Over the course of 17 seasons, Patrick Ewing was not afraid to get involved in a tussle. The New York Knicks legend was a dominant force in the 1980s and ’90s, but he was also one of the toughest players in the NBA.
Ewing’s physical style of play was evident the second he arrived in New York. So much so, the Hoya Destroya was involved in multiple fights and ejected twice before the Knicks even began the regular season.
Patrick Ewing was a force to be reckoned with at Georgetown
Before he was in the NBA, Ewing was one of the most dominant players in college basketball. The 7-footer played four seasons at Georgetown, averaging 15.3 points, 9.2 rebounds, and 3.4 blocks per game. He helped lead the Hoyas to a national championship in 1984, two years after Michael Jordan and North Carolina denied them a title.
By the time his college career was finished, Ewing was a three-time First Team All-American, two-time Big East Player of the Year, and 1985 National Player of the Year. Pat also left as the Hoyas’ second-leading scorer in program history behind Eric Floyd, the second-leading rebounder behind Floyd, and the all-time leader in blocks.
Ewing’s dominance on both ends made him the unquestioned first overall pick by the Knicks in the 1985 NBA Draft. New York’s win in the first ever lottery raised several eyebrows, with conspiracies that the NBA rigged the lottery so a star like Ewing would go to a big market team. It’s not as if the Knicks couldn’t use Pat, however; they were 24-58 in 1984-85 and 12 years removed from their last NBA title.
Ewing began his NBA career with a lot of fighting and ejections
The big man was set to play in New York’s exhibition games beginning on October 4 and up until the regular season opener on October 26. But it didn’t take long for Ewing to display his physical, intimidating brand of basketball.
In his preseason debut, the number one pick had a series of elbow exchanges while tussling with Tony Costner of the Washington Bullets. Two nights later against the Atlanta Hawks, he received two technical fouls and was kicked out of the game. On October 10, Ewing got into another fight, this time with New Jersey Nets forward Buck Williams. However, the worst of it came on October 19 in a game against the Indiana Pacers.
During the third quarter, Ewing and Steve Stipanovich were each underneath the basket. Following a made shot, Ewing threw an elbow at Stipanovich, which led the third-year vet to put the rookie in a stranglehold and bring him down to the floor. Not only did Ewing receive a $1,500 fine for instigating, but he also suffered a hyperextended and bruised left elbow just a week before the season-opener.
“Stipanovich was trying to block me out. I was trying to go for the offensive rebound,” Ewing said to CBS the day after the fight. “We were banging, which is part of the game. And he just came out and grabbed me, flung me to the ground and bent my elbow back. Naturally, I was angry. I’m blamed for everything that happens. I guess that’s life.”
Opponents used Patrick Ewing’s physical play against him
Shortly after Ewing’s fight with Stipanovich, one that led to an injury and yet another ejection, Knicks coach Hubie Brown said other teams might try to rile up the quick-tempered big man.
“I think it’s only natural that it happens,” Brown said. “Everyone can make statements about what an individual should do until they are put in that situation and feel the frustrations that an individual like that goes through. Everyone is taunting, everyone is provoking. And when it happens, then Ewing is supposed to turn the other cheek all of the time. I find that pretty hard to believe.”
From Ewing’s NBA debut through his final game in 2002, the big man earned 4,034 personal fouls, placing him 13th on the all-time list in NBA history. While he avoided enough technical fouls to miss cracking that list, Ewing still had his fair share of fights throughout his career. Some of his biggest came against other notable tough guys, including Dennis Rodman, Alonzo Mourning, and Bill Laimbeer.
Of course, the 11-time All-Star scored a lot of points in his career and earned a spot in the Basketball Hall of Fame. But even before he played his first real NBA game, Ewing established himself as an intimidating presence who wasn’t afraid to throw some elbows … or some fists.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.