Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Big Fella's B-Day

All of me here at WWOD? would like to send out best birthday wishes to Patrick Aloysius Ewing. Forty seven years ago today, Patrick was born in Kingston, Jamaica. He is now enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame. And in my living room, where the 1989 Costacos Borthers poster "Ewing Security" is proudly displayed.

Not only does Patrick hold Knicks' franchise records for games, minutes played, filed goal attempts, field goals, free throw attempts, free throws, defensive rebounds, total rebounds, steals (think about that for a second), blocks, fouls, points, blocks per game, offensive wins shares, defensive wins shares, and overall win shares but his tireless work ethic, dogged determination even when hobbled by injury and a supporting cast that was almost always deficient were all examples that I still draw on. The Big Fella was a role model for me. Just don't tell Oak.

Most of my friends growing up ripped on Patrick's looks (in a not entirely unracist way), the sweat dripping from his body at the free throw line and his lack of NBA championship rings. They rooted for Michael Jordan or Larry Bird or Magic or none of the above yet still harbored a general dislike of the Knicks. My Knicks. But, when I looked at Patrick out there I saw a guy who was playing his tail off at both ends of the floor. A guy who did lose some big games (and the last game of every playoff run of his career) but not for lack of trying. To me, a kid without illusions that I was any blue-ribbon world beater, I saw something heroic in him. He wasn't as tough as Oakley. Or as mercurial as Starks. He was just constant. 20 points. 10 boards. A few blocks. And every last ounce of energy that he had that night.

The fact that his career was tinged with melancholy as the years wore on only endeared him to me more. His was a quest that we can all relate to. As was it's conclusion. He wanted to be the best. And he had the talent but not the help. Or the breaks (and by "breaks" I don't mean injuries, which he had in spades). This is life. I don't know any Michael Jordans. I don't know anyone who just wins. But I know plenty of Patrick Ewings: Hard working folks who give it their all day after day with little hope of raising the Larry O'Brien trophy. Most of us don't get the victory parade. Even if we give it our best. Which we usually don't. I know I don't. Not all the time, at least. But Patrick did. Night after night. It was inspiring to me. It still is.

Happy Birthday, Big Fella.

And, yes, I do believe that the ball did clear the cylinder in play No. 3. I will always believe that.

In honor of the Patrick's big day, let's take a look back at his career: