so much to become an outstanding force. From racist chants in college to his own fans calling for Jordan's name in New York, Pat has never given up on his city, team or sport with Bill Russell like courageous character. He had his own era and it was bigger and bolder than his seriously silly but super slamming sneakers. Injuries, insults, critics or clinics couldn't stop this man from playing his heart out until he sweated through his last NBA jersey. A premier player and not just in the post we remember the one jersey more 34 points, 16 rebounds, and 6 block line against Jordan Bulls and the Willis Reed like overcoming of an ankle sprain that showed his heart and soul. Imagine if the sole of this legend was healthy who knows how that seven game 1992 Eastern Conference Final and the ensuing run to Larry O'Brien would have turned out.
I guess the basketball God's wouldnt have it for one of their own and a gentle giant with Goliath like greatness. Just like the twin towers of contemporary David Robinson and Tim Duncan shutting his veteran Finals run down in the Sprewell and Allan Houston contract age following his injury, like Olaujawon's Rockets did in the year Jordan took up baseball and left the league wide open. This isn't as embarrassing as you think of 5 foot 3, Tyrone Bogues mugging him with a blocked shot...and neither is that. Besides Bogues is one of the greatest little men ever and Pat blocked down as many shots on defence as he dunked or grabbed off the rebounding glass. His career-high of 9 is as inspiringly impressive and influential as his points one of 51 (and the 11 assists for that box-score matter). Through all the injustice of injury and heated rivals with Miami (remember the incredible game-winning dunk over fellow Hoya Alonzo Mourning for the New York memories?), Ewing was more than just a player that could have had so much more if it wasnt for the age of Jordan in the 90's golden era. A true professional and competitior who was more than just the stat sheet or record books he still made without the ring of the phrase 'champion'. Now in this 'Space Jam 2' age of King James he gets the pleasure of watching his son Patrick Ewing Jnr do his thing in the NBA (as well as coaching him in the Orlando Summer league of 2010). Ewing athletics in the family and house Pat built couldn't be prouder of the like father and son Basketball pedigree. It's a pride that scales taller than any building in middle Manhattan. It's bigger than what most people think or the game itself. He may have dunked over his Heat rival Alonzo Mourning in said game-winner, but when the fellow number 33 was diagnosed with a kidney ailment, his fellow Hoya vowed to donate one of his if needed like a true life-changer. This organ of the leagues jazz like new wave may have not had to offer his up but you have to give it up for a man who devoted his heart on to the court every single night. That's the soul of this man and as the Notorious B.I.G. once said "and if you don't know, now you know".