Starting last season, the inside collar of all New York Knicks jerseys read “Once A Knick, Always A Knick.” Judging by the way they move players around, this statement couldn’t be any further from the truth. Unfortunately, it sometimes means that legendary Knicks are forced to suit up as an opponent in Madison Square Garden. This was perfectly exemplified when a certain number 33 showed up donning a green Sonics uniform.
It would be an understatement to say that Patrick Ewing left everything on the floor as a member of the New York Knicks. He fought through injury after injury, taking the Knicks from playoff series to playoff series, but in due time, all good things must come to an end.
By 2000, New York was ready to hand the reigns to Latrell Sprewell and company, refusing to give their franchise center a multi-year extension. Frustrated the city suggesting that the Knicks were better off without him, Ewing angrily demanded a trade and was granted his wish. Just a month before his 16th season, the Knicks gave up their franchise leader in games played, points, rebounds, steals, and blocks. As part of a three-team deal, Ewing was shipped to Seattle in return for Glen Rice from the Lakers and Luc Longley from the Suns, both of which were nothing more than has-beens at the time. I know Ewing wasn’t exactly in his prime either, but it would have been nice to see him retire as a Knick.
Instead, he entered a February 27th, 2001 matchup wearing a road uniform at Madison Square Garden for the first time. Something about seeing him in that hideous green uniform seemed awkward, as if Knicks fans were being cheated on. Pat’s relationship with the fans had been tumultuous to say the least, but the city couldn’t help but feel as if his departure was all their fault.
Still, Ewing was treated as royalty, receiving a three-minute standing ovation and chants of “Pat-rick Ew-ing” before the game even started. The first play of the night went to Ewing in the post, who picked up quick bucket over his successor, Marcus Camby. Pat would end the game with 12 points and 5 rebounds, which sadly was right around his averages at the time.
The Knicks would go on to win the game, but the real winner was Patrick Ewing, who now knew the status of his relationship with the fans. He will go down as possibly the greatest Knickerbocker to ever play the game, and we’ll certainly remember his years in blue and orange a thousand years longer than those in Seattle green.