Years later, Patrick Ewing would sit next to the long oak desk in a corner of the Georgetown basketball office. He had spoken with great enthusiasm of this current passion, training his alma mater. He had talked about the difficulty of storing all the memories he had stored as a player in trunks.
“My life is a coach now,” he had said, laughing. “No one wants to hear me tell old war stories. These guys [he pointed toward the Hoyas’ practice gym] I just want to fool myself about how short my shorts were when I was playing here. “
There was testimony to back up Ewing’s words; Georgetown is a Nike school, and that means there was an Air Jordan logo on his shirt and sweatpants, and the jacket he was wearing in the office, there was a large silhouette of Michael Jordan in full flight dominating one of the walls .
“I can’t escape him,” he said, laughing. “But business is business.”
Still, Ewing admitted that he only regretted that he occasionally escaped from those locked memory boxes, that he still ate at him.
“I wish I knew I was playing my last game as Knick when I played it,” he said. “I would have liked to take some mental pictures of that.”
The smile turned into a faint melancholy.
“All I know is that the season ended with a loss,” he said. “Again.”
He got hurt again that spring of 2000, because that was the image of Ewing as a Knick at the end: limping, grimacing, squinting, wrapped in ice, face down on a coach’s table, who would probably come out of the tunnel of the garden on a high-end business suit as in warm-ups.
In 1998, his right wrist was broken, missing most of the year. In ’99, a bum Achilles stole the last four games of the Eastern Conference finals with Indiana, and all Finals against San Antonio.
This time, it was tendinitis in his right foot. He went on during the Raptors Knicks’ opening sweep, limited his effectiveness during his seven-game annual crusade with the Heat (although he had scored 20 points and 10 rebounds during a heartbreaking, bloodcurdling, Game 7 83-82 in Miami. ).
But against the Pacers in the Eastern Finals, he got hurt early in Game 2, missed Games 3 and 4 (both close wins for the Knicks) and returned to help the Knicks gain an 18-point lead at Conseco Fieldhouse. in Game 5 before the Pacers stormed back to win and crawl into a game to secure the finals.
On the morning of June 2, 2000, readers of the Post were greeted with this annual rite of spring on page 1:
WE WILL WIN
Ewing guarantees the Knicks’ victory tonight
Sometimes it’s hard to remember how those Knicks used to invigorate the city. They hadn’t won a title as a group, but they were the toughest in the sport; The Pacers learned it the hard way the year before. There was little doubt that they would take care of business tonight, and then participate in some kind of epic passion game two days later at Indy.
“I guess it will be one of those series for us,” said Ewing. “This team thrives on adversity. We will win.”
They did not win. They came out inspired by a quarter, allowing the 19,763 attendees to believe, but then the Pacers kicked them off the court. Reggie Miller scored 34, shot 5-for-7 from 3. Dale Davis had 16 rebounds. The final was 93-80 but it felt much, much worse. Mark Jackson of Indiana kissed the Garden floor on the last bell.
Ewing played 37 minutes in agony, scored 18 points, caught 12 rebounds. When he was dragged away at the end of the game, there was a modest stirring of the scattered wreckage of the crowd. As he walked into the tunnel, he saw a familiar face who had worked for the team in each of the 1,174 games he had played as Knick.
“You are still the man,” he said to Ewing.
“No,” said Ewing, smiling, “not anymore.”
“You will still receive your ring,” they told him.
“I hope so,” he said, disappearing into the dark, in the locker room, where he would soon greet journalists in his familiar light blue robe, his feet buried in dueling ice cubes, where he was immediately asked if he would be back for the last year of his $ 16 million contract.
“Definitely,” he said.
He was not there. It would take 110 days, but on September 20, the Knicks sent Ewing to Seattle in a four-team deal that immediately yielded Glen Rice, Luc Longley, and Travis Knight, and eventually locked them in on a salary. top jail in which they languished for almost a decade. Ewing lasted two more years, never looking entirely right in the flashy colors of the Sonics or the Orlando Magic.
Never get that ring. Or the final chapter that he longed for so much.
In his Georgetown office that Friday, October 2018, Patrick Ewing, who recently revealed that he had been treated by COVID-19, reiterated what he had said on the night of February 28, 2003, at Madison Square Garden, when his number , 33, was officially raised to the beams of the Garden, occupying its place among the giants of the franchise.
“I am a Knick,” he said. “I will always be a Knick.”
Twenty years ago, on Tuesday, he unknowingly said goodbye to that chapter of his life. I wish it had been different. He is not alone.