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This week in Knicks history: Patrick Ewing is born

Big day. Bigger man.

New York Knicks...
Such a young Ewing.
Photo by Focus on Sport via Getty Images

Patrick Ewing may very well be the best Knick ever, but the Big Fella never would have gotten the chance to rule Madison Square Garden for over a decade if it wasn’t for a major event that took place 57 years ago this week: his birth.

For the uninitiated, Ewing was born in Kingston, Jamaica on August 5, 1962, to parents Carl and Dorothy. The concept of being part of a team probably came relatively easy to Ewing, who is one of seven children (five sisters, one brother).

Ewing’s father was a mechanic, an occupation that requires strong hand-eye coordination, which is a skill Ewing possessed plenty of on the court. Dorothy, meanwhile, came to America in 1971, before the rest of the Ewing clan, and worked double shifts in the kitchen and food line at Massachusetts General Hospital in order to earn enough money to bring the entire family to the U.S., according to this wonderful profile of a pre-NBA Ewing from the Sports Illustrated Vault.

Where have we seen dedication and work ethic like that of Dorothy Ewing before?

Parick Ewing Smiling
Oh yeah, him!

Based on where and when Ewing was born, the probability he would become one of the best players in NBA history seems like it should have been low. But thankfully his mother was the woman she was, and by the time Ewing was 12, he had emigrated to the U.S. More specifically, he lived in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Despite popular belief, Ewing was not seven feet tall right out the womb, although by the time he was in seventh grade he was 6’6” and had dunked for the first time. Ultimately, his abilities were undeniable; by the time college rolled around, the chances of Ewing becoming a successful professional basketball player had risen dramatically, and it would be an understatement to say he capitalized on the opportunity.

In four years at Georgetown, Ewing averaged 15.3 points (62% from the field), 9.2 rebounds and 3.4 blocks, to go along with numerous accolades and an NCAA championship. Ho hum, just a standard college career when you’re one of the All-Time Greats.

With the help of a little luck, and possibly an ice cold envelope, the Knicks won the 1985 draft lottery and took Ewing with the first pick. While he never matched the championship pedigree of the guy people used to compare him to, Bill Russell, he was a dominant center for many years and ensured the Knicks were always in the hunt. For what it’s worth, the Knicks made the NBA Finals two times with Ewing on the squad, and if it wasn’t for an extremely rough John Starks shooting night there would likely be a championship banner hanging in the MSG rafters right now.

These stats have been bandied about before, but it’s always good to brush up on your history. Ewing played for the Knicks for 15 seasons, was an 11-time All-Star and still to this day leads the franchise in categories such as points (23,665), total rebounds (10,759) and blocks (2,758). The end of the Ewing era directly correlates with the beginning of the Knicks downfall as a franchise, and it would be totally cool if the team one day hired him as head coach so he could finally bring a title to MSG.

Lest anyone think this is nothing but a homer of a post, it’s not just Knicks fans that think of Ewing with reverence. Larry Bird once said that Ewing is “probably the nicest guy I’ve ever met,” according to this 1993 story from the Chicago Tribune.

Here’s a whole bunch of people, including current and former NBA players plus Miami Heat owner Micky Arison, reacting with joy when Ewing was named head coach for the Georgetown Hoyas.

Here’s Shaquille O’Neal waxing poetic about how Ewing is an under-appreciated great.

Considering his impressive collection of accolades, not to mention the heart and soul he displayed every single night, Ewing shouldn’t be under-appreciated, especially here in New York. He’s one of the greatest athletes this town has ever had the opportunity to watch, and the Knicks are still searching for the next guy who’s even close.

Happy birthday, Patrick!