Ranking the 50 greatest NBA players of all time

The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
The Last Dance, Michael Jordan, LeBron James (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images) /
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Photo by Nathaniel S. Butler/ NBAE/ Getty Images /

36. Patrick Ewing

  • Resume: 17 seasons, 7-time All-NBA selection, 11-time NBA All-Star, Rookie of the Year Award, 3-time NBA All-Defensive Team, New York Knicks’ all-time leading scorer, member of the Dream Team, Hall-of-Famer
  • Stats: 21.0 PPG, 9.8 RPG, 2.4 BPG, 1.9 APG, 1.0 SPG, .504/—/.740 shooting splits, 21.0 career PER, 126.4 win shares

Like the last couple of decades of New York Knicks basketball, you can’t bring up Patrick Ewing without saying, “if only” or “Oh, what could have been!” If only Ewing had knee joints that weren’t made of Snack Packs. If only Michael Jordan didn’t own the souls of every Knicks player and fan. And if only Patrick Ewing hadn’t missed that potential game-tying layup in Game 7 of the 1995 Eastern Conference semifinals against the Indiana Pacers.

Oh, what could have been!

Ewing remains one of the most memorable NBA legends to never win a championship. He got the Big Apple to buy into the Knicks as title contenders like no one has since. He was a dominant shot-blocker and high-scoring center in his prime, but that prime didn’t last very long before his ailing knees started taking a serious toll on his athleticism.

Seriously, for the majority of his career, most Knicks fans were afraid something like this would happen every time the man jumped. Pat Riley helped turn the Knicks into a bruising, Bad Boys remix team and got them as far as the Finals during MJ’s baseball sabbatical…but New York was promptly crushed by the Rockets, with Hakeem Olajuwon obliterating Ewing in every way.

Still, Ewing is revered by Knicks fans as something of a tragic Greek hero. His knees never held up or allowed him to reach his full potential, but Big Pat was still one of the great big men of the ’90s who got the fans to buy into his chest-pounding, crowd-riling tactics. Given what Knicks basketball has become, those feel like the glory days now.