NBA

Did Michael Jordan’s Greatness Make Patrick Ewing’s Legacy Suffer the Most?

Michael Jordan is widely regarded as the best NBA player to ever step on a court. He helped spark the Bulls dynasty, winning six NBA championships in eight seasons and going 6-0 in the process. One player constantly in Jordan’s path to dominance was New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing.

Ewing is looked at as one of the best centers the game has ever seen, even though he consistently fell short in the playoffs. Today we will ask the question: How has Michael Jordan impacted Patrick Ewing’s legacy? 

Patrick Ewing’s matchups with the Bulls

New York Knicks center Patrick Ewing holds back Chicago Bulls guard Michael Jordan
Knicks center Patrick Ewing holds back Bulls guard Michael Jordan | VINCENT LAFORET/AFP via Getty Images

The Bulls vs. Knicks rivalry started in the 1992 Eastern Conference semifinals. The Knicks were led by Pat Riley but instead of reinventing the magic he had in Los Angeles with the Showtime Lakers, the Knicks were a gritty defensive team. This first meeting went to seven games, with the Bulls ultimately winning the series.

The teams would meet again the following season in the playoffs. This time it was for a shot at the NBA championship. The Knicks took a commanding 2-0 lead, securing home-court advantage. However, the Bulls went on to win the next four games, and ultimately, the title over the Suns.

While Jordan was on the roster the teams met just one more time in the playoffs, during the Eastern Conference semis during the Bulls record-setting 72-10 season. Although one of those losses was a 102-74 loss to New York in March, the series was uneventful as Chicago won in five.

Making the NBA Finals

When Jordan retired the first time, it opened up an opportunity for other teams in the Eastern Conference. The Knicks took advantage and made the NBA Finals in 1994 against the Houston Rockets. It was a matchup of two all-time great centers in Ewing and Rockets big Hakeem Olajuwon. 

Unfortunately for Knicks fans the Rockets would hoist the trophy after winning Game 7 on their home floor. The Knicks would have another appearance in the Finals during the lockout-shortened 1999 season, but would lose that series to Tim Duncan, David Robinson and the San Antonio Spurs.

How dominant could the Knicks be in the East with no MJ?

If Michael Jordan never stepped foot in the Eastern Conference would that have cleared the way for the Knicks? The Bulls were clearly the dominant team but there were other foes in their path, most notably the Pacers and Magic. Could Jordan in a Western Conference uni keep Shaq from leaving the Magic when his rookie deal is up?

This could have led to a number of excellent matchups between two of the games greatest centers. It wouldn’t have been out of the question to see the Knicks make at least one of the three NBA Finals appearances the Bulls had in their second three-peat.

Did Jordan define much of Ewing’s legacy?

For his career, Patrick Ewing made 11 All-Star teams, seven All-NBA teams, and averaged 21 points and 10 rebounds per game for his career. He’s on the shortlist of all-time great New York Knicks, and we don’t think winning a championship would have helped him climb much higher up the ladder towards the Mount Rushmore of great big men.