NY Knicks: Who was the better center? Patrick Ewing or Willis Reed?

Patrick Ewing, Knicks. (Photo by MARK D. PHILLIPS/AFP via Getty Images)
Patrick Ewing, Knicks. (Photo by MARK D. PHILLIPS/AFP via Getty Images) /
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Hakeem Olajuwon, Patrick Ewing Knicks. (Photo credit should read BOB STRONG/AFP via Getty Images) /

Knicks Centers: Who played in the stronger era?

Willis Reed was drafted 8th overall in the 1964 NBA Draft.  Winning himself rookie of the year later that Spring, Reed would walk into the league as an All-Star averaging 19.5 points and 14.7 rebounds a game.

When you look at the stats you notice right away you’re dealing with a 60s basketball career.  Note the low FG% and high rebounding numbers due to increased shot attempts, the 4-year college career, the fact that nobody recorded blocks until 1973. Still, it’s not every day you see a rookie walk in the league and do what Reed did.  He’s one of only 45 players in league history to make the All-Star team their first year in.

Dinosaur puns aside, there’s a reason the 60s in the NBA was known as the ‘era of giants’.  The importance of the center position at that time combined with the physicality of the game, and the sheer talent that existed and you can see why the timing of Reed’s career is important to this argument.

Over the course of his career, Willis Reed overlapped with nine Hall of Fame Centres in their hay day. Namely;  Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Wes Unseld, Dave Cowens, Bob Lanier, Walt Bellamy (who was sometimes his teammate), Nate Thurmond, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Bob McAdoo.  In 28 playoff games against Russell, Wilt, Unseld (twice), and Kareem, Willis Reed averaged 25 points and 14 rebounds on 50% shooting.

My point? Reed wasn’t just a product of his era.  He would go toe-to-toe with the best the game had to offer and he would come out an equal.


Patrick Ewing’s prime coincided with the most talented and competitive stretch of basketball the NBA has ever seen. Not just at the center position but the entire league as a whole.  Drafted #1 overall out of Georgetown in 1985, Ewing was going up against legends of the game every night. Jordan in Chicago, Barkley in Philadelphia, Bird, McHale, and Parish, Isaiah Thomas and the Bad Boys, Sydney Moncrief of the Bucks, and Domonique Wilkins in Atlanta, and that was just the Eastern Conference.

The real caveat of it was the opposing centers Ewing had to battle over the course of his career. The guys who peaked at the same time Ewing did are as follows; Hakeem Olajuwon, Dikembe Mutombo, and David Robinson. On top of that, you add Shaquille O’Neal (who was still pretty darn good in Orlando), old Kareem, old Moses, Jack Sikma, Rik Smits, Rony Seikaly, Brad Daugherty, and Mark Eaton and we can comfortably say that there has never been a more intimidating stretch for the center position than 1985 to 1995. No wonder Ewing never won a title.

Winner:  Patrick Ewing