Not only is Patrick Ewing the best Knick ever, he’s one of the most accomplished basketball players in the history of the United States, as evidenced by the time he won his second gold medal for Team USA 28 years ago this week.
Heading into the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Ewing had already cemented himself as one of the best centers in the NBA. Through seven seasons, he was averaging 24 points on 53% shooting, plus 10 rebounds, 3 blocks, 2 assists and 1 steal per game. The not quite 30-year-old Ewing was so good that he got selected to the Dream Team, which steamrolled every opponent leading up to the Gold Medal game against Croatia on Aug. 8, 1992.
Although they ultimately made mincemeat of Croatia with a 32-point shellacking, it was the closest any team came to beating the Dream Team that year; the U.S. beat their opponents by an average of 44 points throughout the tournament. Croatia was able to keep it under 40 thanks to a roster that featured NBA talent like Drazen Petrovic and Toni Kukoc.
As a matter of fact, the U.S. was only up by a single point at the end of the first quarter, and actually found themselves losing, 25-23, early in the second. But the Dream Team pulled away soon after, outscoring Croatia by a combined 33 points in the second and third quarters, thanks in large part to an insane front line featuring Ewing, David Robinson, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley, all in their primes.
Ewing, who averaged 11.8 points and 5.2 rebounds per game for the tournament, stepped it up in the Gold Medal match. His 15 points (on 6-10 shooting) was third highest on the team, behind only Michael Jordan and Barkley. He also grabbed 6 rebounds and added 1 steal in just over 21 minutes of play. Overall, Ewing hit 62% of his shots in the summer of ‘92. He also ended the tournament with 10 total blocks (second on the team, behind only Robinson’s 11) and 6 steals.
With the victory, Ewing became a two-time gold medalist — he had also taken home the gold at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, while still a Georgetown Hoya.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Ewing proudly recalled during an interview with Mike Lupica in 2012. “We all sacrificed our abilities to become a great team. When you’re playing in the Olympics, you’re playing for the country. You have the whole country behind you.”
Somehow, someone failed to respect the legacy of Ewing’s gold medal performance. Earlier this year, the big man revealed that both of his Olympic gold medals, and his NCAA championship ring, had been stolen by burglars.
“My house got broken into in New York, and at one point they stole my medals,” Ewing said. “So I called Jerry Colangelo [former USA Basketball chairman], and he was great to be able to get me two replacement medals.”
As for the ring, the idiot that stole it tried to sell the historic piece of jewelry on eBay, and Ewing was ultimately able to retrieve it. So heed this word of advice: if you’re going to steal memorabilia from an extremely famous athlete, don’t put it up for sale on eBay.
Now let’s all wish Ewing a belated happy birthday and enjoy some highlights from his gold medal-winning performance in 1992.