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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New York Knicks
Willis Reed, New York Knicks (Photo By Ross Lewis/Getty Images) /

Before all the 90s fans jump down my throat let me just say this; Patrick Ewing was an incredible basketball player.  He was the captain of the defining Knicks team of the modern era, he was the starting center on the best team to ever walk the earth (’92 Dream Team), he presided over the longest winning stretch in Knicks history.  He’s a Hall of Fame and a legend. Ok? Ok.

He was also never good enough to be the best player on a title team. Blame it on his teammates, blame it on the strength of the 90s, but Patrick Ewing was routinely defeated by the other greats of his era.

In the 1994 Finals against the Houston Rockets, Ewing averaged 18.9 PPG shooting 36% from the field compared to Hakeem’s 26.9 shooting 50%.

All those legendary clips of Reggie Miller hitting clutch threes?  Who do you think he was beating in all those games?

You can’t blame Ewing for losing to Michael Jordan, but… well, he did.

There’s also the Ewing Theory. I’m not going to get into it too much, but it’s the idea that the 90s Knicks played better when Ewing was injured. While it’s exaggerated, there is some truth that Patrick Ewing’s play style forced the Knicks to play his brand of basketball. Slow the game down as he jogged up the court, wait for him to park himself in the low post, feed it in, spread out, rinse repeat.

A few players who have held their team’s stylistically hostage:  Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Allen Iverson, Reggie Miller, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Wilt Chamberlain.  If the individual player is good enough sometimes you can reach the finals playing that way, but nobody has ever, ever, won the championship like that.

There was a glass ceiling on what Ewing could do with the Knicks.  The same can’t be said, Willis Reed.

Did he have superior teammates?  Yes.  But he was also the captain of them all.  The spiritual leader of championship teams that featured multiple Hall of Famers.  Clyde Frazier, Dave DeBusschere, Jerry Lucas, Earl Monroe, Phil Jackson, Bill Bradley, Walt Bellamy, Dick Barnett, all answered to Willis.

Despite Ewing’s talents and incredible career, he’s still sort of defined by what he couldn’t do.  What he wasn’t able to accomplish.  Maybe that’s not fair, but Willis Reed was the constant overachiever.  The man who stood taller than even his 6’9, 240 pounds would suggest.

With or without the rings Willis Reed was a champion, the same can’t be said for Ewing.

Final Verdict:  Willis Reed

Next. Re-living the Knicks last playoff appearance. dark