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The Unknown Player
Rick Reilly
January 17, 1994
Of all the stars in the NBA, none is a bigger mystery than Patrick Ewing, the aloof Center for the New York Knicks
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January 17, 1994

The Unknown Player

Of all the stars in the NBA, none is a bigger mystery than Patrick Ewing, the aloof Center for the New York Knicks

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"Seriously?" says the editor. "Patrick Ewing? Patrick Ewing is impossible. He's gonna give you zilch. The only way to do a story on Ewing is to talk to other people. And even then...."

"Oh, man, Patrick doesn't let anybody in," says the national basketball writer. "Even if you get him, you don't get much. But you know what? I like him anyway. Like, every time he leaves the locker room, even if I haven't talked to him that night, he comes over and makes it a point to shake my hand. He always looks me right in the eye and says, 'Good night, Mr. Vecsey.' "

"We'll try to get you some one-on-one time with Patrick," says the New York Knicks' public relations man. "But he doesn't talk before games, and off days can be tough. Can you come on the road with us? Sometimes he talks on the road, on an off day."

"Are you kidding?" says the beat guy. "I've never been in his house. Never interviewed his wife. Never interviewed his dad. Never interviewed his brother. Never interviewed any of his five sisters. On the road I rarely see him outside of the hotel lobby. Of course, I've only been on the beat for four years."

"The whole thing with Patrick is guesswork," says the columnist. "People ask me what Patrick is like, and I say, 'He's about seven feet tall, and he averages almost 25 points a game.' That's really about all he lets us know."

"Patrick?" says the boyhood friend. "I knew Patrick when he didn't even know how to play basketball. That was in 1975, when he was 12 and had just come to the Boston area from Jamaica. I'm from Jamaica too, but I didn't pay him no mind. It's just that one day we were short a man. The court was right behind his house. I said, 'Do you wanna play?' And he said, 'Sure.' He was awful. I guess he'd only played soccer before that. But we didn't care how awful he was. We just wanted another body.

"But the thing was, he was willing to learn. Every time we'd play, he'd learn a few more rules of the game. He was so tall and skinny, people made fun of him. But I told him, 'Don't pay them no mind.' We got to be friends. On Sundays we used to go and watch karate movies.

"I remember one time, he was about 14, and he was pretty tall, about six-five or six-six, and this man came by and put some money down on the court and said, 'If you dunk it, you can have the money.' Patrick couldn't do it! He couldn't do it! But the next year the man came by again, and Patrick hollered to him, 'Put it down again! Put the money down!' But the guy saw how much bigger and stronger Patrick was this time, so he said, 'Nuh-uh. No way,' and just walked off.

"I don't know why people were always trying to put Patrick down. They'd say, 'You're a freak' and 'You ain't gonna amount lo nothin'.' Or they'd say, 'Man, you so tall. If I had your height, I'd be this and I'd be that.'

"In high school, man, that was when it was the worst. Fans from other schools would throw rocks through the windows of the team bus. Glass hit guys in the eye. They'd slash the tires of the bus. Call Patrick a monkey and stuff. Throw banana peels on the court. Seemed like we were always fighting with the other kids. Even in college. Guy called Patrick an illiterate bastard one time. Can't nobody call my friend something like that. Me and Valentino, we licked him good. Valentino, he used to box.

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