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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 February, 2003, 23:01 GMT
Ewing's New York moment

By Steve Schifferes
BBC News Online in Washington

Patrick Ewing returned to New York's Madison Square for an emotional farewell on Friday.

The centre, who was the heart of the New York Knicks franchise for 15 years, took part in a ceremony to retire his Number 33 jersey.

He joins seven other Knicks players, including Walt Frazier and Willis Reed, who have been similarly honoured.

In truth, New York fans had a love-hate relationship with Ewing, who was booed in the last years of his Knicks career before being traded to the Seattle Supersonics.

Patrick Ewing thanks the crowd at an emotional farewell ceremony
Ewing got a great reception at Madison Square Garden
He was seen as somewhat aloof, and as someone who failed to deliver the championship he so obviously craved.

Since his departure, however, the Knicks have plummeted in the standings and are no longer realistic contenders for the NBA title.

With Ewing, they reached the play-offs 13 times, won four Eastern Conference championships, and came close to winning the NBA twice - losing by a single shot in the seventh game of the 1994 play-offs to the Houston Rockets.

In that game he was blamed for only taking four shots in the fourth quarter, leaving the shooting to Knicks' streak shooter John Starks.

Starks went two for 18 and missed the last shot of the game over a Ewing screen.

Great expectations

If Ewing never wholly fulfilled his destiny, that was partly because the hopes and expectations put on him were so high.

Born in Jamaica, he was a college All-Star for Georgetown's basketball dynasty, leading the team to three NCAA finals and one championship.

Patrick Ewing
Ewing still heads the Knicks' stats in five categories
He then helped lead the US Olympic Dream Team to its gold medal victories in the l984 and 1992 Olympics.

And he was rookie of the year for the Knicks in 1986 after being their number one draft pick, and an 11-time All-Star.

Ewing's numbers for the Knicks are also impressive.

He is their all-time leader for games played, points scored, rebounds, blocks and steals, with scoring average of 22.8 point, along with 10.4 rebounds and 2.7 blocks.

Many people would put Ewing in the NBA's all-time top 10 centres, along with Bill Russell, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Shaquille O'Neill, and Wilt Chamberlain.

Shadow of Jordan

The Knicks's failure to land the NBA title during the Ewing years was at least partly due to the impossible hurdle that was Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls, who won six championships in the l990s.

Indeed, it was only during the year of Jordan's first retirement that they reached those finals against the Rockets.

Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing
Jordan and Ewing in aerial combat, 1996
But Ewing will best be remembered for his classic match-ups with Eastern Conference rivals such as Alonzo Mourning of the Miami Heat (a fellow Georgetown star), and Reggie Miller of the Indiana Pacers.

It was against the Pacers that Ewing played his last game as a Knick, a heart-breaking 93-80 loss in game six of the Eastern Conference finals in June 2000.

Playing with a badly sprained foot, he did not shoot well, and felt discouraged at the lack of appreciation for his dedication and intensity.

Seeing his shirt retired in the venue of legends that is Madison Square Garden should help to assuage those feelings for Ewing.

Current Knicks star Allan Houston summed it up, saying: "It seems very strange that he wasn't loved and cherished.

"Sometimes you don't know what you had until it's gone."

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