Patrick Ewing became a legend with the New York Knicks and Georgetown Hoyas, but the path he traveled to a Hall of Fame career was littered with racism.
Last week, I published an article chronicling the history of Patrick Ewing’s career. He was sustainably elite, a legendary member of the New York Knicks, and one of the 50 greatest basketball players to ever grace this earth.
During his early years, predominantly in college, however, Ewing faced racial slurs that echoed off the rafters of Big East arenas. To say that it was only this is an insult to his name.
Ewing, originally from Jamaica, he had a darker complexion than most African-Americans. He went to high school in one of the more Caucasian neighborhoods in the country. Some people couldn’t handle that he was Jamaican born.
A high school kid, Ewing had to overcome racist remarks from parents of opposing players. No 16-18 year old should have to go through something like that.
Ewing, the highest-touted recruit in college basketball history, coveted by all the major schools, including North Carolina, led by legendary head coach Dean Smith. Ewing ultimately chose Georgetown.
The reason, you ask? John Thompson.
I am a die-hard Syracuse fan. I’ll never throw shade at Ewing for making that decision. He deserved protection from what was going to ensue. It pains me to say this, but what happened to Ewing through college is a travesty.
During this time, the Big East was the preeminent college basketball conference. Every matchup was a rivalry match, with the coaches of each team serving as the must-see personalities. Ewing and Thompson were the number one ticket.
Each week, Georgetown would play a primetime matchup. These games would range from Syracuse to St. John’s in Queens to Villanova in Philadelphia.
The fans chose excessive bigotry to get in Ewing’s head. He walked into arenas with pictures of monkeys on poster boards, fans yelling racist remarks, and bananas being thrown at him.
These were grown men, so obsessed with their respective team, that they would turn to racism to get a leg up.
Thompson’s leadership was a constant, removing the team from the court at times to protect his players’ safety. This was (and is) a national pandemic that made a lot of school administrators look extremely foolish.
National Championship: ’81-’82
This is one of my favorite sports stories of all time. During Ewing’s freshman year, he faced as much adversity as just about any college basketball player ever has.
During the National Championship Game against North Carolina, Ewing goal-tended five shots in the first half alone. He was knocking clear shots out of the air.
This was Thompson’s doing. He masterminded the plan. This showed UNC the magnitude of Ewing’s presence.
The Hoyas lost this game, but Ewing went on to have one of the most decorated college careers ever.
Those goal-tended shots metaphorically showed America that Thompson, Ewing, and the Hoyas would not stand for racism.