Patrick Ewing has pretty much every accolade an NBA player could ever ask for. He was an All-Star eleven times. He made seven All-NBA teams, three All-Defensive teams and one All-Rookie team — not that you can make more than one — after a Rookie of the Year campaign in the 1985-86 season. Though he never won an MVP award, he was in the top-five in six separate seasons. He was named Player of the Week and Player of the Month on several different occasions. He's a Hall of Famer. He was included in ESPN's ranking of the Top 74 players of all time from this past year, coming in at No. 37, two spots ahead of fellow Knicks legend Walter Frazier.
Again, he's gotten pretty much every award, honor and achievement that you can get. Pretty much. But an NBA Finals ring eluded him throughout his whole career, and it's not like he didn't have his chances. Of course, it wasn't so easy for Ewing to shoot for a Larry O'Brien Trophy when the Chicago Bulls were building the greatest dynasty that any sport has ever seen. Still, with 139 postseason games under his belt, he's on the top-ten list of players who appeared in the most playoff games but who have not won an NBA Championship.
Had injuries not come into play, he'd have appeared in more than 139 playoff games. And, more importantly, there's a very real chance that he wouldn't be on that list at all, given the fact that his health may have prevented him from winning a ring. Ewing reflected on missing a Finals series due to injury, though he first looked back on another Finals appearance in which New York put up quite a fight.
"There's been a lot of them. I don't really have one... I guess maybe the one that I could say is the one that we were in the (1994) Finals," Ewing said on the New York Post's "Big Apple Buckets" podcast. "We had an opportunity to beat Houston, and I'm not gonna say it was the game where John (Starks) missed those shots. I think that the third game — our first game back at home — you know, Sam Cassell hit a huge three to propel them to victory, but we were right there to get that game, and if we had gotten that game I thought that the series would not have gone back to Houston and we would have won. But it is what it is. Take out hat off to Houston and those guys, they did a great job."
Going all the way to Finals Game 7 but coming away with a loss can't be an easy feeling to stomach. But it was even harder for Ewing to go through the second Finals appearance of his career, the aforementioned series against the Spurs in 1999 that he missed due to an Achilles injury, which kept him out beyond Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
"It definitely would have been a tougher series for them (if I was healthy)," Ewing said. "Marcus (Camby) and myself would have been a formidable duo to go against both Tim (Duncan) and David (Robinson), but that was tough because to have to sit there and listen to all the noise... it was hard to take. I actually broke down.
"I didn't want anybody to see me, so I went on the team bus and I broke down because I wasn't able to play in it and we were losing."
It's a sad tale about an unfortunate ending to the season that could have been. The 1998-99 season certainly wasn't the best of his career, but he was still a dominant force at times and a veteran leader that the team counted on. And with the Bulls' dynasty finally coming to an end, it was the perfect opportunity for the Knicks to finally take advantage of that Eastern Conference powerhouse void. Ewing led the Knicks in scoring (17.3 points per game), rebounding (9.9 points per game) and box score plus/minus (1.9), among other statistics, en route to a 27-23 season.
But he and his Achilles couldn't make it to the Finals, and we'll never know if he would have been able to boost the Knicks past the Spurs in that series. Ewing and Robinson went head-to-head 19 times throughout their careers, 16 of which were when Ewing was a Knick, and the Spurs held a 9-7 advantage in those games. If that record or some of the previous games — like when the two combined for 55 points and 37 rebounds in 1993 — were any indication, the series would have been a fun one regardless of who came out on top.